Facebook unveiled a slew of updates at yesterday’s F8 developer conference, which digital folks will be dissecting for weeks to come.
While we’re excited about Facebook Live, 360 video and Facebook’s quest to provide internet to the world – it was the news about Messenger (900 million people strong) that caught our attention.
The inward shift.
In recent weeks, Facebook released new updates to allow people and businesses more 1:1 communication options, such as increased Messenger capabilities for users to message Pages, and Twitter announced the ability to Direct Message a Tweet rather than broadcast it. These moves made us wonder what’s motivating these social networks that were built on communities to so heavily focus on fostering “private” communication options.
It could be that Facebook in particular is responding to a shift in the sharing behavior of its global audience, fueled by increased adoption of messaging apps Snapchat and its own WhatsApp, where private, instant messages come and go in rapid fire.
The overall amount and type of content being shared on Facebook by individuals is declining, falling 21 percent from 2014 to 2015, contributing to a 5.5 percent decrease in total sharing on the platform, according to a recent report from The Information.
These changes are more pieces in a continuing consumer trend: We want more personal control over the content we receive and share, with whom, and in what medium. Zuckerberg – one of the most prolific sharers – said it himself during yesterday’s keynote when he simply stated, “People are turning inward.”
Taking a cue from others.
Late last week Facebook pushed an update to Messenger that provided two new ways for users to initiate 1:1 conversations with business-run Pages.
- Vanity URLs are now akin to Twitter @handles – meaning brands will want to double-check their official Page names to ensure they have the name they want. This is not unlike what happens when you click on a Facebook user name and Messenger opens instantly.
- Newly released Messenger codes instantly open up a chat window when scanned. These unique QR codes take after the ones made popular by Snapchat’s Snap codes, which allow users to instantly follow one another after scanning.
The mechanics of starting these chats are not unique, but they do nod to consumer-friendly expectation shifts in how users expect to be able to engage with brands via social.
Embracing bots to scale 1:1 connection.
Facebook also announced it was opening its Send/Receive API allowing developers to create AI Chat Bots for messenger.
From Facebook: bots for the Messenger Platform. Bots can provide anything from automated subscription content like weather and traffic updates, to customized communications like receipts, shipping notifications, and live automated messages all by interacting directly with the people who want to get them.
These moves have profound implications for community management and customer service staffing in social media. Prioritizing instant messaging access implies that someone will be there on the other side to answer the message in a timely fashion. Whether it’s a bot or a person – answering a question or helping complete a transaction will now carry with it a real-time expectation.
Not only is this the next chapter in a rapidly developing story about consumer control, it’s an additional way that Facebook is making itself more and more integral in people’s digital lives beyond a “traditional” social role.
Yesterday’s updates make users and brand page managers feel as though they have more control in 1:1 conversation. At the same time, the platform itself maintains actual ownership of that communication gaining a foothold in other, non-social aspects of daily life in the process.
And, that may just be the real “long play.”