Facebook has announced a range of updates for its business tools on Messenger, adding in new lead generation automation options and appointment booking options in-stream.
Here's what's been announced.
1. Lead Generation Flows in Messenger
The biggest element of the update is the launch of Messenger lead generation templates, which Facebook first previewed at its F8 conference back in May.
As explained by Facebook:
"This new template within Facebook Ads Manager enables businesses to create automated experiences to help qualify leads within Messenger. Businesses can continue the conversation with prospects directly in Messenger and integrate with existing CRM tools to seamlessly to track leads."
As you can see here, the new lead generation flow, when integrated with your CRM, can provide more nuanced responses based on user feedback, and then track relevant leads for response at a later date - like when the desired item is back in stock.
The option will help improve Facebook's Messenger Bots - of which, there are now more than 300,000 active on the platform. The more options business have to utilize them, the more popular they will become, and as utility increases, you can also expect consumers to become more attuned to bot usage, further boosting their appeal.
2. Appointment Booking in Messenger
Another feature announced at F8, Facebook is now also adding integrated appointment booking options direct in Messenger.
The option enables businesses to integrate their Messenger response flow with their existing calendar booking software, facilitating the full process within the app.
"With this feature, businesses can convert Messenger conversations into in-store traffic, online and phone appointments, and more."
Facebook says that the option will be rolled out to all businesses and developers globally later this year - if you're interested, you can apply to be added to the beta waitlist here.
3. Updating Standard Messaging Window
Facebook is also updating its Standard Messaging response window for those using Facebook's Send/Receive API to 24 hours only - as opposed to the current "24+1" setting.
Up till now, businesses have had 24 hours to respond to a message initiated by a person in Messenger when using standard messaging, with an additional allowance to send one message after that 24-hour window. This catered for instances where a business wasn't able to respond within that initial day, but that option will soon be removed, according to Facebook's Messenger Platform Policy:
"The +1 message that allowed businesses to send 1 additional message after the 24-hour window will no longer be available starting Jan 15, 2020. This change aligns with people’s expectations of faster responses from businesses."
That could be a significant change, particularly for those who've already integrated Messenger into their workflows. Outside of that initial 24-hour window, businesses will still be able to re-engage customers on Messenger via sponsored messages, and by utilizing message tags to send updates on purchases, bookings, account changes, etc.
And on that front, Facebook is also reducing the number of available tags from 17 to 4 to make it easier to understand acceptable use cases.
The four new categories for Messenger tags, which also go into effect from January, are:
- Confirmed Event - Send the user reminders or updates for an event they have registered for (e.g., RSVP'ed, purchased tickets). This tag may be used for upcoming events and events in progress.
- Post Purchase - Notify the user of an update on a recent purchase.
- Account Update - Notify the user of a non-recurring change to their application or account.
- Human Agent (closed beta) - Allows human agents to respond to user inquiries. Messages can be sent within 7 days after a user message.
This simplifies the tags process, with clearer guidance around what responses are acceptable within the system.
4. Phasing Out Discover Tab
And the last major element of the update is the phasing out of the Discover tab in Messenger, which showcased relevant businesses and bots that users might be interested in.
Originally launched back in 2017, the main aim of Discover was indeed to showcase the capacity of Facebook's growing bot eco-system and spark user interest. But users haven't been overly interested in the tab.
"As a part of our continued commitment to simplify the Messenger experience for people, we will begin to phase out the Discover tab over the next several months. Simply put, we want to make it more seamless for people to reach out to businesses on Messenger in places where they’re already looking to connect. We will put more investment into tools to connect people and businesses - including updates to m.me links, web plugins, various entry points across our family of apps, as well as ad products - that lead to Messenger. Businesses will continue to appear in the app through the search feature and advertising surfaces, making it easy for people to connect with them."
So Messenger will still be able to showcase relevant brand profiles via search, but the dedicated tab will soon disappear.
In addition to these major changes, Facebook will also now limit access to its Subscription Messaging beta program to 'vetted news organizations' only. The option is aimed at providing relevant news updates to interested users, but Facebook says that some organizations have misused the process, leading to this change - though it is also interesting to note, as highlighted by TechCrunch, that this may align somewhat with Facebook's coming dedicated news tab.
Facebook's also updating its event reporting options within Messenger, which will make it easier for businesses using the Messenger Platform to "report and track conversions that take place" in the app.
Messaging is a major focus for Facebook, and these updates align with the broader adoption of messaging for business use, and the bigger pish by Facebook to boost the app's revenue potential. That, in some ways, is what the removal of the 24+1 policy is about - businesses who want to stay in touch outside of the 24-hour window will now have to revert to paid outreach, a subtle, yet potentially significant change for Messenger advertising.
Facebook will, however, lose some minor potential ad space with the removal of the Discover tab, but through improved business tools, it will be looking to re-emphasize the capacity of bots and automated messaging workflows to benefit brand use.