For some time now, many have been anticipating Facebook's move to take Messenger to the next level and make it a more viable and important tools for brands, a mission Facebook has repeatedly stated. We're now starting to see the next evolution of the platform - last week, Facebook announced a new, first of its kind, partnership with Dutch airline KLM which enables passengers to get flight details, even their boarding pass, via message. Reports have also suggested that Facebook's looking to unveil a bot store at their F8 conference next week, which would enable brands to build their own automated customer service systems via Messenger. And today, Facebook has announced a range of new, business-focused, Messenger updates to better prepare brands for the next level of commerce on the platform.
Here's what they've added.
New User Names
No doubt the crew at Twitter will love this - to make it easier for people to get in touch with the businesses they want to connect with via Messenger, Facebook is adding new Page usernames. As per the announcement:
"Each Page has a unique username that can be set and edited. Soon, your username will show up directly on your Page, underneath your Page title with an @ symbol before it. Pages that already have a vanity URL (unique URLs such as facebook.com/JaspersMarket) already have a username, because a Page's username (@JaspersMarket) and vanity URL are the same."
That's right, your Page username will have an @ symbol before it, just like Twitter.
As noted, if you've already changed your Facebook Page name to a vanity URL, your Messenger user name is your Facebook user name. If you want to add a quick way for people to get in touch via message, you can also use the new "m.me/[username]" link which will connect people directly to a new Messenger thread with your business (this is me manually entering the link into Safari and connecting through to a message thread):
These new links can be put anywhere - on your site, on your other social profiles, in a newspaper ad - all businesses on Facebook (who have Messaging enabled) will now have a direct link to a dedicated Messenger thread for each user, streamlining the connection process.
The addition of user names will make it easier for people to connect with businesses via message, and because each user name is unique, they'll ensure users can identify your exact business, even if your business name is relatively common.
And then there's a nod to Snapchat - in addition to the shortened Messenger Links, using the "m.me/" extension, Messenger's also adding in Snapchat-style codes which can also be shared to help connect people to your brand's Messenger presence.
Just like Snapchat's 'Snapcodes', people can scan Messenger Codes using their smartphone camera and immediately open a thread with your business. As per the explanation via the Messenger Facebook Page:
"Messenger Codes are the best way to find people in Messenger, whether you're standing side-by-side or looking at your computer screen. No matter where you are - online or at an event - all you have to do is scan a code someone shares with you, and you can start that important conversation. No more back and forth with texts trying to make sure you have the right number saved and awkwardly asking people how to spell their names. Your settings tab in Messenger has your own Messenger Code displayed prominently to scan or share."
Messenger Codes are not active for all users as yet, but as per the above images, there'll be an option within Messenger to add new contacts via the code, with a 'scanner' built in to utilize the function.
And the final new addition to the Messenger business experience is Messenger Greetings - customizable notes from the business that appear in a new message thread before messages are sent.
"Businesses can use this text to greet people and set a friendly tone while letting people know what types of messages are expected."
Pages will be able to set and edit their greeting in their Page's Message Settings.
In addition to these new features, Messenger's also announced that they've hit 900 million monthly active users on the service, another major milestone, underlining the popularity of the app. Some still have some questions over whether users will want to connect with brands via message, considering that's where they're generally keeping in touch with family and friends, but Facebook's following the lead of their Asian messaging counterparts on this front - and considering close to a billion people are actively using Messenger anyway, giving them a way to quickly and easily connect with brands seems like a no-brainer, and another measure that will boost Facebook's overall market presence.
And then, when you factor Messenger bots into this equation - automated systems that can learn and respond to an increasing amount of customer queries via the app - the benefits of such a system, from both a customer and business perspective, make a lot of sense.
The new Messenger features are rolling out over the coming weeks - Pages that don't have a username set up will see the option to select a new username directly from your Page.