In 2014, Facebook moved its messaging feature out of the main app and into a standalone Messenger app. Like any change, there was a fair amount of outrage that followed, and Mark Zuckerberg admitted that “asking everyone in our community to install a new app is a big ask.” That said, two years later, the Facebook messenger app has 900 million users and Facebook is expanding the capabilities so business owners can use it as a vehicle to reach millions of customers. In April 2016, at the F8 conference, they announced the launch of the Messenger Platform (Beta) with bots and a Send/ Receive API.
Messenger Platform (Beta) and the Rise of Bots
The April launch allows businesses new methods of using Facebook Messenger for customer service and marketing. Through the use of the program, businesses will be able to provide anything from automated subscription content to sales receipts and shipping notifications to live automated messages via Messenger to customers if they have their phone number, and the customer has agreed to be contacted.
Customer Matching protects the consumer, who can block sponsored content and choose which business bots they want to communicate with. It can expand the range of Messenger for customer service (such as order inquiries, order changes, etc.) However, it also opens up the potential for directly marketing to your customers with Facebook Messenger, for example, by sending product suggestions based on a customer’s past purchases, or directly sharing coupons and promotions to your most loyal customers.
The Messenger Send / Receive API supports sending and receiving text, images and interactive rich bubbles containing multiple calls-to-action. The API also allows developers to create custom welcome screens for their threads as well as different controls. Documents on how to build bots for Messenger are available to all businesses and Facebook will gradually accept and approve submissions.
Getting Your Business Started on the Facebook Messenger Platform
The first thing you need to do is to ensure that your page is set up so people can message you. To do this, log into Facebook Business Manager, choose your page, and click on Settings. In the General tab, make sure Messages is set so that people can contact your page privately.
Next, go to the Messaging tab where you can set up your Response Assistants. You can set a customized Messenger Greeting – which is a “hello” text that people will see when they start a conversation with you – and you can set an Instant Reply – which is text that will be automatically sent after someone messages you, for example, “Thank you for your message. We will respond back shortly.”
Creating Saved Replies
The Saved Replies feature will allow you to save responses to your most frequently asked questions, so you can quickly and easily respond to new customers who have the same question.
In Business Manager, navigate to the Messages section. This is where you can view and reply to your messages.
To create a Saved Reply, click on the little quotation box symbol, between the smiley face and thumbs up symbols, then hit Create New Reply.
Add a title so you can quickly identify the reply, then add your reply text. You’ll notice that you can also personalize the message so the person’s first name will be automatically inserted into the message. See the example below that we created to answer Smart Hustle’s most frequently asked question, “Can I contribute an article?”
Using saved replies can streamline your customer service processes and cut down on response times.
Your Custom Username, URL, and Messenger Code
Facebook has also created custom usernames, URLs and messenger codes for businesses to use in their customer service and marketing activities. In Business Manager navigate to the Messages section, then click on the little info (i) symbol next to the available/away toggle to bring up your information.
Here you’ll find:
- Your Username – This is your unique username that will allow people to find you on Messenger. Facebook announced this in April 2016 and said it would take a few weeks to completely roll out usernames.
- Your Messenger URL – This is a link that will take people directly to Facebook Messenger where they can send you a message. Your URL is http://m.me/username - so, for example, our URL is http://m.me/smarthustlemagazine
- Your Messenger Code – The Messenger Code works the same way QR codes on products work. When people scan your code with their phone, they will be automatically taken to your page on the Messenger app.
These assets can be incorporated into your customer service and marketing. Consider adding your Messenger URL to your website Contact Us page and your email signature. You can also print it on branded elements such as flyers or your business card.
“Send Message” Ads
A new call-to-action option for Facebook Ads allows you to use Messenger to strike up private conversations with your customers. The feature allows you to create a local awareness ad with a “Send Message” button. When someone clicks the button, Facebook Messenger will open, and they can send a message to your business. When Facebook revealed this option, they used the picture below to demonstrate how it can be used in marketing.
Replying to Customers Privately
We have discussed how to set up Facebook Messenger so customers can reach you; however, we’re starting to see ways where you can also use Messengers to reach your customers.
One simple example is the ability to reply privately to customers who comment on your Facebook page. Once again, you must be logged into Business Manager, and after you do so, you will find a “Message” option in addition to the traditional Like and Reply.
This will allow you to take conversations to a private forum where, for example, you can provide extra information for the customer or resolve their complaint. Facebook has also said that when you do so “the comment shows a note that the business responded privately, so other Page visitors know that the business handled the request.”
As you can see, Facebook Messenger has a lot of helpful features for small business owners to use today to facilitate customer service and communications. The options are likely to expand in the near future too, as Messenger Platform graduates from Beta, and the functionality becomes easier to use. With 900 million users, it will likely become a standard tool for small business customer service and marketing.