Messenger apps are big. The top four messaging apps - Facebook's Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Viber - now claim nearly 3 billion monthly active users combined, which is more than the combined active users on the world's four largest social networks (source: BI.com).
Brands now understand that one of the key ways of being increasingly relevant to customers, is to be where they are; more specifically, communicate where their customers communicate. This of course was a key reason why many early-mover Brands began to shift budgets away from TV and towards Social Networks. Fast forward to 2017, and being ‘where your customers are’ means focusing on one-to-one chat apps like Facebook Messenger and China’s WeChat. Indeed, in terms of the latter, users can not only use the app to chat with friends but also conduct mobile payments, play games, stream music, and partake in a variety of online-to-offline services like ordering cabs and takeaway’s. In order to offer such features, WeChat had to open up its platform to third-parties (i.e. advertisers), which is where Facebook currently is with the development of Messenger; for it to become a more sophisticated product, advertisers have a huge role to play.
Moreover, as demonstrated by the success of WeChat, users actually want to engage with Brands - when it suits them.
For example, say you’re in the market for some Yoga gear. You’ve just started Yoga, so don’t exactly know what you’re doing, or what you’ll need. Engaging with a Brand via Facebook Messenger, allows you to ask those silly pre-purchase questions that will likely be valuable in ensuring an informed buying decision. For example, is a 15mm Yoga mat the right choice for someone of my skill level? What products could help me to improve my balance? Are there any products that can help reduce the pressure on my bad back? The point is, whereas the user experience was previously a relatively one-way experience, now it has become enriched with real-time interaction.
Communication apps were always going to be the next frontier for advertisers, and not just because of the exponential growth over the last couple of years. It is after all, how most of us communicate with friends, on either a one-to-one or group basis. Now as marketers, we can either adapt to this emerging medium, or be left behind.
How to leverage mobile apps for strategic growth
But what does advertising on Facebook Messenger actually look like?
Well, there are two distinct ways for businesses to connect with consumers via this ad format; Facebook Messenger Destination Ads, and Sponsored Ads.
Messenger Destination Ads
Like many other Facebook ad formats, Messenger Destination ads appear in the Newsfeed; like many other Facebook ad formats, there is a call-to-action; the distinction is that they don’t lead to a page like or a website visit, instead, they open up a Facebook Messenger message. The ad unit has two elements, the ‘regular’ Facebook ad, and the ‘welcome’ message in Messenger:
The ad creation element is straightforward, as it can be based of an existing variant such as image, video, carousel etc. You are charged when a user clicks on the ‘send message’ CTA. As with other ad formats, you can use this to target any user, regardless of whether they presently follow your Brand or not - which makes this a particularly interesting prospecting tool.
For example, it’s late October and you’ve just opened a brand new coffee shop. Looking to interact with a local audience, you create an ad which ‘asks’ your target audience to message you via Messenger and offer suggestions on which unusual recipes they’d like to see to celebrate Halloween. A prospect messages you with a suggestion, you exchange some casual chit-chat, and then proceed to offer a discount code if they proceed to visit your shop in the next couple of hours.
Sponsored Message Ads
Unlike Messenger Destination ads, Sponsored message ads only appear inside of Facebook Messenger itself. The ads will initially appear similar to message interactions from friends, before expanding to a ‘full-size’ message, as the below example for CNN shows:
Moreover, you can utilise images and links, in addition to text in order to maximise engagement. But what about message spam you say? Well with this type of ad you can only target people who have previously messaged your page. You’re charged when someone opens a message, as with other forms of message advertising such as LinkedIn InMail.
Looking at example cases, you may want to consider this format as a marketing follow-up to someone who has previously interacted with your Brand, in regards to a customer service query. In addition, you could also seek to retarget those whom have previously engaged with your website, but perhaps didn’t make a purchase. In this scenario, it may be that high delivery costs or lack of product clarity was the initial roadblock, in which case you now have the perfect channel to alleviate those concerns. You could even look at up-selling or cross-selling further items or, why not give them a 15% coupon code off their next order. All of this can be done without the prospect having to pick up the phone or making the effort to visit a bricks-and-mortar store.
Putting it all together: Building your subscriber list
With Sponsored Messages as you can only message people who’ve messaged you before, the key challenge for most advertisers would be to build up their ‘list’. One way of achieving this would be to use Messenger Destination ads to drive prospects initially to Messenger, and then follow up with Sponsored Messages with more sales-led messaging.
You can also use outside channels like email to facilitate initial message conversations. For example if a user has subscribed to your email list, you could promote your Messenger functionality as a more ‘responsive’ way to engage with your business (think following up on order tracking status, arranging hair appointments etc.).
Which all sounds great, however at this stage you’re probably thinking that all this messaging to and fro requires some serious manpower to manage. That may be the case, but with the continued maturation of automated ‘chatbot’ technology, we can now automate much of the communication process. For example, chatbot company FlowXO, offers the flexibility of creating robust bot sequences for Messenger to deal with ‘initial’ interactions, which can then be replaced with a human presence once some form of commercial intent becomes apparent. This allows the advertiser to scale their top-of-the-funnel activity, whilst ensuring maximum control and relevancy once a user journey reaches a more advanced phase.
So to recap, Brands can do three things to ensure that they’re leveraging Facebook Messenger as an advertising platform.
- Integrate your marketing platforms with Facebook Messenger in order to organically build your ‘list’ and maximise reach within the Messenger app.
- Supplement your organic reach with paid activity, via Messenger Destination Ads. Use the relative uniqueness of this ad format to drive first-time interactions in a creative, ‘non-salesy’ way.
- Once users have engaged with you via Messenger, use Sponsored Messages to engage with your target audience. Be careful not to spam, and use automated bot software to scale mid-funnel presence. You’d want to ensure that your human conversations are being leveraged when commercial intent is indicated.
Want to learn more about getting the most out of your Facebook ad spend? Why not sign up for one of our Facebook courses, to learn more about the ins and outs of this ever-expanding marketing channel.