Facebook Messenger Gets Big Updates for Small Business
Virtual reality. Live video. Artificial intelligence. It would have been easy to mistake this year’s F8 – Facebook’s annual(ish) conference for developers – for a sci-fi movie. But hidden between their made-for-Hollywood announcements, Facebook quietly unveiled some new features for their instant messaging app Messenger (aka Direct Messenger or DM for short) that could have BIG impact on small businesses.
Don’t Shoot the Messenger
Although small business owners have been conditioned to cringe and groan when they learn of an upcoming Facebook update that affects them, not all change is bad. In fact, the new Messenger updates that were announced in early April will make it easier than ever for customers and businesses to communicate. Business owners have long understood that great marketing reaches the right people in the right place at the right time, but thanks to the 24/7 access to businesses that smartphones and computers provide, the same is now true of customer service. To succeed in today’s digital world, you need to meet your customers where they are. And your customers are on Messenger.
Each month, over one billion messages are sent between the 50 million businesses and 900 million people that are actively using Messenger. It’s consistently one of the most popular Apple apps and was the fastest growing app in the U.S. in 2015, so it’s no wonder that Facebook has turned its attention to Messenger.
Businesses should turn their attention to the app too. “Socially devoted” businesses, or businesses that promptly respond to user-posted questions at least 65% of the time – receive 3.5 times more users than others. Providing excellent customer service via Messenger will not only increase the loyalty of your current customers, it will increase your social following, which means more potential customers will have their eyes and ears on you.
NEW FACEBOOK FEATURE #1: PAGE USERNAMES
You’re probably already used to identifying your store with a username on Instagram and Twitter, but up until now, businesses have had to promote their presence on the most used social media channel in the world with generic statements like “Find Us On Facebook!”
That’s about to change, since Facebook recently announced they’ll be bringing Page usernames to Messenger in the coming weeks. A Facebook username will look exactly like a Twitter or Instagram one — the @ symbol followed by a handle (e.g. @linleylaurenlp2). It will appear under your Page name on Facebook, and users will be able to type your Page’s username in Messenger to find your business and start a conversation (similar to sending a direct message on Instagram).
Facebook usernames aren’t entirely new. Many Pages already have one in the form of a vanity Web address. If your Facebook Page already has a customized URL, such as www. facebook.com/linleylaurenlp2, then you already have a username. (Whatever comes behind facebook. com/ is your username.)
If you don’t have a customized URL yet, you can create one by clicking edit next to “Facebook Web Address” in the About tab of your Facebook Page. We recommend keeping your username consistent across all social media channels, so that customers can easily find your store whether they’re searching for you on Instagram, Facebook or another social platform.
(E-Course Students: For even more help on choosing your handle, watch Instagram E-Course Lesson 1 and Facebook E-Course Lesson 2!)
NEW FACEBOOK FEATURE #2: MESSENGER LINKS AND CODES
With the introduction of Messenger Links and Messenger Codes, Facebook is making it easier than ever for your customers to start a conversation with you.
A Messenger Link is a URL that immediately opens a conversation with a business in Messenger without a user having to open the app and search for the business. You can get your business’s Messenger Link by inserting your username into m.me/yourusername. (Try it out by visiting m.me/linleylaurenlp2 to open a new conversation with us!) Use the clickable link in ads or on websites to give your customers a direct line of communication to you.
Messenger Codes – Facebook’s more attractive equivalent of a barcode – work the same way. Users can scan a code within Messenger using the camera in their phones to start a conversation with your business. Messenger Codes can be placed in ads or on signage to give people a convenient way to contact you.
Businesses and advertisers who attempted to use QR codes in their heyday a few years back may be hesitant to use Messenger Codes since the use of QR codes never fully caught on. However, Messenger Codes has some key advantages that make it worth trying. Younger demographics that are used to using Snapchat’s Snapcodes will likely adopt Messenger Codes quickly. Further, almost 1 billion people already have Messenger, making it more convenient to use than a QR code, which required downloading an app to scan a code.
Messenger Links are already working, but Messenger Codes will be rolled out gradually in the coming weeks.
NEW FACEBOOK FEATURE #3: MESSENGER GREETINGS
Businesses can put their best face forward through the use of Messenger Greetings. Your greeting is what people see the first time they open a conversation with you on Messenger – before they send you a message – so businesses can use it to welcome people to a conversation, encourage communication and manage expectations, such as how quickly they should expect a response. You can also request any pertinent information that will reduce back-and-forth messages and help you in following up.
Messenger Greetings are live now and can be turned on and customized in the Messaging section of your Facebook Page settings. Visit https://www.facebook.com/business/ learn/facebook-tips-messagingfor-page-admins/ for tips.
(WORK//SHOP members can use this month’s WORK//SHEETS to plan your Messenger Greeting and autoresponses. E-course students can also watch Facebook E-Course Lesson 2 for further support on planning your Messenger auto-responses.)
NEW FACEBOOK FEATURE #4: CHATBOTS
With so many people using Messenger to communicate with businesses, Facebook is preparing it to become an e-commerce platform, which leads us to one of the most talked about new developments from F8: bots for Messenger.
In the plainest of terms, a chatbot, or bot, is an automated computer program that allows businesses to deliver content to consumers in Facebook Messenger using preprogrammed communication and responses.
Similar technology already exists in the form of third-party apps such as those used by H&M and Sephora, but the advantage to Facebook’s bots is that businesses can reach the 900 million people already on Messenger instead of having to promote an independent app.
Bots won’t affect small businesses immediately, since Facebook’s announcement was also its initial invitation for developers to create bots and submit them for review. However, heavy-hitters in the retail tech world like Shopify are sure to begin exploring how they can make this big business technology accessible to small businesses in the near future.
What’s It To Ya?
Facebook’s heavy investment in Messenger means that it will only become more important to businesses in the coming months and years. Be sure you’re ready to take full advantage of its potential when the time comes by using it to its fullest potential now.
This article originally appeared in the April issue of WORK//BOOK™, our monthly e-magazine for WORK//SHOP™ members. WORK//SHOPAHOLICS™ can read the entire edition in the members’ area of www.retailerworkshop.com.
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