Facebook is putting a lot more attention on improved features for Messenger this year, for both business and personal use. It’s a good thing. Mostly.
The upside is Facebook now offers far more features for businesses to communicate directly and individually with prospects and customers. (This is as good as—or possibly better than—reaching your audience via their primary email address or even via SMS to their cell phone.)
The possible downside on the personal side is Facebook just opened your Inbox to allow any user to contact you.
Related Article: 7 Cool Facebook Tricks You've Never Heard Of
Messenger as a Standalone App
First, it should be noted that, at Facebook’s annual f8 developer conference in March this year, the company announced Messenger Platform—a separate app with its own API. Smartphone users had already been forced to read messages in the separate Messenger mobile app. Now, developers can create apps to synch with Messenger.
And, Messenger is even available as a standalone app for the web at Messenger.com. Not only that, anyone can sign up to use Facebook’s Messenger—without a Facebook account. Is Facebook attempting to compete with Gmail? Time will tell.
Improved Messaging for Business Pages
On your Facebook business Page, enabling the Message feature is optional. Depending on the number of incoming inquiries your business is likely to receive, I would highly recommend that you turn this feature on.
Doing so will allow prospective customers with buying questions to contact you privately. And, customers needing support may find Facebook messaging the easiest way to reach you, certainly on mobile.
Related Article: You're Doing it Wrong! 5 Don'ts in Facebook Advertising
New Features on Facebook Business Page Messages Include:
1. Saved replies with personalization
When replying to incoming messages on your business page, Admins can create and save common replies to messages. To get you started, Facebook includes a couple of example saved reply templates. But it’s very easy to write and save your own.
This tool is a big time-saver, especially if you receive the same questions on a regular basis.
2. Responsive to messages
Businesses can display a public-facing notice of how quickly they are likely to respond to private messages. I’m sure this feature is the bane of many Page owners’ lives, though.
Why? Because you have to maintain an average response rate of just five minutes to 90 percent of your incoming messages. For a business that receives a large volume of messages, this could be a big investment in terms of having a properly trained social customer service team in place.
But, it can truly reap rewards for your sales and reputation. More on this below.
3. Respond privately to public comments
Another excellent feature is the ability for Page Admins to initiate a private conversation with anyone that leaves a comment on the Page’s posts. (Previously, Admins could only respond to messages initiated by fans and visitors to their Page.)
This new private message feature in comments is particularly useful for taking sensitive or negative conversations offline as quickly as possible.
The screenshot above shows where you’ll find the new private message on comments feature. If you don’t yet have this on your Page, it’s coming soon.
Unfortunately, this feature does not yet apply to actual posts by visitors; only comments on the Page posts. Some Pages may wish to disable their wall, but I don’t always recommend that.
Some Pages, with millions of fans, warrant shutting off the wall. But, in today’s highly social online world, it’s best to allow your visitors and fans to be able to initiate posts.
Facebook Messenger To Offer Online Merchant Integration
One feature that I’m particularly excited about is Messenger for Business—the ability to interact with your customers via Facebook Messenger at the point of purchase from your website and beyond.
When a customer makes a purchase on your website, with Messenger for Business integration, your customer will be given the option to receive messages from your company regarding his or her purchase.
This is what I meant earlier about being as good as or possibly better than having your customer’s primary email address and cell phone number. Imagine being able to reach your customer through Messenger push notifications directly on their smartphone and provide product updates, track packages, offer upsells, give personalized post-purchase support and more.
Instead of customers dealing with a call center, or extensive phone tree, they will feel more personally connected to your business via Facebook Messenger. Over time, Messenger for Business will ideally help remove some of the customer service friction and increase additional sales.
Only a select few merchants have access to Messenger for Business, so far. To sign up for the waitlist, go to messenger.com/business.
New Message Request Feature on Personal Profiles
Facebook is expiring the infamous “Other” folder for our Messages. In its place, we now have a new feature called Message Requests. What does this mean? Basically, any Facebook user can now communicate with any other Facebook user, regardless of whether they are friends or not.
In a recent post on his profile, Facebook's Vice president of messaging products, David Marcus, stated,
“Forget phone numbers! Today, we’re excited to start rolling out Message Requests for Messenger. We truly want to make Messenger the place where you can find and privately connect with anyone you need to reach, but only be reached by the people you want to communicate with. Now, the only thing you need to talk to virtually anyone in the world, is their name.”
Some users may embrace this new Message Request feature. Others may not be so excited to suddenly get bombarded with all manner of incoming mail. Of course, good news is that you get to accept or ignore requests without the other person knowing you've read their message.
Every busy business owner I know, including myself, is already overwhelmed with too many incoming messages from all over the web and social channels. (One day, this big headache will be solved by a one-stop master Inbox for all your incoming messages—such as what the brilliant brother and sister team Brienne and Alston Ghafourifar is innovating at Entefy.)
What if your next $100,000 contract was sitting in your new Message Requests area? How can you deploy resources to manage such bona fide incoming inquiries?
The way our personal Facebook profiles are designed, the only way for an assistant to help manage your messages is by sharing your login with him or her, which I certainly do not recommend. So, I would suggest, once you have the feature, skim through your Message Requests on a daily basis.
And for anything you want to follow up on, take the conversation to an inbox where you can also loop your team in. That includes simply directing people to your Facebook Page private message feature. (Remember, this is an optional feature that you need to enable.)
How To Prepare Your Business For More Messaging
When we stand back and look at the bigger picture of Facebook’s numerous Messenger improvements, it’s clear the company is on a mission to reinvent the way people communicate and interact with business.
There’s no doubt about it, messaging will be huge in 2016 onwards. And, when it comes to effective social customer care on Facebook and Twitter, the United States currently fares among the lowest as reported by social analytics company, Socialbakers, and as I wrote about.
Now is the time to invest in proper Social Customer Care training. Your customer-facing team members need to have a great blend of soft skills—such as empathy and the ability the ‘read between the lines’—as well as technical and product know-how to answer questions. I will write more on this topic in the coming weeks and months.
- How To Use Facebook For Social Customer Care: by Mari Smith on Salesforce.com Canada
- 9 Things You May Not Know You Can Do With Facebook Messenger: by Alex Heath on TechInsider.io