"A Modern Day Social Network Built Around Messaging"
This is the third and final instalment of SMK’s F8 coverage.
Much of the Messenger talk at F8 centred on selling the messaging dream. Both to users and businesses alike.
Messenger is a cornerstone of Zuckerberg’s new-fangled privacy manifesto.
Asha Sharma, Facebook Messenger's head of consumer product (pictured above) did a reasonable enough job reinforcing the party line:
- Messaging is a big deal
- It is the future of interpersonal user interaction
- We’re gonna add loads more cool stuff
Messaging is indeed a big deal, with over 1.3 billion monthly active users.
Messenger Is NOW For Friends & Family, What's Feed For?
Much of the F8 discussion centred on how Facebook plans to make Messenger stickier and more ubiquitous for users.
- Working to improve the Messenger user interface
- Introducing new video experiences (a bit like Watch Parties)
- New privacy controls and clusters of friend/family
- A desktop app, à la MSN Messenger for workplace bantz
It is not hard to imagine most of this working, to varying levels, and proving popular.
While this is all interesting, the practical marketing takeaways are light on the ground. However, in reading between the lines, the medium-term marketing impact is profound.
If we assume the net result of these user changes in more attention spent in Messenger, alongside Groups and Events which we covered last week, the primary casualty from F8 is the Facebook News Feed.
To be fair, while Messenger/ Groups / Events and other features are growing, it is more of a gradual build up. So, notwithstanding an unexpected pivot, marketers should not expect an overnight exodus of attention from the News Feed.
For example, Stories have grown to 500m+ daily users in Instagram and Facebook since late 2016, but most time is still spent in the feed, since the majority of users have not adopted yet. They will in time. Just not yet.
Meaning, the main News Feed has life in it yet, even though the longer game is uncertain.
User To Business Interaction Growing Rapidly
Business uptake is also multiplying, albeit in a very reactive manner usually:
- 40 million businesses active on Messenger monthly
- 20 billion messages sent between people and users monthly
- 300,00 active bots on Messenger
Outside of reactionary customer service, Messenger is a massive untapped opportunity for most marketers.
However, up until recently Facebook’s marketing solutions have been a little patchy. A point acknowledged by COO Sheryl Sandberg in January:
‘Our approach to monetisation anywhere is always very cautious and we are very – moving very slowly on Messenger, where we remain primarily focused on consumer growth and engagement.
Our real focus has been on the organic connections between businesses and consumers, where this is a really strong channel for customer service.’
New Messenger Lead Generation Ads & Appointment Scheduling
That said, at F8 they did sneak in two nice new features for Messenger:
- Lead generation templates
- An appointment booking interface that will integrate with calendar platforms
Both are currently in beta but will roll out later in 2019.
These are not necessarily new Facebook features; both have been available since early 2018 as part of Lead Generation ad campaigns. The latest update is the functionality being tweaked and extended to Messenger.
The booking feature involves an interface within the Messenger Platform API and can be integrated with calendar systems so that customers can see a business’s availability and book their appointment based on open time slots.
When these eventually roll out to all in the coming months, do not expect a stampede from businesses, however.
Considering both have been live for over a year in Facebook proper, uptake is even limited there since only a small percentage of marketers get past the basics on Facebook.
Absolutely, there are marketers proactively doing well on Messenger; however, for the most part, they tend to be smaller players and early adopters. The rest of the industry, which occupies the middle, is a comfortable 12-24 months behind.
Ergo, for most marketers, Messenger offers wide open green spaces to play.
And that's a a 2019 F8 wrap.