You’ve been able to message company chat bots on Facebook Messenger for months, but only recently did they gain the ability to talk back.
In November, Facebook introduced Sponsored messages a feature that lets brands pay to message users directly.
It was not a celebrated move — in fact, there was a lot of concern in the tech press that this was going to be annoying. But that hasn’t yet proven to be the case.
Sponsored messages are actually very similar to something we’re all familiar with—push notifications. In fact, when you get one, they look pretty much identical. The difference is that sponsored messages are much more effective and actually, much less annoying.
The problem with push notifications
There are basically two issues with push notifications:
- They’re dumb. The messages users get through push notifications are generally generic and uninspired because it’s really hard to take advantage of user data to send targeted messages. Look at this example from LinkedIn — it is one of the blandest notifications you could see on your phone, and it doesn’t compel a user to take any action. They couldn’t even spring for an exclamation point at the end to add a little urgency!
- They take over your phone. If you download an app, you generally expect to be able to use it when you want to and leave it undisturbed otherwise. But push notifications supersede that — they pop out of the app and force you to interact just because you have something on your lock screen. Not to mention they can also leave badges on your app that clutter a user’s home screen.
When push notifications are at their worst, they can annoy users into turning off any communication from the app, or even deleting it.
Recently, people actually took to social media to tell others how to turn off notifications from Instagram — that hurts, no matter what way you slice it.
So now that we know that push isn’t the creme de la creme of mobile engagement, let’s look at their sibling, sponsored messages.
How sponsored messages work
Sponsored messages may look like push notifications to the naked eye, but there’s one huge difference—in order to send a sponsored message to a user, that user must have already initiated a chat with your bot in Messenger.
This is key because it means that the user is already seeking out information about your brand or products. When they initiate the conversation, they’ve already bought-in, at least partway.
This is important because all of the interaction takes place within the Messenger platform. This means that messages are integrated into the way users already interact with their phone. Those who have the Messenger app downloaded probably open it frequently to check messages from friends.
As a bonus, this means that users are less likely to have pesky notification badges hanging around on their phone.
Sponsored messages can also be much smarter than their push notification counterparts.
For instance, you can target people who have not interacted with your bot in some number of days. This is crucial if you’re trying to run a reactivation campaign to get people reengaging with your brand.
You can also use data from a user’s previous conversations with your bot. Let’s say you were playing the chatbot game Trivia Blast against your friends, answering questions in the category “Justin Bieber.” If you’ve slipped in the rankings and your best friend has taken the #1 spot away from you, the Trivia Blast bot can ping you with a Sponsored Message and let you know—spurring you to hop back on and re-take the title.
Lastly, you can target users for Sponsored Messages using the vast range of Facebook categories you already know:
Because you’re working on Facebook’s Messenger platform, the whole usual wealth of targeting and interest data is available to you to help write messages that users will respond to and engage with. This is one of the biggest advantages to advertising on the Facebook platform, and now you can utilize it to craft compelling messaging on Messenger.
Takeaway: Sponsored messaging is less invasive, less annoying, and more powerful than ordinary push notifications by a mile. If you’re looking to re-engage with your customers and bring them back to play your game or product, give them a try.
Things to keep in mind
Sponsored messaging with Facebook isn’t quite the Wild West. There are some rules and regulations around how brands can use sponsored messages. These are designed to make sure they don’t get too annoying for users.
- A user must have been in a prior conversation with you or initiated the current conversation with you in order for you to send a sponsored message to them.
- Users can block all messages from a bot at any time. That block will remain on all messages unless a user chooses to reverse it.
- Once a user has started a conversation, a bot has to reply within 24 hours, unless it is sending a receipt or service notification (like a flight update).
It’s also important to note that nothing is set in stone for bots on Messenger right now, either. Since Facebook is still figuring out what the best guidelines for sponsored messages, they’re liable to switch up the rules at any time.
From the way that users are notified of your messages to how long you have to reply, the only thing we can be sure of as sponsored messages go forward is that Facebook— and businesses— will need to fine-tune how sponsored messages work.
Don’t be pushy
Users are more and more immune to — and annoyed by — push notifications. Instead of being a friendly way to connect with a user, they are a nuisance that gets swiped away almost invariably.
You need to reconfigure how you interact with your customers. Sponsored messages are all about “opt-in” or “relationship marketing,” which is powerful because it gives you the chance to connect with your customers instead of talking at them.
With Messenger, bots, and sponsored messages, you can have a real conversation with your consumers. Personal, welcoming interaction is the future of brand-to-consumer messaging — it’s finally time to leave push notifications in the past.