Pushing ahead with their efforts to evolve Messenger into an eCommerce and brand engagement platform, Facebook has today announced the introduction of new analytics tools for Messenger Bots in order to provide more insight for bot makers and brands, helping streamline and improve the bot connection process.
An extension of Facebook's Analytics for Apps tool, the new bot insights will give brands access to information on messages sent and received via their bots and data on people who've blocked or unblocked your app based on bot interactions.
"In addition, you'll have access to aggregated and anonymized demographic reports such as age, gender, education, interests, country, language, and much more to help you better understand who's engaging with your bots."
The tools will help bot makers get a better understanding of who, exactly, is engaging with their bots, which will then enable them to better tailor the experience to specific user groups, while also providing more insight into bot engagement.
Facebook says that businesses can also use the App Events API to gain deeper insights on how people are engaging with their bots.
"Some example use cases are:
- A travel business can see how often people are transferred to a human agent
- A news publisher can see how frequently people click links back to their site
- An e-commerce business can build cross-platform funnels to see what percentage of people interact with its bot also make a purchase on its website or app"
And while bots may seem beyond the reach of most businesses on Facebook, they are also taking steps to make it easier for more developers to create their own, opening up their FbStart initiative to Messenger Platform developers. FbStart helps early stage startups build and grow their apps and provides access to a range of free tools and services from partners, including Amazon, Dropbox, and Stripe.
Thus far, the Messenger Bot takeover hasn't yet gained the momentum Facebook had hoped. While more than 34,000 Messenger bots are now live, it seems that most Messenger users haven't warmed to the option, with the existing perception of Messenger - as a basic messaging platform to keep in touch with friends - being a potential factor in slowing adoption of bots and other Messenger commerce tools.
Facebook needs to change that view, and one way in which they could do so, while also boosting interest in Messenger Bots, would be to give more businesses motivation to promote bot interactions. Small businesses are likely the ones with the most to gain from bots, as they can help reduce labor costs and provide better customer support out of regular hours. By providing more ways for smaller operators to build their own bots - and explaining the business benefits of such tools - Facebook could then see bot take-up increase as those brands actively promote their bots, essentially advertising the option on Facebook's behalf.
And given that two thirds of active businesses on the network are small businesses (there are more than 60m active business Pages on Facebook, more than 40m of them belonging to SMBs), focusing on them also makes sense from a scale perspective. Over the next 12 months, you can expect Facebook to release easier, possibly even DIY bot tools and options to make it easier for more businesses to get in on the act.
And in other news on the Messenger front, Facebook has also confirmed that they're testing out Rooms within Messenger in the Australian and Canadian markets.
Rumors have been circulating about a possible return of Rooms since September when developer Chris Messina discovered mention of Rooms in the back-end Messenger code.
I say 'return' because Facebook actually launched an app called Rooms back in 2014 which enabled users to create interest-based discussion groups. The app was shuttered in 2015 when Facebook's Creative Labs project was de-commissioned.
So why, then, would Facebook look to bring it back?
According to Facebook, there's still a need for a dedicated options for topic-based conversation. As per Facebook Messenger product manager Drew Moxon (who spoke to the Courier-Mail in Sydney):
"Group chats today are focused on people you know - friends and family - and what we've found by talking to users is there's a lot of need for conversations about specific topics. This will be for topic-based conversations and so people can talk with others they may not know."
The new Rooms in Messenger works like this:
From the main Messenger app screen, Rooms comes up when you click through to the Groups tab.
As you can see, there are a couple of suggestions for possible Rooms, including 'Family' and 'Meals out'. Click on 'Start a Room' and you're taken through the process to create your own conversation space.
Creating a room is pretty easy - you name the Room and enter a description, and you can also customize the listing by adding an image and changing the color of the text or designated emoji to suit your preference (for example, you can attach a basketball emoji to your basketball group).
Once you've set it all up, you can either invite people within Messenger, or you can share a direct link to the Room - the direct link is also available in the Room settings, along with tools to edit the Room features and control notifications and incoming member approvals.
You can invite anyone to join your Room, and your Rooms are also searchable on Messenger, so people can join your conversation group - though you can also set your Room to private.
It could be an interesting way to boost conversation on Messenger, however much of the same functionality already exists - you can start up a group conversation in Messenger, for example, or you can join a group Page to join in wider discussion. Given this, it's hard to see Rooms gaining significant traction, but Facebook obviously sees a use case for it, and the early test data will show them which why they might want to go next with the option, ahead of a possible wider rollout.
It's interesting to see how Facebook's working to build out Messenger and expand the app beyond its roots. And while it hasn't caught on the way the might have hoped just yet, there's still a long way to go in the development of the app, and a lot more opportunities to change perceptions and make Messenger a key platform for more day-to-day interactions and processes.