- Facebook, the social network with 2 billion monthly users, yesterday added a new section to its Facebook Messenger application to help users find chatbots and nearby businesses that users can interact with via message, according to a blog post by Facebook. The new Discover on Messenger section can be reached by tapping on the Discover icon in the lower right-hand corner of Messenger's home screen. From there, users can browse for bots among categories like news, entertainment and finance.
- Facebook announced plans for the Discover feature at its developer conference in April, when it also outlined a new vision for chatbots that would pop up only when they could assist users, instead of trying to handle human-to-bot conversations. More than 1.2 billion people use Messenger each month.
- Discover gives businesses and bots a dedicated place to showcase more information, in addition to advertising, Messenger Codes, links and plugins, Facebook said. Marketers that want to add a bot to Discover need to complete a submission form located in their page settings for approval.
Chatbots haven’t really caught on in the past year since Facebook announced a platform to create artificial-intelligence (AI) assistants. That’s because early versions of Messenger bots were clunky and couldn’t handle basic conversations with humans. In February, Facebook said bots had a failure rate of 70%, at which point they needed some kind of human intervention to supplement the interaction with users. Still, the company earlier this month said more than 100,000 bots of varying quality and capabilities interact with people through Messenger.
Despite these challenges, there are indications bots are being adopted by marketers to handle simple interactions between businesses and their customers, such as completing transactions and sharing content, and they'll likely continue to expand in use as more companies and users grow accustomed to the new tech and bots become increasingly human-like. By making bots more interactive and easier to find through Discover, brands will be able to learn more about what consumers want from bots and better optimize experiences.
One of the big challenges for brands with bots is letting users know a bot is available when they're engaging on a platform like Messenger. Facebook's latest update addresses discoverability by enabling marketers to encourage users to share bots.
With the rollout of Discover on Messenger, Facebook is seeking another way to support the developer community, as Apple does with its App Store and Amazon with its Alexa Skills shop. More visibility for bots will help to get major brands and marketers onto the social network's Messenger platform, where interactions with existing customers and new audiences are more immediate than through Facebook pages.
Currently, Facebook isn’t charging businesses to host bots in Messenger, and doesn’t have plans to seek a commission on digital payments made through the app, according to Business Insider. The social network is monetizing the messaging service with advertising in its news feed and with sponsored messages. Earlier this month, Facebook’s Instagram started selling clickable ads to attract businesses and brands on Facebook Messenger. The ad placements will be available to all businesses in the next few months, which will direct Instagram users to a business' content, including bots, image and video and guide them into a text-based conversation.