Facebook has unveiled a raft of new messaging features across Messenger, Instagram Direct and Messenger Kids, with new, themed stickers and backgrounds, visual replies and read receipts on IG, improved audio recording tools and an updated archive feature.
None of these new tools is groundbreaking, necessarily, but they do all add something extra, which could be helpful in your interactive process.
First off, on new chat themes - last month, we reported that Facebook was working on new Star Wars themed backgrounds for Instagram Direct chats, which some had speculated may be tied into the coming May the 4th celebration.
Now, Facebook has officially launched these backgrounds, along with additional new themes for 'Selena: The Series', providing another way to customize your chats on both IG and in Messenger.
As you can see, the new themes change your chat backgrounds into these stylized visual variations, which could be great for fans of both franchises.
And they could also point to new brand promotion and tie-in opportunities, with Facebook potentially offering these as a new way for entertainment brands to connect with fans.
There's nothing to suggest that Facebook will take that next step, and it has run themed tie-ins like this in the past, and they haven't become a common promotional offering. But it could end up being an interesting addition for larger scale campaigns in future.
To activate the new Star Wars or Selena chat themes in Messenger or Instagram, head to your chat settings and tap 'Theme', then select from the options on offer.
Another themed addition is a new set of stickers on Messenger and Messenger Kids which celebrate "the diversity and impact of Asian and Pacific Islanders" for API Heritage Month.
The addition of these new stickers on Messenger Kids is particularly interesting - as explained by Facebook:
"Kids can explore the richness and diversity of unique traditions, histories and cultures across Asian and Pacific Islander countries through a series of Messenger Kids camera stickers. We even created an easy sticker reference guide to help parents have more in-depth conversations with their kids around API cultures."
The added reference guide provides an educational element - so rather than just being a cool addition for kids' images, the feature also serves an educational purpose, which may be a more active way to engage kids in seasonal, historical-based events.
It's an interesting experiment, if nothing else.
You can access the new Messenger Kids API Month stickers guide here.
On the more functional side - though maybe more intrusive - Facebook is also adding read receipts in Instagram Direct, so you know when people have seen your DMs.
I don't know about read receipts. Seems like a ratchet for angst, in many cases - but still, there is functional value in knowing when your message has been seen. It just depends on what your expectations are for reply, and how that impacts your mental response.
Either way, now it's there to keep you updated.
Instagram's also getting new visual replies, which will enable users to respond to a DM with another photo or video.
"Simply tap the camera icon to respond with a photo or video of your own."
That could have some brand functionality in diagnosing product issues, or responding with product examples in-stream. It could help, for example, with say, a fashion matching service, where users send you one item, and your business replies with a complimentary product from your catalog.
There's a range of potential uses here, and it could be another one to experiment with. The new function is now available on iOS, with Android coming soon.
Next up, recognizing the rising interest in audio, Facebook's also adding a new tap-to-record functionality on Messenger, which will also soon be available in Instagram DMs.
"We’re making it easier to go hands-free with tap-to-record on Messenger (and Instagram coming soon) Now, you no longer need to hold down the mic - tap-to-record allows you to craft the perfect audio message while you’re doing other things and makes it a more accessible feature."
It's a fairly simple, yet functional option, which could help users record and send their voice messages.
Which, given the broader audio social trend, is becoming more important. Facebook notes that there's been a 20% increase in audio messaging in the US in recent months.
And lastly, Facebook's also adding a new 'swipe to archive' process within Messenger to better facilitate inbox clean-up and management.
Facebook's also adding a new Archived Chats folder on mobile to better enable users to find their old chats.
"Instead of having to manually search for archived conversations on your phone, just tap your profile photo and select Archived Chats for a full list of archived threads."
Personally, I find these shortcuts annoying at times, because I always end up archiving the wrong thing, but simplifying this process will make it easier to keep your inbox more manageable, while also keeping your past exchanges for reference.
As noted, none of these are groundbreaking changes, but they all add something, and each will have specific value for certain users.
Most interesting is probably visual replies, but the educational additions to Messenger Kids stickers also have potential, and the chat backgrounds could also end up becoming a bigger deal for brand promotions in future.
Either way, some new messaging considerations. Update to the latest version of each app to access these new features (if available on your OS).