Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated that, “Over the last couple years, we’ve been building Messenger into a service that can help you express yourself in many more ways beyond simple text messages.”
That vision has slowly been coming to life and has recently taken an exciting new turn.
While the company has been busy revamping its Messenger app to become more versatile and inclusive of other offerings, the latest development to this restructuring benefits publishers everywhere.
While Facebook Instant Articles all but obliterated publisher attempts at driving traffic to native websites from content on social, Messenger may put that power right back into their hands.
The company is currently poised to announce at its upcoming F8 developers conference April 12-13 that all publishers will gain the ability to share content with their followers through the Facebook Messenger app through the use of chat bots.
It is rumored that the digital corporation is already working on a development kit that would allow developers to build their own chat bots to run inside the chat application.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into what this new feature will actually look like when it comes to fruition and how this could potentially impact small businesses across the globe.
Publishing in Messenger
This new Messenger feature will allow publishers to share content along with a short description and a link back to the original article residing on their websites via chat bots. Rather than users simply interacting with articles through News Feeds, this will allow brands direct access to individual audience members. Readers who are interested in this offering would simply need to send a message to the publication of their choosing (that participates in the program) to begin receiving content through the app.
One publication, a German newspaper called “Bild”, has already gained access to the private tool. The company has been distributing materials through the bot-controlled content propagation feature since January, albeit on a limited basis. Currently, the publication has only been able to offer “news, background information, and rumors regarding the transfer window of the German soccer league” which was allowed to expand to include updates about a German reality TV show entitled “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!”
The content the company has currently shared through Messenger is not exclusive and has been posted on other outlets, so it seems that this usage is still merely an experiment as opposed to genuine early access. In regard to how many followers have signed up, Bild would not provide any numbers, but was quoted as stating: “Bild has to be where its readers are,” as noted by the company’s editor-in-chief, Julian Reichelt. She also stated that, “About 30 million people in Germany experience their daily digital routine on Facebook. That’s why we engage in Instant Articles and that’s why we, together with Facebook, look for solutions to deliver our peerless content faster and smarter to our readers.”
The potential for this feature is not merely anchored in sharing content — Facebook is currently developing a “Chat SDK” which could provide users with assistance in making travel reservations, shopping services and customer support.
How will these offerings affect small business owners? The changes could indeed be very significant.
A Helper or Hindrance?
Make no mistake, Messenger publications could be a goldmine for small businesses. While posting articles on Facebook might get your page a few more clicks, it is more than likely it will be buried under scads of other postings on people’s News Feeds. With Instant Articles, your hope of bolstering site traffic by posting great content on social was formally crushed. Publishing content through Messenger, however, allows you direct contact to audience members who will visit your site thanks to the link provided. Now you have a dual opportunity to advance your content and website with typical Facebook posts as well as bot-generated messages to users. And with more than 800 million monthly active users on Messenger, this is a tremendously favorable offering.
The best part is that Facebook Messenger is still growing. According to Neilson, Messenger was the fastest growing application of 2015, and reports from App Annie show Messenger as the second most popular iOS app in history; coming in only behind Facebook itself.
At this time, there is no monetization strategy for publishers to benefit from using the new Messenger publication system, however, Facebook is reportedly planning to allow businesses to pay in order to message individuals who have already engaged in conversations with the company. This means that publishers could potentially leverage this opportunity to gain revenue through selling sponsored messages to businesses that the publisher would then distribute. But again, this is only hypothetical — there are currently no plans for publishers to earn revenue from Messenger. But that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not a powerful new tool.
While all of the potential benefits from this update, monetary or otherwise, remain to be seen, it’s clear your business will benefit from opting-in to publishing through Messenger. Facebook could very well unveil a monetization strategy at F8 in mid-April. In any case, your brand now (or will shortly) have the opportunity to drive website visits through the messaging application; just make sure your content is worth sharing.