Facebook Messenger and Brands: What’s Going On There?

If you think about it, customer service makes a lot of sense in the context of a Messenger app.

Facebook just had a billion users in a day, it’s dominating the mobile ad market, and people are spending more time there than ever. In other words, they’re in solid shape.

Still, though they might have hundreds of millions of users, certain Facebook products continue to inspire uncertainty for some, in terms of monetization and how they fit with Facebook’s strategy.

In particular, people like to speculate about Messenger and WhatsApp, with their seven hundred million and nine hundred million users, respectively, about how they are going to make money, what brand presences there will look like, and whether or not Facebook will introduce ads in the apps.

Who knows! Maybe they will.

But the things people at Facebook are saying indicate that they’re thinking about the money question a little differently. The company’s head of ads, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, recently gave an interview that makes the company’s idea of how it will work a little clearer.

A direction for brand presences on the app

It’s not as though the company has been completely mum about what role brands might play on these apps; Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talked about the business use of Messenger during Facebook’s Q2 earnings call.

He discussed customer service as a use case for brands on messenger, saying that “the long-term bet is that by enabling people to have good organic interactions with businesses, that will end up being a massive multiplier on the value of the monetization down the road, when we really work on that, and really focus on that in a bigger way.”

At TechCrunch’s recent Disrupt conference, Bosworth elaborated on how brands might use Messenger to build value, not necessarily via ads.

He pointed out that Facebook is already becoming a major channel for customer service. He said that ”there’s a bunch of marketers saying that Facebook is the number one channel where they’re getting (customer service) requests.”

He also mentioned, impressively, that instances of people messaging brands has doubled year over year. (Also interesting for businesses on Facebook, and probably related, visits to pages have increased 40 percent year over year).

The company has already introduced some tools that allow brands to handle support via Messenger.

If you think about it, customer service makes a lot of sense in the context of a Messenger app. Customer service usually still comes down to a one to one interaction, and customers want to have that interaction where it’s convenient for them. As more and more people spend a greater share of their time on messenger apps, it will make sense for them to approach businesses with their issues here.

But if brands can build better customer experiences in a service context, there’s no reason that couldn’t extend to other interactions, ones which are normally considered outside the scope of customer service. In some cases, as “Boz” pointed out, it already is:

In Spain, instead of calling the restaurant to get a reservation, you Whatsapp the restaurant to get a reservation.

And Messenger payments exist already. It would be technically possible to message a brand to buy a product.

In a lot of ways, things are moving towards messenger apps acting as a portal for your interactions with businesses.

If they’re moving that way slowly in U.S. or European markets, in some Asian countries, they’re pretty much already there. Chat apps like Line or WeChat have not just payments, but also things like taxi services and mini stores. The messenger part, and connecting with your friends through it, is still central, but the apps go further, basically bridging the gap between an app and an OS.

Social meets AI?

“Boz” discussed another Facebook project that could prove relevant in terms of Messenger’s monetization, and its ability to serve as a ‘portal’ for more interactions.