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Facebook Messenger Ads: 3 Predictions for the Future

April 5, 2016 | Jamie Tedford

This content was originally featured on MediaPost.

Here are three words in response to the fear-mongers in the media predicting that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp will soon be crawling with unwelcome ads that disrupt users who are simply trying to chat with friends and family:  Personal. Contextual. Relevant.

Consider that every monetization opportunity that’s helped brands and agencies achieve business goals on social over the last decade has relied on one or more of those three concepts as the gas that makes the engine run.

Here are three things I predict will eventually arrive in the world’s most beloved chat apps.

1) More personal customer service.

This one’s a no-brainer. Facebook turned Messenger for Business into a reality last March, enabling businesses to launch chat-based customer service as well as share rich media like digital directions and receipts through chat.

More personal customer service won’t just be about two-way communication via chat, or the ability to pay to follow up with customers who’ve already started a conversation with your brand. Last November, I predicted that technology providers would start building ways to enable call center-like escalations inside Messenger. These will empower local, personal customer service for retailers, restaurants, banks and other brands with neighborhood-based business models.

Imagine opening Messenger or WhatsApp to request the aisle for the canned item you couldn’t find at the grocery store. A remote business representative could easily answer this request.

However, if the message was a complaint about a spill on the same aisle, it might deserve the attention of the local store manager. New technology will enable remote reps to “escalate” that message over to the store manager’s smartphone with the click of a button, personalizing customer service in ways a call center phone tree never could.

2) More contextual content marketing.

The early days of other Web communications mediums confused marketers, too. Take email. The first “ads” to arrive in my inbox were terrible: spam for hair regrowth formula.

Email didn’t fall under the purview of a single organization, well versed in the importance of context, as Messenger does under Facebook. But the world of email survived, and the marketing that now arrives in my inbox is really good. Instead of spam, I get research reports and analysis that will help me grow my business, and follow ups about Kickstarter projects I’ve backed. I have relationships with the brands that email me. This will be the future of messaging apps, even if we can’t see that future now.

Again, technology will take this concept to new heights. Interruptive chat messages might not be welcomed, but contextually relevant content would be.

Imagine walking through a geofence at a vineyard and receiving an automated chat from the vintner. You could have a quick conversation about what’s happening at the vineyard today, or what kinds of grapes are growing. With algorithm-powered bots working behind the scenes, the vintner wouldn’t even have to be online to “talk” with visitors about a large but finite set of topics. This isn’t a film about the future; it is already a reality.

3) More-relevant advertising.

That’s right. I said the “A” word. But hear me out. Even conservative estimates propose that for every three minutes spent online today, roughly 1 minute was spent on social. This means the old school Internet is being consumed by a new personal, contextual, relevant internet—at least in the way people experience it. As this transformation takes place, advertising will continue to feel less like it’s talking at you and more like it’s talking with you.

This is already happening when brands and agencies run ultra-relevant ads at scale in the social feeds of their target audiences. Personally contextual brand content arrives alongside personally contextual user-generated content, and it blends in so well we call it “native advertising.”

Technology will come into play here by bringing new kinds of behavioral and intent-indicating data into the system.

Facebook has already advanced beyond noting what you “Like,” into monitoring things like what kinds of actions you’re likely to take, say your propensity for watching videos, and the amount of time you spend looking at individual posts.

Augment that data with indicators about your likelihood to respond positively to receiving chat messages from brands, or better, from brands you already have relationships with, and what you have is the  potential for relevant chat-based advertising that’s welcomed. It won’t happen overnight, but it’s definitely possible.

The Future of Messenger and WhatsApp

The exact future here is unclear, because Facebook will surely do what it’s always done and test and learn its way into successful monetization. The potential for improved marketing through these chat apps and the new user data that can be collected from them is cause for celebration, not fear.

Avatar for Jamie Tedford

Jamie Tedford

Chairman of the Board