Having trouble using bots in Facebook Messenger? Or even finding them? You’re not alone. While Messenger bots and the bot API were key announcements at last year’s F8, the user experience has been sorely lacking, ultimately stunting user adoption. Fast forward 12 months, and Google Home and Alexa are dominating the “chat as user interface” space. Not exactly a good look for the social media giant.
This week at F8 2017, Facebook made a renewed commitment to the bot experience with four key announcements: Easier bot discovery, Facebook M bot integration, group bot upgrades and bot-activating QR codes.
Messenger Bot Discovery
A dedicated Discover tab will now appear in Facebook Messenger, grouping similar bots, and making them easily searchable. Nearby places and businesses will also be featured alongside to give people the option to chat with a bot or contact a person (if available.)
Similar to the iTunes store, we’re assuming FB editors will be able to feature their favorites and that brands will be able to promote their wares. The Discover Tab will allow users to preview a bot’s functionality before launching it, and will remember recently-used bots.
Facebook M Bot Integration
Facebook is expanding its Ai-powered M Suggestions feature to scan your conversations to suggest bots from outside developers that could serve a need that users are talking about. Maybe you’re trying to figure out who should be the designated driver (Car service bot?) Or you’re pining for sushi (Food delivery bot?) Or maybe you’re upset because your favorite sandals are broken (Shopping bot?) The applications here seem endless. The trick will be an experience that doesn’t feel like the platform is constantly butting into your chat log.
Bot-Activating QR Codes
Facebook is re-vamping its Messenger QR codes to actually do something beyond linking you to a person or a page. By using the Messenger camera, you will now be able to launch a bot by taking a photo. This may not sound groundbreaking, but it actually gives Messenger QR codes legs in the physical world, which will be important for user adoption. Expect to see them on everything from packages to posters, to possibly even billboards.
Group Bot Upgrades
The trouble with most bots is that they are solely responsible for the conversation. And it can be boring have a one-on-one with a machine. Facebook is changing its tune, and adapting its bot platform to include “information bots” that can be used to make real person-to-person conversations better. Like adding a sports ticker bot to a sports chat with friends, or a restraint suggestion bot to a night out chat with friends, these bots take second seat to human interaction. According to TechCrunch, “these group bots won’t be the sole conversation partner, so there will be less pressure on them to act human, and more opportunity for them to service a specific utility.” Which is good for developers, who can focus more on enhancing actual human conversation.
Why should brands care?
Google Home and Alexa are clearly dominating the “chat as user interface” space, but they have very specific use cases, and most people aren’t sitting at home all day talking to machines. If Facebook can crack the bot code, whereby creating an entire ecosystem that allows users to gain more utility without needing to leave their platform, both Facebook and brands will win in two major ways:
– Their advertising ecosystem will be even more robust, offering an even more cohesive way to connect with prospects and customers
– Their ability to provide greater path-to-purchase and loyalty insights to brands will be off the charts
The question is, will Facebook really commit this time? From where we stand, the answer appears to be a solid “yes!”
Photo credits: Facebook
Jill Sherman, SVP, Social Strategy