How to Respond to the Recent Bot Changes in Facebook Messenger

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Facebook continues on its busy way of trying to influence global opinion and keeps mucking around with its apps to change how users share their updates. Recently, the service was busy rolling out an iOS update to Facebook Messenger, with some major changes and implications for bot users. Here’s what the reactions are, and what you should do to keep your bot’s profile high.

Facebook giveth, Facebook taketh away, or at least hides your most useful feature somewhere else. Such is the joy of riding on the coattails of a social media giant, and chatbot operators who weren’t paying attention to the March news will find their bots slightly harder to locate in favour of Facebook’s video Rooms to compete with Zoom and a new Stories tab. That has expanded from the main app where FB is furiously trying to get its billions of users to write personal stories instead of random posts.

On the plus side, the new app is built for speed and performance, shrinking the app’s footprint by 75%, which is likely to help it appeal to a wider userbase.

Whether you like them or not, Stories are getting some more time in the sun, and chatbots, while still there, are less obvious to users, which could put a kink in many loyalty and user-relationship efforts.

Another thing to note, Facebook seems to be getting shy about the word chatbot, preferring “Messenger Experience,” something you might want to look at as the term becomes old-hat and modern bots can do a lot more than chat.

What’s new messenger chat?

Changes continue both in the live app and behind the scenes, the most recent developer update highlights how the social media service is still focused on customer chats. “Customer Chat Plugin Webhooks – When a new conversation is started or an existing conversation continued via the Customer Chat Plugin, the webhook events messaging_postbacks and messaging_referrals will include a user_ref instead of PSID until the user sends a message.”

But its the updated app that has people talking. MacRumors has the details on the latest features and changes, “In a bid to make the Messenger app smaller and faster, the latest update gets rid of the Discover tab, which was home to chatbots, businesses and games. These features have been hidden rather than removed, and can still be accessed through the Messenger search bar if users look for them.

Meanwhile, Facebook continues to push Stories (the social media feature it aped from Snapchat) by splitting the People tab into screens and opening by default in a new sub-tab of friends’ Stories. As a result, you now need to tap the Active sub-tab to see which friends are online. According to TechCrunch, the changes are the result of Facebook reversing its strategy to make chatbots central to the Messenger app. Now it wants users to spend time chatting with friends and consuming content rather than playing games and exploring chatbots for shopping and businesses.”

On the plus side, if a user has been chatting to a bot, those conversations are still there in the chat history to carry on with. And bots are easy enough to find, through search or by direction from other properties.

The key for businesses is not to consider their Facebook Chatbots as something to give up on, but to focus on widening what the bot does and how it provides value to the business and customer.

  • There are still billions of Facebook users becoming more used to talking with bots every passing month.
  • Polls made a recent comeback in Facebook Messenger (only in group chat for now), encouraging engagement and profile building.
  • As COVID has shown, bots can be extremely useful for passing on fast-changing information from retailer opening times, stock availability and
  • Facebook click-to-Messenger ads are a popular way to engage with customers. It also users Bot Payloads to send specific audiences to a specific flow in your Messenger experience. This feature, combined with Facebook targeting, enables a more relevant user experience for businesses that cover multiple use cases or customer segments in Messenger.
  • Along with the many stock business chatbots, there are some great examples of bots that break the mold on Messenger, showing what talented designers can do.

With all this in mind, bots aren’t going anywhere from the popular platform, and now is a good time for developers, social media managers and customer service leads to:

  • Boost the profile of their bot across other services to ensure people know about it, especially as bots are a greater part of the customer experience and language.
  • Consider working with the “Messenger Experience” tag or similar phrasing when talking about your bots, as the term becomes rapidly out of date.
  • Develop bots out of Facebook using services like SnatchBot or others to provide portability and the ability to deliver your bot anywhere.
  • Investigate or update your conversational marketing efforts as this becomes a standard way of communicating with customers.

The changes in Messenger aren’t particularly bad or good for bots, but they do require a bit more effort on the part of brands and operators to ensure they remain visible, and the bot itself is just part of a growing language around communication that can improve your response and engagement rates with customers. Keep up with the latest bot developments to see how you can enjoy a maximum return on your communication efforts.

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