- Facebook is internally testing a self-serve mass messaging interface to let businesses send marketing content to users within its Messenger chat app, the company confirmed to TechCrunch earlier this afternoon. The feature was first spotted by the tipster phwd and then shared by The Next Web reporter Matt Navarra, TechCrunch said.
- Called "Messenger Broadcast," the tool appears to let businesses design a welcome message, create preset replies for common user inquiries and insert a call-to-action button that urges users to visit the company's website or prompt a chatbot conversation. Facebook did not detail Messenger Broadcast's full functionalities to TechCrunch.
- The feature hasn't yet been released to the public or tested by businesses and might never roll out at all. A Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company often tests products internally and then decides whether or not to release or continue developing them.
Messenger Broadcast, if introduced more broadly, could be a significant development for a platform that's struggled to find a concrete monetization strategy despite recently hitting 1.3 billion monthly active users. The tool could be a means for businesses to send blasts to people that they've previously engaged, and could let them customize content and multimedia, offer additional support via FAQs and build on conversations after days, weeks or even months.
It appears that these message blasts can reach a certain number of users at no cost to the business, according to TechCrunch, but the publication noted it's possible companies could pay more for a larger reach as well, as has been the case with past Facebook products. The ability to link back to a business's website via Messenger Broadcast pages might lessen friction on the consumer path to purchase and drive more revenue. Similarly, being able to open a chatbot window would provide additional support options and help brands' AI learn more about their core customers over time.
Chatbots have always been a big piece of Messenger, but hiccups with discoverability and practical applications of the technology have led Facebook to readjust how it thinks about their implementation this year, including by adding a Discover section for users in June. Facebook has continued to update Messenger to make it more appealing to marketers as well, introducing display ads in July and a messages objective in Facebook Ad Manager in September.
Research previously published by Facebook backs up why marketers might be interested in investing in a product like Messenger Broadcast. A recent report found 67% of users surveyed said they prefer text-based messaging instead of making phone calls or sending emails when interacting with a business, suggesting that marketers need to consider creative ways to use messaging to engage customers.
TechCrunch said that Facebook has no plans to change its policy of requiring users to be the ones to initiate a conversation before a business can send them messages, assuming the Broadcast feature rolls out publicly. This is likely a smart move, as some people might easily get annoyed with businesses inundating their inbox without them ever opting in.