Mark Zuckerberg Is Still in No Hurry to Monetize Facebook Messenger

'The top priority right now is just building out the base of organic interaction between people and businesses'

Headshot of David Cohen

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stuck to his guns on the company’s focus on Messenger as a product over Messenger as a monetization vehicle.

During the question-and-answer portion of Facebook’s first-quarter-2017 earnings call Wednesday, Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak asked:

Can you just talk about some of the biggest trends you’re monitoring and what you’re most excited about as you think about ways to monetize Messenger over the next two or three years?

And Zuckerberg replied:

I can talk about the strategy. The first thing that we need to do on Messenger and WhatsApp is to get a lot of businesses using it organically and build the behavior for people as they reach out to businesses for different things, like customer support or for getting news content—things that may not eventually be the big business use cases, but that establish the behavior of people interacting not only with their close friends, but also with businesses.

In terms of making money on that, once we have that behavior, I think there are going to be a number of ways that we can amplify that. We’re already experimenting with a couple. One is ads that actually display in News Feed, not in Messenger or WhatsApp, but that link to the ability to communicate with a business directly in Messenger or, eventually, WhatsApp. And that’s great: It converts better for the businesses. They can have a better dialog with the person and a persistent relationship. So that’s one way that I think that this will be valuable. The other way is, of course, eventually showing paid content in Messenger, whether that’s in the inbox or in relevant ways throughout the product.

But the top priority right now is just building out the base of organic interaction between people and businesses that they want to interact with. And once we get that to a big base, then there are going to be a lot of opportunities to build a business, and the business will be proportional to the amount of that activity that people want to do organically. David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.