Facebook Messenger has been branching away from the Facebook platform for some time, becoming more its own entity than an additional feature. The latest changes to Messenger bots increase the role of Messenger in linking businesses with customers.

Previously, Facebook allowed Messenger bots from major brands to help consumers make a purchase. However, the bots’ influence ended there. It was against policy for businesses to try and sell anything to users. However, rather than waste a prime opportunity, Facebook has now changed its policy and is allowing brands to use bots to send messages with ads promoting products and services. The company has been testing the feature since April of this year and finally made it available to all advertisers on November 8.

Controls for Users

To avoid an influx of spam, Facebook is enacting a few measures to protect users. For instance, businesses may only message users who are already in their threads. Plus, users can block advertisers or mute messages at any time. The block or mute stays in place unless the user decides to reverse it.

How Do Businesses Get in Contact with Users?

There are several ways for businesses to start messaging users:

  • Users can send a request through Messenger. The brand has 24 hours to reply, after which time the message expires.
  • Users can subscribe to a brand’s Messenger feed to receive messages; however, this does not include ads. Subscribers must reply to a message for the business to start sending promotional content.
  • Users can click on an ad in their newsfeed that has “Messenger” as a destination for the website clicks objective. If users click on the call-to-action button (which will feature a Messenger icon), a new message will open where they can chat with a bot.

Welcome Screens

A new thread with a bot leads to a customized welcome screen, where users will see information about the bot. As well as the brand name, a description, and the page category, the welcome screen tells users how many other people use the bot, the typical reply time of the bot, and what information or services they can expect to receive by using the bot.

Sharing Bots

Users can share bots they have found with friends on Facebook simply by clicking the “Share” button at the top of the message screen and selecting a friend. They can also share a particular message within a conversation. To access messages and bots, friends will first be presented with the welcome screen, where they will need to agree to start a new thread with the bot. This immediately allows the brand to start communicating with a new user.

Receiving Payments Through Messages

Businesses can even receive payments for products and services through bot messages. This simplifies the shopping process for users and therefore increases chances that consumers will complete a transaction. Messages with payments are equipped with security messages to ensure personal and financial information is protected at bank-level encryption. As this feature is still in beta, it is currently only available for businesses in the U.S.

Limitations of the Messenger Bots

In addition to the restrictions as to who businesses can contact, there are a few other limitations. For instance, each sponsored message may feature just one link and one photo. Also, unlike regular Facebook ads, brands are unable to modify their campaigns to run on both Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook is always looking for new ways to make a profit from the more than 1 billion users who access the platform every month. By introducing Messenger bots for brands, Facebook is bringing Messenger into the money-making business.