Facebook is doubling down on Messenger, and it means advertisers will have to spend more time and energy to reach potential customers


Mark Zuckerberg

  • Facebook is making changes to Messenger to get marketers to make more chatbots and spend more on advertising across all its apps.
  • Facebook is pitching Messenger as a “powerful channel for the entire customer relationship.”
  • Building chatbots requires significant resources for marketers, and advertisers are leery about flooding messaging apps with ads, however.
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Facebook is pivoting to privacy, and rather than leaning away from advertising, it’s telling advertisers they should spend even more with the company or trust the company to handle their budgets.

Advertisers have already been running campaigns across Facebook and Instagram. At Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference, the message from executives is they’ll have to add Messenger and eventually WhatsApp to their plans.

Messenger is a core part of Facebook’s move to encryption, and the app is slashing its size to encourage developers to build lightweight chatbots quickly.

Read more: Facebook is taking aim at email and direct mail marketing with new tools and features it’s bringing to Messenger

Brands have for a couple years been able to promote their Messenger chatbots across Facebook’s apps, including Instagram. Now Facebook is treating Messenger as complementary to all of their ad buys. It’s also pushing advertisers to use a tool called automatic placements that scours Facebook’s properties to find the best app and time to run a campaign.

“We have the reach of all of the different family of apps and that will still be true,” Ted Helwick, director of product and business at Messenger, told Business Insider. “If I’m a business and I want to drive customers to Messenger, I can still reach everyone across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger.”

Messenger also wants to get brands to use the app for lead generation and customer acquisition. It shared the case study of MassMutal-owned insurance company Haven Life, which has a Messenger chatbot that spits out life insurance quotes after consumers answer a few questions about their age, ZIP code, and health. According to Facebook, Haven Life got more people to complete its questionnaire through the bot and cut its acquisition cost by 23% by advertising the bot on Messenger versus other types of online ads. 

“It’s a really powerful channel for the entire customer relationship,” Helwick said of Messenger.

Chatbots require a lot of resources for marketers

Joshua March, CEO of chatbot tech firm Conversocial, said that ads promoting chatbots have performed well for his retail and travel clients. Since Zuckerberg began talking about the move to privacy earlier this year, March said he’s seen a wave of marketers building chatbots for Messenger and WhatsApp and expects brands to eventually build them for Instagram.

But chatbots require a lot of resources and requires live agents and automated technology to handle a range of questions. Advertisers also are leery about flooding messaging apps with ads.

“You can’t just throw people at this, but at the same time it’s going to be a long time before bots can handle everything,” March said. “The goal is to gradually automate more over time.”

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