As Facebook and Microsoft improve their messenger services, they’re doing so with an eye on marketers.
Every month, 900 million people and 50 million businesses communicate using Facebook Messenger, which many people recognize as a robust, very fancy version of AOL Instant Messenger. It’s clear why the app has a massive reach – in 2016, people are drawn to communicating behind screens in more ways than ever before.
Bots (software applications that perform automated tasks) have been around since the internet became a thing. It’s chat bots that are now changing the game, especially for marketers. The job of any good marketer is to connect with their target audience, and for many companies, this means embracing the growing field of mobile messaging platforms.
At the Facebook Developer’s Conference this past April, Facebook announced the launch of a new Messenger Platform (currently in Beta testing) that promises businesses the ability to “build deeper interactions with their customers on Messenger in a way that’s contextual, convenient, and delightful with control at it’s core.” This translates to an entirely new space for businesses to better tailor content to their customers, build more intimate relationships, and make business “transactions” simpler for both the company and the customer. Some major companies currently using the Beta mode include 1-800-Flowers and CNN.
Microsoft also announced an update to its Bot Framework called “Bot support for Facebook Messenger,” which allows developers to run their bots on Facebook messenger, as well as other platforms like Skype and Slack.
With this new method of customer contact there are also certain dangers. In reality, it is walking the fine line between interacting and stalking. For many people, the act of messaging is a purely personal and private thing. It’s not email and it’s not Tweeting; it’s informal, one-on-one interaction. Facebook does offer a “block” option to customers, so it’s very important to think about what content is “messenger worthy” before planing a campaign around it. People don’t want to feel like they’re talking to a robot, and may be turned off if they feel their conversations are too contrived.
Despite the risks, the potential upside of using marketing bots is difficult to deny. People are already accustomed to chat and messaging apps. The market for them is huge and only growing. It’s where customers already are, so why not meet them in their place? Bots like those offered by Facebook and Microsoft allow marketers to create more human, customizable interactions that were not previously possible with social media and email campaigns.
As many people are experiencing what some call “app fatigue,” this is an opportunity to be on the forefront of something new. An article in Fortune addressed this point quite well, stating: “the advantage to consumers is that instead of downloading a zillion one-off apps to their phones and upgrading them incessantly, they can just use their preferred communication mode—texting, instant messaging or whatever — to interact with a ton of bots.”