LISBON, Portugal—Facebook, looking for more ways to connect brands and users, is rolling out a new chat plug-in to let customers access Messenger right through a business’s website.
The update, announced today, lets brands integrate Messenger for their chatbots and also for human-based messaging across devices and platforms. The news comes just a week after Facebook announced plans to expand its sponsored messaging product that lets advertisers buy space in a user’s Messenger inbox.
According to Facebook head of Messenger products Stan Chudnovsky, chat conversations will have a session associated with it and can be picked up or left off all within Messenger.
“It’s next-stage in terms of allowing people to discover businesses not only inside Messenger,” he said. “You can search for and to find the business, but now you can find it from the property of the website.”
The company—which is always pursuing new ways to rapidly grow revenue—also added more retargeting tools, customized customer chat plug-ins and additional metrics for tracking Messenger performance. Publishers will also be able to reach users through a beta Broadcast API for breaking news alerts or game-score updates for teams.
“We have a very fast growing business of click-to-messenger ads,” said Chudnovsky, explaining that businesses who want to retarget customers interested in their product can reach those customers through sponsored messages.
The news comes just a year after Facebook began allowing brands to buy ads for their chatbots within the news feed. Facebook is looking for new ways to replace the slowing ad load from news feed ads, which executives have warned for several financial quarters in a row have been maxed out in terms of growth.
In an interview with Adweek during the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon, Chudnovsky said advertisers will be able to reach users in Messenger based on existing Facebook targeting features. Asked if Facebook is reading users’ peer-to-peer messages to improve ad targeting based on conversations, he said the company isn’t. (Earlier this year, Google announced it would no longer read user emails in Gmail for its own advertising retargeting business.)
“These are biased things in the sense that if you have a lot of conversations in Messenger and in one of those conversations you said the word ‘banana,’ and then later on you see banana advertising and you are thinking that it’s somehow related, it’s not,” he said. “It’s just that every day you are having a lot of those conversations in Messenger and every day you are on Facebook and looking at the ads, at some point there is going to be an intersection of the two just statistically.”
So should users expect to be bombarded with spam mail with limitless unwanted inbound messages? Chudnovsky said users will have the option to control how many sponsored messages they receive or if they don’t want to see any at all. (Just a few months ago, Facebook began testing ads within the Messenger home screen.)
Messenger is increasingly an area of focus for the company and now has more than 1 billion monthly users, with 100,000 developers and 200,000 bots on the platform. That makes sense considering how CFO David Wehner has been warning about slowing of revenue from limited ad load since late last year. Chudnovsky declined to say how much the company might be relying on Messenger for future ad revenue growth. However, he said Messenger is the “next frontier for how the company is looking at advertising revenue and advertising revenue growth.”
“That’s what gives us so much excitement compared to the 6 million advertisers we have on our platform,” he said. “There is a way for us to grow and we are excited about that because even though the numbers feel massive and the growth has been struggling, we are at 100,000 already and we’re just releasing version 2.0 of the API that enables them to build those experiences. The truth is compared to 6 million it’s a very tiny bit.”
UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect the plug-in updates for Messenger and to clarify when sponsored messages were launched.