A month after revealing plans to monetise its messenger app, Facebook has introduced “M”.
The feature is aimed at making customers’ lives easier, with “M” being able to complete tasks like buy items, deliver gifts and book travel tickets.
Perhaps the most unique aspect is that “M” isn’t supported by artificial intelligence. Facebook is employing real people to help answer people’s requests, with plans to teach the technology how to handle them automatically in future.
While the feature is still in early beta-testing, “M” could represent a huge opportunity for brands who are willing to take a punt.
“Imagine being able to serve highly targeted ads that launch directly into an intelligent interface to deliver your product. Sounds brilliant, although you can be sure Facebook will take a cut,” Daniel Price, head of social operations at social and content agency Lost Boys says.
The service also provides brands with the ability to deliver the right message at the right time, adds digital agency Connect’s client partner José Espinosa.
“By giving brands the ability to serve their message at certain trigger points, it ensures that it is something the consumer is interested in and delivered at the moment of truth,” he says.
“Ultimately, ‘M’ could follow a similar path to Google, which moved from a simple search tool to an integral part of a person’s online lifestyle.”
Deeper customer relationships
The service also offers real opportunities for brands to deepen their relationship with consumers, says digital marketing agency Barracuda director Martin Dinham.
“Imagine a dry cleaning service that provides information on its nearest branch via the assistant, but then also offers physical collection and drop off at the user’s home address via a workforce,” he says.
But privacy concerns could potentially pose a problem with consumers.
“Messenger is already a controversial product – after it was separated from the main Facebook product there was a large privacy backlash,” adds Price.
But while the feature might give Facebook further data about individuals’ personal habits, Dinham isn’t too worried.
“History shows that consumers are often willing to give this up in exchange for convenience. If I were Google or Apple, I’d be watching this with great interest.”
Not for everyone
But the app won’t be useful for everyone, predicts social media company Agency:2’s founder and director Joel Davis.
“Not all brands will be able to profit from the messenger’s new feature, judging by how likely people are to change habits.”
Joel Davis, founder and director, social media company Agency:2
“If the app is going to provide more customer support, the value is going to be in the more complicated purchasing journeys where people will want a helping hand.
“Travel in particular could benefit from this service – it’ll be interesting to see how it develops.”
Being the first
First mover advantage is essential, adds TH_NK experience director Lee Allen.
“As brand visibility begins to evaporate on mobile devices in favour of these all-encompassing services like Facebook’s M, you’ll want to be the first brand that delivers your service within that context,” he says.
David Tapp, head of digital at The Organic Agency believes that brand awareness and Facebook page performance might also become more important.
“As we are expecting ‘M’ to act as a helper mid chat, there will be times when ‘M’ will want to suggest places to buy a certain product – and Facebook will most likely want to use their own data to do this,” he says.
“This means that the overall brand noise on Facebook could play a part, but it will mostly be a brand’s organic reach, engagement and even paid activity when it comes to getting your shop as a preferred option in ‘M’ suggestions.”
But if Facebook does go down the route of paid recommendations, it must be careful not to lose its legitimacy, adds We Are Social marketing director Tom Ollerton.
“I imagine there will be sponsorship opportunities for certain categories or locations, but Facebook will need to be careful not to lose the authenticity of any recommendations,” he says.
“If successful, it will also act as yet another data collection service, allowing Facebook to learn even more about its community’s needs and wants, and lead to even tighter ad targeting opportunities.”
As Facebook takes a gamble, it might be best for brands to wait and see.
- The Festival of Marketing will host a stage dedicated to social media. To find out more about the event and how to attend visit www.festivalofmarketing.com