You should consider introducing web chat
Facebook Messenger needs no introduction, with its 1.3 billion users worldwide, it is the second most popular messaging app in existence. It is safe to say that with the combination of SMS and Facebook Messenger, you can reach almost everyone in the USA instantly. There is only one instant messaging app reaching more people than Messenger and that is WhatsApp. Although they are both coming from the same “Family” of Facebook services there are two major differences between the two messaging winners. WhatsApp (albeit slowly opening up) still lacks the business integrations that Messenger has and it isn’t as closely tied to the biggest social network on the globe so it is less ideal for business communication. WhatsApp API functions are still in Beta stage, access is very limited and information on how to apply for WhatsApp Business API or get approved is scarce. This arguably makes Facebook Messenger the best messaging app of choice for small and giant businesses alike.
Then why are chat providers slowly turning away from it and why are they discovering new and additional channels?
To answer this question, we need to look into some of the coming changes and special attributes of Facebook Messenger.
New Messaging restrictions coming on March 4th, 2020
There are two major updates coming that seriously affect businesses and their customer communication.
- The previous 24+1 messaging rule will be reduced to a strict 24-hour messaging window. Businesses will still be allowed to message subscribers within the first 24 hours after a subscriber’s last interaction with the given Business Page but they will lose the previously available opportunity to send a last follow-up message after the 24 hour window expires. Luckily, promotional content will remain allowed within the 24-hour messaging window.
- However, the biggest coming change is that messages sent outside of the 24-hour window must be tagged with one of the following Message Tags: Confirmed Event Update, Post-Purchase Update, Account Update, or Human Agent. It is really important that Messages that don’t have a Message Tag will not deliver outside the 24-hour messaging window as of the 4th of March.
These changes mean that businesses will have reduced options to send out promotional content and also need to make sure that they update their messaging flows to comply with the new rules in the very near future.
Lack of customizability (branding)
The huge advantage of using Facebook more specifically Messenger as your business communication channel is the sheer number of people you can reach, from Celine Dion to your old classmate’s 80 year old grandma, literally everyone is present on the social network. There is no extra app to download to your phone or new webpage to navigate to, you can get in touch instantly through a familiar interface that you use every day anyway. However, this uniformity also brings some downsides with it.
As we will see, Facebook has many limitations and rules when it comes to contacting its users (understandably so, as we all like our privacy) but it also lacks customizability, you can basically pick your own profile picture when using Messenger and that is it.
What happens if you want to provide basic technical assistance through the chat and want to display the most important topics in the menu so your clients can easily access them at any given time. Well, you are limited to 3 topics as the Messenger menu is limited to 3 items.
What if your brand has a really strong visual appeal, your designers spent months to find the perfect color scheme, font type, visual elements, shapes.. Etc. Well, Facebook Messenger provides no option to tailor it to your brand, you are stuck with the previously mentioned profile picture update and that is all.
If you would like to have a branded interface, with a customized experience, your only option is to go the webchat route and have an independent chat channel where you can define every aspect of the visuals and content alike.
It all starts with a login
Whether you are using the Messenger app, searching for a specific Facebook page in your browser or simply would like to enable Messenger notifications when shopping online, there are only two basic scenarios. You are not logged in, so you are asked to do so before you can move forward or you have previously logged in, but even in this case you will be asked to confirm that it is you. It is perfectly understandable that Facebook asks you to give consent, it is there to protect your privacy but at the same time it is clearly visible that this is one of the biggest drop off points in a brand’s chat communication.
There are many people who don’t want to give out their Facebook data at all, people who are not active on Facebook or simply doesn’t feel comfortable sharing any information upfront before they could even ask a simple question. It is like entering a new shop and even before you could look around you have to tell your name and phone number to the shop assistant. It is a bit unrealistic and doesn’t really make you feel great. A much more comfortable and generally better converting approach is to allow users to send you messages freeley and shift requesting any data to a later point in time. Once you have engaged people in a friendly conversation you can offer them an incentive in return for their “sign up”.
If you implement a webchat bubble on your website you can start asking your qualification questions straight away and ask your leads to give you their contact info only as the last step of the conversation. This means the best of both worlds, because if you are using fanbot.ai, you can link the webchat user and the history of the conversation to an email address or Facebook Messenger ID and follow-up with further marketing messages on the preferred communication channel of your potential future buyer.
A noisy and crowded environment
Facebook Messenger is a go to or in some cases even a must have choice for many brands. This creates a rather crowded playing field where many businesses with really similar profiles are shooting for the attention of the same given set of customers which makes actually getting that attention from them increasingly more and more difficult.
If we look at the same user statistics as we did at the beginning, we see that there are many other really popular messaging and chat apps so there are billions of people using something other than Messenger or WhatsApp. WeChat, Viber, QQ Mobile, Telegram, Discord and the list could go on, all have their separate fanbase. There is surely an overlap, there are people using multiple of these messaging apps in parallel (myself included) but there are also many people only available on one or the other. For example, in China the Facebook services are simply not available so you have to pick a different app if you want to chat with Chinese clients.
This simply means that adding other channels to your portfolio can help you to reach new and previously not available clients and also helps you communicate your message in a less noisy environment which ultimately results in getting it through more successfully.
Updates, changes, rules and control
As we previously explored, the control is in the hands of Facebook, if there is a new update or change they introduce, you either comply or decide to leave the platform, there is no in-between. These updates are hard to predict and sometimes it is difficult to gather reliable information about them, especially in advance when preparing. As a business, you can’t just freely send messages whenever you want to and there is no set and forget setup for us, chat solution providers either, we always have to keep an eye on the developer news and keep our systems up to date.
We have talked about the checkbox plugin and its recent significant update in a previous article, which has hugely affected businesses all around the globe but we don’t even need to go this far to find examples. The new messaging restrictions we listed at the beginning of this article also had at least 3 deadline updates since their first mention.
However, we have to give credit to Facebook as they act with the best intent, keeping the privacy of their users as a top priority. After the enormous data privacy scandals in the recent years this isn’t really a surprising change, they are expected and also pushed to move into this direction. However, they also seem to listen to and incorporate feedback coming from the community. For example, a One-time Notification API is getting introduced to ease the pain that the lost follow-up opportunity would bring with it in March.
We can expect some further significant updates in 2020 and 2021 to come as the giant is slowly melting together its previously somewhat independent services. Instagram, Whatsapp, Messenger, AR/VR shopping services will all form a more cohesive ecosystem and this will surely have its imprints on how businesses can use these services for promotion and customer communication.
The conclusion: go hybrid
If you have come this far and read all the potential difficulties that Facebook brings with it, you could rightly think that you are better off with your own webchat bubble that you have full control over, where you are the boss and can control every aspect of the customer experience. You are absolutely right and we definitely recommend to have an independent platform where your users can get in touch with you without having a Facebook (or for the matter of fact any other) login registered but at the same time it would be really difficult to ignore all the advantages and potential reach that only Facebook can provide and no other chat platform can match at the moment.
A hybrid approach where you sign up users in the webchat module of your site and then follow-up in Facebook Messenger with targeted marketing campaigns can increase your conversion rates by a whopping 56%, when done right. Also, adding a Discord channel dedicated to your esports and gaming fans or building a new follower base and targeting a new audience on Viber can have similarly great results.
The good news is that, you don’t need to build separate chat flows for every platform, you don’t need to start from scratch. Once you have the perfect recipe, you will just need to slightly adapt it to fit the extra platform. Fanbot.ai allows you to re-use your previously built conversations with a few clicks, you can also integrate LiveChat to make it even more flexible and diverse.
You want to find the perfect chat strategy for you? We are here to help and figure this out together in a free consultation session.