- Facebook’s F8 developer conference is in progress this week, and among the many announcements to come out the event, quite a few are worth noting: The social media giant announced a new feature in its messaging app Facebook Messenger that enables brands to create chatbots to automatically interact with users.
- Facebook announced that brands can now interact with Messenger users via sponsored chats. However, brands will need to match customer phone numbers with Facebook users before they can do so.
- Facebook is also continuing its live video push by releasing an API that allows for live video to be streamed to Facebook from any device, not just smartphones.
Chatbots may be the next big thing in marketing — and Facebook is betting on it. Others are, too. Microsoft recently announced plans to build a framework for developers looking to create chatbots, and messaging app Kik launched a chatbot store last week that will allow users to download app-like bots that directly connect them to brands.
Think of chatbots as a new form of customer service. Showing off two chatbots from CNN and 1-800-Flowers, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the crowd that users can get the news or place an order, all using chatbots in a single app.
“To order from 1-800-Flowers, you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again,” Zuckerberg said.”You don’t have to install an app or enter your credit card.”
Messaging apps have grown in stature and importance in the past couple years, especially in international markets. According to research from App Annie, messaging apps are the most used type of app in the U.K., Germany, Japan, and South Korea. In China, 91% of internet users use messaging apps. Only the U.S. varies from this norm, according to the report, with social apps taking the top spot. However, eMarketer predicts that 49% of U.S. mobile phone users will use mobile messaging apps by the end of 2016.
Facebook is positioning its Messenger platform as the best way for brands to directly reach consumers at scale. Zuckerberg noted that he, like many other consumers, has too many apps on his phone — many of which he doesn't even use. The new chatbot feature and Facebook's focus on Messenger aims to reduce the overall need for brands to create their own individualized apps to connect with consumers.
The other big news out of F8 came from Facebook's focus on live video. Facebook announced it is launching an API that will allow users to live stream video to the platform from any device. Live video is a point of emphasis for Facebook right now, and the new API illustrates just how serious Facebook is about making the content format successful and accessible.