Facebook's 'Messenger Day' - How it Works and What it Means for the Platform
Facebook’s new ‘Messenger Day’ feature is a simple social storytelling device that makes it easy to create and share longer form pieces within Messenger. Given the prevalence of such tools now, it makes more sense to label them ‘social storytelling’ features, as opposed to ‘Snapchat clones’, but obviously that’s where the inspiration comes from - as noted by Instagram chief Kevin Systrom on the launch of Instagram Stories:
“[Snapchat] deserve all the credit”
In those initial interviews, Systrom explained that while Instagram Stories is a copy of Snapchat’s device, it’s more about innovation and utilizing social tools in new ways. Facebook invented the news feed, for example, which is now used by most platforms, Twitter was the originator of hashtags and @names. As such, social storytelling tools, which are now available, in some form, on Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Twitter (through user-generated Moments), are just another expansion of social innovation.
And given their popularity, you can expect to see more of them.
On this front, Facebook started testing out Messenger Day in Poland earlier this month, a new social storytelling option built into the Messenger experience.
And now it’s available in Australia - which means I get to use it. I’ll go through how it works.
First off, when you open Messenger, the home screen presentation is clearly different.
See that black header at the top? That’s because Messenger Day is layered beneath the main screen – you swipe down and you’re on the Messenger Day composition screen, which looks like this:
My model for today is Leia Organa from Alderaan
Like Snapchat, there are various of ways to edit and customize your posts – as noted in our previous post on Messenger Day, the filters and overlays available are designed to prompt users on what to share with friends to evoke response, so there are things like ‘Lets go to the movies’ and expressions of how you feel.
You can also overlay these onto a plain background by swiping left, and you can add text (with variable colors) which also comes up with predictive word suggestions based on those which you commonly use. You can move both the text and overlay images around within the frame as you see fit.
You can also draw on your image (hold down on the color slider and drag left to increase the size of the pen – as you can see in the first image below) and change the background color.
Once you’re done, you can post it to your Messenger Day story for all to see – it’ll disappear after 24 hours and you’ll be able to see who’s viewed your story. You also have the option to save it to your camera roll or send it to specific contacts.
Once posted, your friends will see it in their Messenger Day listing at the top of their front page – after you view a Messenger Day story, it moves to the end of your list unless new content is added.
As noted, it’s a fairly straight-forward social storytelling device, easy to use, though some have noted it’s not as intuitive as Instagram Stories or Snapchat.
Australia's only the second nation to get access to Messenger Day thus far – as noted, Poland came first. Facebook’s strategy seems to be aimed at targeting regions where Messenger adoption is high, but Snapchat isn't – in Poland, for example, 84% of smartphone owners use Facebook Messenger.
As you can also see in that graph, Snapchat's no where near as popular.
In Australia, Messenger use also far outweighs Snapchat – though the gap is not as large as that in Poland.
If Facebook can use that advantage to get more people using storytelling tools on their apps - as opposed to ever going to Snapchat - that could help slow the growth of Snapchat in these markets. At the same time, Instagram, with Instagram Stories, is the second most popular social app in Australia, with 6.98 million local users according to figures from IAB and Nielsen (Snapchat has 3.07m AUS users). So really, Australians are being spoiled for choice on the social storytelling front – though the coverage of Instagram and Messenger combined gives them a good opportunity to hold Snapchat out – or at least, slow them significantly if people warm to these new options.
Oh, also, you may have noticed this in my first screenshot:
That’s Facebook’s new photo and video tool within Messenger, which replaces the ‘Me’ tab.
Just as the main Facebook app has put Marketplace in the middle of the main app navigation bar, and moved Messenger to the top left, you can see the ‘Me’ option is now up the top left of the search field. It’s not clear whether this has been rolled out to all users at this stage.
Overall, it’s an interesting addition, though it does make that Messenger home screen look a lot more cluttered. Some have noted that Messenger is supposed to be a simplified communications tool, and that all these new functions could turn some new users off, especially those who are not regular tech adopters.
This also comes on the back of another recent addition to Messenger – Conversation Topics, which suggest things to message your friends about based on what they’re doing, or have done recently, by cross-referencing their Facebook activity.
And all of this is before you even talk about Messenger’s bigger push into business tools – Messenger chief David Marcus just today announced a new eBay bot for Messenger.
There’s a lot of plates spinning at Messenger HQ – but the question now is whether there are too many things happening, and what impact that might have on users.
Really, if the additions are functional, people will warm to them, and the only way to know that is to release the new tools and test the audience response.
With Messenger Day, it’s hard to know for sure what that response will be. Definitely, there are more users on Messenger than Snapchat in the regions it’s been rolled out, and the prominent placement within the app makes it hard to ignore, so there’ll be interest, people will try it out. And given that many of those users won’t be accustomed to Snapchat, you can imagine that it'll stick, at least with some, which could provide a new weapon for Facebook in its battle for attention against Snap Inc.
Facebook hasn't confirmed whether Messenger Day will be rolled out more widely at this stage.
UPDATE (3/10): Facebook has now announced that Messenger Day is available to all users - read all about it here.
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