Facebook is changing the way users discover businesses and engage with bots on the platform.
In the coming months, Facebook will phase out the Discover tab, one of the portals within Messenger where people can browse Messenger bots, businesses to message and games to play.
Released in 2017, the tab was originally posiitoned as one of the primary ways for businesses to gain visibility and connect with consumers through personal recommendations.
But, although Messenger’s more than 1.3 billion monthly active users exchange billions of messages every month, turns out they aren’t necessarily discovering businesses on Messenger itself.
The move is related to Facebook’s promise, made in late April at its F8 developer conference, to create a lighter version of Messenger with a simpler customer experience, Ted Helwick, Messenger’s director of product management, told AdExchanger.
“We’re shifting investment around business discovery to other solutions we think will be more directly tied to user intent,” Helwick said, pointing to web plug-ins that allow customers to chat with businesses directly through their websites, for example, or m.me short links that Facebook uses to redirect people from other places to bots within Messenger.
Customers are more likely to find a business by visiting its site, searching for a business page on Facebook or initiating a conversation through a plug-in rather than through a dedicated tab within Messenger. By the time they’re engaging with a business through Messenger, they’re usually beyond the discovery phase and demonstrating strong intent signals.
That doesn’t mean, however, that Facebook is abandoning ad monetization in Messenger. Click-to-Messenger ads are still a potent way to get people to start conversations within the app, Helwick said.
“We’ve always thought of the Facebook ecosystem as a place to help businesses create value to connect to people and of ads as a means to amplify distribution – that isn’t changing,” he said. “But we’re also investing in solutions we think make sense in a messaging context and building the product with that spirit in mind.”
Also coming soon
The Discover tab might be going away, but Messenger is also making a bunch of additions to the platform set to go live between now and early 2020.
Facebook’s lead generation template for Messenger, first announced at F8, came out of beta on Thursday. The tool, which is available within Facebook Ads Manager, allows advertisers to create automated experiences that help qualify leads within Messenger through conversations triggered by Click-to-Messenger ads. Customer are taken through a series of questions that can be answered with prefilled options or free-form text. Businesses can continue to track the leads they generate through an integration with their CRM provider.
Next up, businesses will soon be able to schedule appointments with customers through Messenger, and more easily report and track conversions that take place within Messenger. Both features will be available later this year.
In terms of policy tweaks, Facebook is changing its standard messaging window to 24 hours, meaning that a bot has up to one day to respond when someone sends a message or opts in to receive a message through a web plug-in.
“There tends to be better results when businesses respond to users in a shorter timeframe,” Helwick said.
But businesses will still be able to send certain types of personalized messages to customers outside of the 24-hour window, including post-purchase updates, such as receipts, event reminders and general account updates. Messenger is also testing a human agent message tag, which is currently closed beta.
Beyond that, there’s always the existing sponsored message option, which allows businesses to pay to broadcast message to multiple users.
Last up, Facebook will limit the types of organizations that can use subscription messaging, a feature still in beta that allows Facebook pages to send non-promotional content within Messenger on a recurring basis. Facebook found that too many businesses were using it to send promotional content. The feature will soon only be available to news organizations that register through Facebook’s news page index.
The new message tags, 24-hour window policy and limitation on subscription messaging will all go into effect on Jan. 15, 2020.