“I don’t think ads are the right way to monetize messaging,” said Mark Zuckerberg on an analyst call two years ago. But that was in reference to What’sApp, which he bought. On Messenger, which he built, he apparently does plan to run ads eventually .
Fortunately for the 800 million of us who use Messenger every day, it will involve a bit of work for brands to begin to advertise. First they will have to get us to engage with them. I’m guessing this would have happened more surreptitiously if a document Facebook sent to its largest advertisers hadn’t been leaked. In the document, Facebook revealed that it would only allow brands to send messages to people who had already communicated with the brand.
That’s not very different from the way Pages works; if a user posts on a page, the brand is “allowed” to communicate back. And last March, Facebook began to allow brands to give customers receipts for e-commerce purchases through Messenger, as well as to provide customer service. The camel’s nose has gone way under the tent.
But here is what’s been happening in the background, according to Tech Crunch:
Over the following months, Facebook enhanced chat capabilities for businesses by letting them show a big “Send Message” or “Contact Us” button on their Page, create saved replies, show a badge that grades them on how fast they respond, and reply to wall posts with private messages.
Facebook also recently introduced “Click To Message” News Feed ads that let businesses pay to get people to chat with them. Plus, it’s been secretly testing a chat bot platform that allows developers to create e-commerce experiences and personal assistants within Messenger.
There seems to be a realization here that messaging will be the new operating system for mobile, and that consumers want to be able to do as much through their messaging apps as possible. The market leader here is WeChat, the dominant player in China, which allows users to send cash, make calls,hail cabs and make purchases. As of last summer, ten million apps had been built for the platform.
Facebook has responded:
Earlier this year, Facebook rolled out a bunch of new features for its Messenger platform. In March, Facebook announced Messenger Platform — which lets developers build more functionality and features directly into the Messenger app (being able to track your packages in-app, for example, or embedding media and GIFs into your messages).
In addition, you can now send your friends real money, make free voice calls, and effectively use Facebook as a mapping service from inside its Messenger app.
So Facebook has been making it easier and easier for brands and users to have a conversation, in preparation for the day when it will launch ads in Messenger. You will start to receive them, and you may never know why.