Brands Can Now Promote Their Chatbots With Targeted Facebook Ads

Burberry's holiday bot is part human, part automated

LISBON—Facebook is further integrating chatbots into the platform by letting brands buy newsfeed ads that directly link to one-to-one conversations in Messenger.

During a talk today at the Web Summit tech conference, Facebook vp of messaging David Marcus said advertisers for the first time are now be able to target users before bringing them into a one-on-one conversation that has something else: identity. 

Today, Burberry has built its own chatbot designed for holiday shopping. The bot, which combines brand storytelling with an automated gift recommendation engine, will also allow users to chat with a human on the other end of the conversation if they have questions.

Marcus said the hybrid approach of interactions with both humans and bots is "the best combination."

Facebook's update is just the latest in chatbot rollouts this fall. Last week, Twitter announced it's partnering with a dozen developer platforms to help brands build their own hybrid chatbots that are part human, part automated.

So is Facebook trying to use chatbots to ultimately replace email? Marcus said possibly for some situations, but not for everything.

"Email is good at a bunch of different things and I think it will remain good for those things, but interacting with companies on email is really bad. Most emails you receive from companies come from a "no reply @." I mean, how can these brands send me messages but I can't send them messages? That's messed up."

Marcus said Facebook is the only messaging platforms with more than 1 billion users that doesn't use a phone number as a main identifier.

"If we were to reinvent our communications today, I wouldn't give you a phone number," he said. "Why would you need a random series of digits to identify who you are?"