"Why should businesses care about messaging?"
This seems to be a key question Facebook has been trying to answer since the launch of their Messenger platform a year back, where Zuckerberg and Co. outlined a new world of Messenger Bots - of immediate connection between brands and the billion plus Messenger users, who are spending more and more time in the app every day.
But the Messenger Bot revolution hasn't taken off just yet, and many brands are still unsure as to whether Messenger is worth their efforts, whether their branded content would even be welcome on a platform mostly used for more intimate, personal interactions.
To help answer this, Facebook Messenger product manager Kemal El Moujahid recently published a post on the Messenger blog (and in VentureBeat) to outline some of the key benefits of Messenger as a business platform, and he raised some interesting points worthy of consideration.
They may not be enough to convince you to switch your budget and focus across to Messenger wholesale as yet, but the option is evolving, as you can see in Moujahid's notes.
1. "The entire world is messaging"
Moujahid's first key point is that messaging is on the rise, with more and more people spending more of their time within messaging apps.
"According to Flurry Analytics, time spent on social media and messaging increased a staggering 400% last year. Businesses are starting to realize that they need to communicate with users where they already are, and that chat provides a superior experience: email is spammy, text is very limited and phone calls require someone's undivided attention."
There's some relevant points here - though they're not exactly 'mic drop' type revelations.
Definitely, messaging is on the rise - according to Business Insider, the combined user base of the top four chat apps is now larger than the combined user base of the top four social networks, while a study conducted by Pew Research in 2015 found that Messaging is the dominant communication option among teens, with nothing else even coming close.
Given this, the extended logic makes sense - brands need to be where their customers are most active, thus messaging is a logical platform, but part of the growth of messaging could be driven by the influx of marketing and advertising content on social networks. Maybe consumers want a more private, simple messaging experience free of brand interference.
Still, there's clearly potential there, when messaging is used right. Which then leads on to Moujahid's next key point.
2. "Messaging is more than just a simple communication channel"
Moujahid says that Messenger Bots are now becoming more advanced and complex, which is seeing them evolve into "full-featured experiences that include complex interfaces, native payments, location sharing and more"
This is a key area that bots have thus far failed to deliver - while some of the 34,000 active Messenger Bots are interesting, there aren't many (if any) that have become essential, there's no applications that have transformed how we interact with companies. That's really where we need to see bots develop - Facebook needs to underline not only how cool these new experiences are, but why they're essential, why users need them, how they can improve your day-to-day existence.
This is now easy feat, but that's where we'll likely see bots go to the next level, when there are use cases for them that make them so compelling that people are not only using them every day themselve, but they're also telling their friends about them.
3. "Distributing messaging experiences is frictionless"
Moujahid makes a valid point in app usage here, and the benefits of Messenger Bots over apps.
"To reach your audience through a mobile app, you need to build the app for multiple operating systems and get it through the app stores, then help your audience find it, download it, sign into it and enable its notifications. That's a ton of friction. Plus, we all know how intense the competition is for apps: the average user spends most of their time on just a few apps."
He's right - a report by Forrester Research in 2015 found that consumers spend 85% of their time on Smartphones in apps, but only five apps, on average, see regular use. That's a tough sell for your app - given this, it may make sense to instead focus on delivering an app-like experience within the platforms they already use, as opposed to dragging them out of where they're spending their time.
And with the development of the Messenger platform, this is increasingly possible - you can now build out immersive, responsive experiences within the app that can deliver much the same as you'd be aiming to in your own, dedicated tool, which is less likely to see take up.
Of course, you're then building on 'rented land' and Facebook could change the rules at any time, limiting your efforts. But still, the logic makes sense - getting people to your app is hard. Giving them the same experience on the platform they're already using could be more effective.
4. "Messaging experiences are social by nature"
Moujahid points to the growing use of a more integrated Messenger app experience here, by noting that people are often interacting with Bots within their other experiences.
"Not only are they interacting with bots in the apps where they message their friends, they are interacting with bots while they message their friends. If you want to create a viral user acquisition loop, or enable social use cases, that's something messaging can do by design, unlike your single player app."
This is an area where Facebook is looking to make advancements - for example, within Messenger, Facebook's currently testing out tools that can use AI to 'read' and understand your message context and deliver relevant prompts to help out.
In his recent 6,000 word manifesto, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted their artificial intelligence systems are getting much better at this type of work - in that context, Zuckerberg was referring to their system's ability to automatically flag questionable content for review, for which their AI system already generates about one-third of all reports to the team that reviews content.
Given their development on this front, you can expect Facebook will be looking to introduce more integrated understanding and relevant prompts - likely similar to how Google has integrated Google Assistant technology into their new Allo messaging app.
Using Facebook's ever-expanding knowledge graph, this could be an easy way for the network to integrate more search-type functions and recommendation tools into the user-experience - a virtual assistant that's always present within Messenger to help out as required.
5. "This consumer shift is happening faster than the mobile disruption"
And the last key point Moujahid makes is that the shift to messaging for business is already primed for rapid evolution because people are already using these apps - it's not a big leap for them to move from messaging friends to messaging businesses within the apps where they're already active.
"Messaging experiences run on top of the mobile OS layer, and this stack is already much more standardized than the various mobile devices could ever be. And in places like China, the shift already happened: 40% of WeChat users message with a business every day (source: Qi'eZhiku 2016)."
It's not surprising to see WeChat mentioned here - Facebook's Messenger team has previously noted that they're aiming to emulate the evolution of WeChat and the way in which messaging applications are used in the Chinese market. 570 million people log in to WeChat every day - to chat with friends, primarily, but also to conduct a range of other activities, including booking taxis, checking in for flights, playing games, buying cinema tickets, managing their banking, making doctors' appointments and donating to charities.
Those first three elements are already at least somewhat available on Messenger, and it's clear to see that's where their headed. And worth noting, Facebook just this week announced a new in-app payments partnership with international funds transfer company TransferWise.
If Facebook can prove the user experience case for such applications, and make Messenger a more comprehensive platform for these types of everyday activities, it could, in fact, become the constant butler they're aiming for.
It's not there yet, but as Moujahid notes, the tools are all set.
In addition to this, Moujahid also outlines how businesses should consider messaging apps, noting that it's not necessarily about throwing out your app strategy or other marketing initiatives wholesale, but rather, looking at what messaging can provide to assist your process.
"What part of your business would work significantly better on messaging?"
Moujahid identifies customer service and customer acquisition as key areas where brands are seeing success on the platform.
"Telco company Rogers Wireless saw a 65% CSAT increase after integrating in Messenger. Running customer service on messaging lets you communicate with your customer in a familiar, rich environment, preserving context."
Moujahid also highlights French dating site Meetic, which has built a virtual assistant which asks you your preferences, then sends you profiles "until you are sold on the value and sign up". By using this process, Meetic has seen a 30% increase in conversion.
The latter example doesn't quite highlight the true value of messaging for acquisition in varying contexts, but the point is still relevant - used well, there are ways that messaging can improve the customer experience, which is the key element that Moujahid is looking to underline. It's not a question of 'how can I sell more stuff via Messenger?' it's 'how can I use this platform to provide a better, more streamlined user-experience on a platform with which people are already familiar?"
As noted, there are no huge revelations here, but Moujahid raises some valid points for consideration, which are likely more effective than bombastic claims about the coming Messenger revolution and how you'd better get on board.
The bottom line is that Messenger can help business, when used in the right way, and that opportunity is growing. It's worth considering this in your own outreach strategies.