This week Facebook launched their Messenger Platform (beta) for Facebook Messenger at the F8 Conference on April 12 and 13. Now with over 900 million monthly users, the Messenger Platform is a major step in the world of social to allow businesses to engage new and existing audiences in a one to one manner or at scale. Without going into too much detail, the new Messenger Platform will allow businesses and developers to build bots (chatbots and conversational apps).

So, why is this important? At Edelman, we spend a huge portion of our digital efforts helping organizations converse with their customers and stakeholders in social networks, apps and websites. Just as when Facebook invented “Facebook tabs” to build mini-versions of your website within the Facebook interface, they are now betting people would rather use the consistent interface of Messenger to interact with an organization instead of a proprietary website, app, call center, email, etc. The opportunity for distribution and engagement is unique but inherently social – as I recently described in “The Upcoming Social Media Evolution of Chatbots and Conversational App.”

Additionally, a few important key facts about Messenger were announced during F8 that include:

  1. Over 900 million active users
  2. Over 60 billion messages daily (between Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp)
  3. Over 15 million businesses on Facebook Messenger
  4. More than one billion messages are sent to businesses each month
  5. Fastest growing app in the U.S.
  6. Second Top App on iOS (globally behind Facebook)

In order to understand chatbots, it’s best to interact with them. Message these bots (say “Hi”) to experience it yourself:

So, where should businesses and brands begin? It is all about distribution and interaction and bots will focus on three key consumer experiences: Content Interaction, Customer Service and Productivity (including commerce). There are several technologies like, DigitalGenius and Assist for conversational commerce or social customer service and technologies like BetterBrand, which focus more on “Chat Marketing” through engaging and interactive content.

Here are six ideas and concepts to consider when getting started:

  1. Content Distribution – Whether using an RSS feed, images or news, it will be relatively easy to distribute content within Messenger
  2. Personalized Content – With a bit of personalization and some questions, brands will be able to deliver the “right” content based on a user’s feedback
  3. Games – Whether you are allowing users to choose their own adventure, tic-tac-toe or something completely different, it is possible to have some fun
  4. Customer Service/Response – By utilizing Facebook’s platform, brands will have the ability to use “Artificial Intelligence” and machine learning to respond to customer inquiries. If a customer wants to speak to a human, that is possible too.
  5. Personalization for Conversion – Since you have the ability to ask questions, whether using text/button or images, brands can collect information to personalize the customer journey and send the right message/link at the right time
  6. Lead Gen – Similar to conversion, be sure to start building your audience even if you do not have the “right” bot yet. Ask questions, send updates. Remember, it is a new distribution channel so you have to experiment to learn what works for your brand and audience.

For now, all of this is opt-in. While there is the potential for mass distribution, assume marketing your bot will be similar to SMS or email acquisition strategies. Users have to find your bot through links, posts or ads and send a message (opt-in) before your bot can work its magic. It is important to note that users can block all messages or sponsored messages, so avoid too many sharing messages or it will come off as spam. Sponsored messages are currently being tested with a small group and will likely launch later this year.

If you’d like even more information on bots, what they are and how they work, be sure to check out, coverage from AdWeekDigiDayMashable and be sure to watch this video.

Adam Hirsch is an executive vice president with Edelman Digital.

Maurizio Pesce