This is an unusual switch up in Meta’s business messaging rules.
This week, at its first-ever ‘Conversations’ messaging conference, Meta announced ‘Recurring Notifications’ on its Messenger Platform, which will enable businesses to send ‘proactive, automated messages, to people who have opted in to receiving them’.
As you can see here, businesses will soon be able to send recurring notifications to users that opt in, with the upfront prompts outlining the frequency of messages that they’ll likely receive if they choose to get them.
Businesses will be able to send sales notifications, updates, newsletters – pretty much whatever they like, with the frequency options ranging from daily to monthly, ‘so businesses can reach customers at any moment in their journey’.
Which is pretty much the exact opposite of how Meta has run its messaging platform this far, with strict limits on how many times a business can message users, even if they’ve opted in.
As explained by Hootsuite:
“Businesses can only contact someone after receiving a message from them first. Once you’ve received a message, you have 24 hours to reply. After that, Facebook used to let businesses send one message. But as of March 4th, 2020, that option will be gone. Beyond that, the only remaining option is to send a Sponsored Message. These ads can only be sent to existing conversations.”
Indeed, in Meta’s Messenger Platform and IG Messaging API Policy Overview, it explains that:
“Businesses will have up to 24 hours to respond to a user. Messages sent within the 24 hour window may contain promotional content.”
Brands can then use its ‘One-time Notification’, which enables businesses to send one follow-up message after the 24-hour messaging window has ended. But Meta has been very careful about allowing businesses to potentially overuse its messaging API, for fear of them spamming their device to notifications hell, through random promotions and alerts that could quickly become very annoying.
It seems that Meta is no longer as concerned about this, and with users having to opt in, with a clear overview of how many messages they can expect if they do, that looks like it’s now enough for Meta to be fine with letting brands unleash in your DMs, if you allow them.
And there’s good reason for this – money.
“Recurring Notifications is a new, optional premium feature that we intend to charge businesses for in the future. It is currently available to all businesses using Messenger Platform as part of a free trial period. We currently charge businesses to send messages from the WhatsApp Business API and we’re listening to customer feedback to guide decisions on our pricing model.”
After struggling to find an adequate means to monetize its messaging platforms, Meta seems to have settled on charging businesses to use its messaging tools – though when it will start charging, and how much it will cost to use such, is still not clear.
Meta’s keeping this all in-house for now, in the hopes that brands will start using these new business messaging features, and build a reliance on them, before it brings in costs. Once businesses are getting results from these features, it will be harder for them to say no, and Meta could bring in a lot more revenue from its messaging platforms, very quickly.
This is a key focus for developing markets, where WhatsApp, in particular, is already a key connection platform. If Meta can get more businesses even more reliant on WhatsApp, with new business tools like this, and its new WhatsApp Cloud API, that will bring in a whole new range of brands that will need to keep paying Meta to support their business initiatives.
Meta’s keeping the timing under wraps because it doesn’t know when it will see optimal take-up of these new options, but it likely has a threshold in place for when it pushes the button and rolls out charges for the various elements.
It’s the old honey trap technique – lure businesses in with offerings they can’t refuse, then increase the costs, when they’re already stuck in the trap.
And it could work, with these new options providing valuable functionality that will help many businesses build on its messaging platforms.
But it’s interesting to note the shift in ethos here, and how Meta will bend its own rules if it sees benefit.