- Facebook seeks to develop Messenger, the social network’s chat application with more than 1.3 billion users worldwide, into a consumer support channel that businesses of all sizes can use to interact with customers, David Marcus, head of Messenger, said in a blog post today. More than half (56%) of people surveyed would rather message a business than call customer service, and 67% expect to message businesses more frequently in the next two years, said Marcus, citing a Facebook-commissioned study by Nielsen.
- Marcus expects real-time communications and visual messaging to become much more popular in 2018 as mobile users in developed markets come to expect a super-fast and intuitive camera, video, images, GIFs and stickers with almost every conversation, he said. Last year, Messenger hosted 17 billion video chats, twice as many as in 2016, he said.
- While calling still plays a prominent role in customer service, Messenger wants to help businesses and brands communicate with their customers to not only respond to issues or one-off questions, but also to offer up-sell opportunities. Even as the app adds more features, it also wants to streamline and simplify its functions to make them less confusing for users, he said.
Marcus' latest blog post holds open Messenger's arms to marketers. It's arrival just days after Facebook announced major changes to its News Feed that denigrate organic posts from brands and publishers is the latest indication that the social media giant is hoping its chat app can become a more significant engagement platform for brands.
Messenger seeks to become a key part of the way consumers interact with businesses, both with live customer service reps and with automated services such as chatbots. Messenger head David Marcus said the platform has more than 200,000 bots, and he forecasts that more businesses will use Messenger as a key part of customer support.
“Look for investment in rich messaging experiences not only from global brands, but small businesses who need to be creative and nimble to stay competitive,” Marcus said.
Messenger’s evolution into a more versatile communications platform partly emulates the development of Chinese apps, such as Tencent’s WeChat and Ant Financial’s Alipay, into “lifestyle” platforms that handle payments, money transfers, travel booking, public transit passes, ticketing, shopping and other features.
“We want to make Messenger the best way to organize a night out with friends, do your homework, or simply connect with the people you care about via text, photo, video, or real-time audio or video,” Marcus said.
Facebook is boosting Messenger as a marketing platform at the same time that it is trying to shrink the role of brands and publishers on its main News Feed. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week said the company is overhauling its News Feed, which shows news and information amid user posts, as the social network copes with criticism about the quality of the content and its effect on society. The change would further downplay posts from brands and publishers and decrease how much time users spend on the platform, but eventually would improve the user experience and boost its business, he said.
Marketers and publishers generally responded negatively to the announcement as they expected to see a drop in traffic from Facebook and possibly higher ad prices. Facebook has an auction-based system that selects the best ad based on the maximum bid and whether the ad is likely to perform well. Fewer ad slots may mean that brands will bid up the price of ad placements, or seek other platforms to reach target audiences.