Facebook has today announced "a small test" of new ads in Messenger.
As you can see, the new ad units will be featured in the lower part of the Messenger home screen, in the area below your recent conversations - the same place you'll see birthday notifications or a listing of friends currently active on Messenger.
The ads are big, and the definitely stand out - which advertisers will love, but users... maybe not so much.
In their announcement, Facebook does go to effort to explain that the ads won't spill over into your private conversation threads.
"No one will see an ad in a conversation without clicking on an ad experience on the Messenger home screen or starting a conversation with a brand - these test ads won't originate in your conversations."
So there's that, at least, they won't be totally intrusive. But still, it's a risky move, which is why Facebook is keeping the initial trial small - another element they've highlighted in their announcement.
"Of course, the few people who are in this test are in complete control of their Messenger experience and can choose to hide/report specific ads using the dropdown menu in their Messenger."
Note the calming reference to "few people" - "it's not going to affect a heap of people, we're not rolling it out wholesale as yet. And you control the ads either way."
The new ads are being tested among users in Australia and Thailand - the "few people" Facebook's referring to - which will give them a good sample from both an English and non-English speaking region.
Those all add to the functionality of the app, for sure, but they've also made it much more crowded, and added a new level of intrusion to what many see as a more personal social space. But then again, that hasn't necessarily slowed the app's momentum - Messenger hit one billion monthly active users in July, continuing its meteoric growth. Much of that has come from new users in new regions, but it's safe to assume that Messenger use hasn't slowed as a result of these more recent additions.
The importance of adding in these new tools is to expand the perception of what Messenger is, and its potential use case in the minds of consumers.
As noted by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook follows a three-stage plan for monetizing their tools:
- Build a product that people love
- Facilitate organic business behavior on the app (free of charge)
- Prove additional avenues for businesses who are seeking to expand their reach and presence
Messenger is currently moving into that third stage, and a big part of maximizing that opportunity for brands will be changing the audience mindset from seeing Messenger as a basic messaging app and developing an understanding of its expanded functions.
This is most important in the implementation of bots - there are currently more than 34,000 active bots on Messenger, but few have seen any significant take up. Part of the reason for that is people simply aren't aware of the benefits of such interactions, they don't view Messenger as anything more than an app to connect with friends. The addition of expanded functions serves to open up the possibilities of the platform and get people not only spending more time in Messenger, but also turning to the platform for more purposes.
Facebook says it currently has no timeline for a wider rollout of Messenger ads, only that they "hope to learn a lot" from their initial testing, and that they'll take their time before expanding the option.
But as noted, there's billion people on Messenger every month, and Facebook has warned investors that they expect to reach peak ad load in the News Feed by mid-2017. They're going to need new avenues to keep increasing revenue - unless there are significant objections, and a subsequent drop-off in engagement, it's safe to assume you'll see Messenger ads expanded to more regions in the near future.
Also, Messenger has a new Emoticat Facebook Stickers pack.
So there's that also.