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Facebook Messenger bots: 14 facts to know for brands

Its been a few weeks after the F8, the Facebook yearly conference, what should brands and marketers know about Facebook Messenger?

Here below is a summary of the 14 most important facts and features to have in mind before trying to design any Messenger Bot strategy (We’re referring when need-be to the literature shared by Facebook with official Facebook Marketing Partners which KRDS Singapore is one of):

• Brands can now “build their own bots to be integrated into Messenger to provide people with tailored messaging from automated on-demand content like weather or traffic updates, to customised communications like receipts, shipping notifications”, using new APIs (application programming interfaces).

•”Businesses will be able to send text, video and images to customers as well as new message bubbles that feature dynamic content (like shipping updates and receipts) and custom call-to-action buttons. On the receive side, businesses will be able to receive text and images, maintain a record of a full thread history (including previous conversations) and also trigger automated actions and responses from call-to-action buttons, such as canceling a reservation” Several pieces of content can also be shared at once in a carousel format, along with different CTAs, see below the example of CNN.

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• Brands can send messages responding directly to people’s messages or initiating action, as well as messages facilitating pre-existing transactions. Facebook will not charge for the usage of Messenger in these cases.

• “Messenger may not be used for advertising, marketing, or for sending promotional content of any kind. Marketing or promotional content on Messenger will only be allowed via sponsored messages which at this time is in closed alpha.”

• “No user data is shared with businesses until a person messages the business or explicitly opts into receiving messages from that business. At that time, the business will receive the contents of the thread, a user id number, and they will be able to access publicly shared profile information.”

• Wit.ai Bot Engine : Facebook “will be rolling out a new product that will help businesses create bots to manage common conversations. Businesses will be able to “train” the bot on how to address common questions. While the wit.ai bot engine is an extremely powerful way for businesses to create bots on Messenger, it is not a requirement. Businesses can choose to build bots using whatever tools that they wish and submit them for approval.”

• “Sponsored messages on Messenger is in a closed alpha, limited to a small pool of pre-selected alpha clients.” Facebook is advising brands to be patient for the time being.

• Brands can use plugins on their websites to redirect users to a conversation thread on Messenger. There are two plugins so far : the Message Us plugin that will open by default an empty conversation thread on Messenger, up to the user to say something. There’s also the Send to Messenger plugin, that will send as a message to the user on Messenger some information mentioned near the button on the website, like transaction details for instance.

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• Brands that already have picked a vanity URL for their Facebook page (like facebook.com/krds) and have turned on messaging then already have automatically a Messenger Link, it’s built like that: m.me/krds

• Brands that have turned on messaging can also download their brand’s Messenger Code by clicking the roundish icon at the bottom left corner of the Messages section of a Facebook brand page. Though, the scanning feature is not available outside of the United Stated for now.

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• One key difference with WeChat : as a user on Messenger, whether you click the Messenger Link of a brand or scan its Messenger Code, it’s not the same as scanning a WeChat QR code where doing so you become a follower of the brand. On Messenger, clicking the Messenger Link of a brand or scanning its Messenger Code simply opens an empty conversation thread with the brand. If you don’t message the brand, then the brand can’t send you any message.

• Although we’ve just said that brands can’t initiate a conversation with users when they land for the first time on the conversation thread with the brand on Messenger (coming from Search within Messenger, after clicking on Messenger Link, or Message Us plugin button), it’s still possible for the brand to set a default Welcome Screen “to greet the user and present buttons to prompt the person to take an action. The welcome screen displays a Get Started button. When this button is tapped, you can send a text message or a Structured Message”. This requires some technical work, the help of an official Facebook Marketing Partner is advised. See below the process:

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And after click on Get Started:

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• The previous feature works alongside with another, the Messenger Greeting which is a customisable note from the brand that appears in a new message thread before messages are sent. Businesses can use this text to greet people and set a friendly tone while letting people know what types of messages are expected. It can be activated in a few seconds on a Facebook page by going at the bottom of the Settings/Messaging section, see below :

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And what it looks like:

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• Once a user has sent an initial message on Messenger to a brand, the brand has the ability to get back to the user with virtually as many messages as it wants for now, even if last brand message went unanswered, without any limit by default (no time limit, no frequency limit, no limit of number of messages). So it’s extremely powerful. Actually it can be said that for a user, sending a first message on Messenger to a brand is more powerful than simply liking a page on Facebook or even following a brand on WeChat.

But with great power comes great responsibilities as the saying goes, so brands had better be careful if they don’t want to be banned from the platform, or restrained in any way. And keep in mind that Facebook “will be rolling out prominent user controls that live within each messaging thread that a person has with a business. Using the “Block” entry point, a person can choose to “Block All Messages” or “Block Sponsored Messages” from a specific business.”

Everything moves staggeringly fast in the Facebook ecosystem ! So we recommend brands and marketers to reach out to an official Facebook Marketing Partners like KRDS Singapore to know more about what can be done!

The promise of real time answers from brands may lead to increased expectations from users. And if this cannot be automated properly, this could mean either disappointing and frustrating users, or spending significantly more to scale up human real time customer service. This could be costly. So a Messenger Bot strategy needs to be well thought, and can best come about through a test and learn approach.

Messenger, because of its scale (900 million users) and ease of use and insane loading time, is a wonderful canvas for brands to let users explore their content and interact with them in a frictionless manner, even do transactions. This could be a total game changer and utterly disrupt how we navigate information and the mobile web altogether. Or maybe it will be a fade. Time will tell as always. Impossible to be sure, but would you risk missing that possible revolution? Now is the time to experiment and understand how people use Messenger and what they expect from brands, what they expect from your brand in particular, as far as you’re concerned.

Thomas Jestin

Thomas Jestin is the cofounder of KRDS, an independent social and mobile agency and Facebook Marketing Partner with offices in Singapore, France, India, China, Hong Kong and Dubai.
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