Facebook has been working to underline the value of Messenger Bots, the next level of their plan to convert Messenger into an all-encompassing communications and commerce service. Thus far, however, Messenger Bots haven't seen significant take-up - while enthusiasm from creators has been evident (there are now more than 34,000 active Messenger Bots), most users haven't warmed to the option.
Part of the problem here could be perception - for many, Messenger is seen as a platform for connecting with friends, not businesses. However with more than a billion people using Messenger every month, and with data showing that consumers are becoming more open to connecting with brands via the platform, the potential for Messenger Bot-enabled commerce is clear.
It's just a matter of communicating the value, the opportunities and benefits such processes can offer.
To help with this, Facebook's been working to add more options into the bot creation process to make them easier to use - for both users and businesses.
Back in November, Facebook released Messenger Platform v1.3, which included a new vertical display option, as opposed to the carousel format, giving businesses more ways to display the various options available via their bots.
This week, Facebook has released Messenger Platform v1.4, and they've added in some additional bot display options to help enhance the functionality of the option.
The first tool they've added is a persistent menu - as explained by Facebook:
"The persistent menu allows for multiple, nested items to be built in, giving people a way to find and select from all the features that a bot offers."
As you can see, rather than having to ask a bot questions to get to what you want, the persistent menu displays a list of easy, one-tap commands which you can use to navigate the available functions.
The option reduces the need for developers to create more complex text interpretation systems, which can sometimes make the bot communication process more difficult.
In addition to this, Facebook's also adding new tools to help users share their bot experiences.
First off, they're enabling custom share messaging from bots, through which developers can add additional context for notification recipients.
"For example, when sharing scores from your Trivia Blast game in webview, users can share their rank and challenge their friends in Messenger."
The option will provide more ways for brands to communicate the benefits of their bots when users share, which could help boost usage.
Facebook's also adding a 'Send in Messenger' button, which will enable people to send content from the webview to their friends in Messenger, helping to streamline bot conversations, while they're also adding bot deep links for custom message sharing.
"Developers can now link these custom shared messages directly to their bot by using their bot's m.me (http://m.me/) URL in buttons. Recipients will be able to click on the link to start a conversation with a bot."
Some of this is fairly technical, but in basic terms, Facebook's adding more ways for people and businesses to share their bot experiences, which may boost word-of-mouth.
This is a smart move - as noted, in order for Messenger Bots to see improved take-up among consumers, Facebook needs to provide more context as to why people should be using them - what problems bots solve, what benefits they deliver, how Messenger Bots make your life easier. At present, there's not many - if any - bots that have become essential, day-to-day tools, things that people need to use and are so good that people want to tell their friends about them.
Making bots easier to share is a key step in facilitating this - it doesn't necessarily improve the use-case for bots, but it will make it easier for people who have a good experience to share that with others.
While Messenger Bots haven't taken off as some expected, the potential is still huge. You only need to look at how Messaging is being used in China to see what's possible - WeChat, China's leading messaging service, has more than 768 million daily active users, 40% of whom message with a businesses every day. Given the growth of Messenger in western markets, it seems only logical that, eventually, we'll see similar take-up locally. It's just a matter of consumers seeing the benefits - but once they start to gain traction, momentum is likely to build fast.
You can read about the latest additions in Messenger Platform v1.4, including further technical specs and information, here.