- Facebook Messenger, the social network's mobile chat application with 1.3 billion users worldwide, updated its M digital assistant with three new functions to help people interact with each other more quickly, Adweek reported. M is equipped with artificial intelligence that monitors chat conversations and now suggests relevant quick replies, GIFs and movie times provided by Fandango.
- If a user asks for a favor, for example, M will immediately suggest responses including "Of course!" and "Definitely!" M also now suggests GIFs to share during conversations by auto-populating the GIF bar in response to common expressions like "Good morning," "Thank you" and "I love you."
- Chats about movies will lead M to suggest a user opens the Fandango chat extension to look for screening times and theater locations, view trailers and buy tickets without leaving the app.
Autocorrect, autofill and autoreply technologies are nothing new, but Facebook's M will likely create more opportunities for marketers with its growing chat extensions. Just as conversations about movies point to services like Fandango, it's easy to imagine potential chat extensions that other brands and services might attempt to roll out. Consumers who are arranging a date may one day see details about nearby restaurants or events, while chats about topics like shopping could trigger suggestions for local stores and malls. Chat users who find M's suggestions annoying or intrusive can turn off the feature, which adds some level of customization and flexibility within the Messenger app.
Facebook isn't the first company to offer a quick reply feature. Alphabet's Google included "smart reply" in its Allo messaging app, and also in Inbox by Gmail, Android Wear and the Gmail mobile app. Microsoft's LinkedIn also has automatically generated replies in its messaging feature, CNBC reported. Messenger, however, has a massive user base, so it's not unlikely to expect that similar tools will soon appear in Facebook's WhatsApp and Instagram programs. The news also points to the growing popularity of the GIF format and how it fits into social platforms' focus on short, visually-oriented communication, which is especially popular among young consumers.
Facebook introduced M suggestions last April to suggest stickers, payments, location sharing, making plans, starting polls and hailing rides with Lyft or Uber. The social network in June added suggestions for saving content, giving birthday wishes and initiating voice and video calls, per Adweek.