The changes, which will roll out ‘gradually’ over the coming months, will mean Messenger expands beyond being a friends-only service and will allow users who scan business codes to talk to brands directly.
Messenger has now hit 900 million monthly users but the majority are already friends and it is rare that brands have a presence on the platform. However, the scannable codes will allow a user to add a brand to their chat list.
This means a brand, for example, could include a code image in one of its campaigns. Should a consumer scan the code, they will then be linked through to directly message the brand on Facebook Messenger.
“We’ve taken special care to make Messenger Codes as beautifully designed as possible so you can use them everywhere – on business cards, online, in-store and anywhere else you like,” said a Facebook spokesperson, keen to stress that it now has a dedicated page on its site teaching brands how to use the new tools.
There are noted similarities between Facebook’s Messenger Codes and Snapchat’s Snapcodes.
Facebook has a history of integrating popular features from its social media rivals and Snapcodes, which works by giving each user their own Snapchat-branded QR code and letting users point their camera at a code in order to instantly follow the owner, seems to be in keeping with this trend.
A customer service tool
But despite the similarities, Hayley Bolton, a social media strategy manager at Asda, says Facebook has a clear advantage over Snapchat.
She told Marketing Week: “Messaging apps are in huge growth, and although Snapchat has been doing Snapcodes for a while the audiences on the platforms are very different and will use the service in different ways. Facebook has the benefit of having large audiences with many brands present and this is a way of making customer service even more accessible.”
According to Steve Parker, managing director at agency AllTogetherNow, brands will be “drooling” at the changes.
He adds: “The new codes mean it’s going to be quicker and easier for people to get in touch with brands, so it promises an opportunity for better customer experience. Brands will also drool at the prospect of taking complaints off their public-facing pages and into more discreet private channels.”
And Asda’s Bolton says it will help the supermarket giant to deal with customer queries.
“It’s another way to make it even simpler for customers to reach brands, and it adds benefit in that direct messaging means brands can receive more private information (like order numbers, full name, date of birth, etc.) and therefore resolve the problem quicker than if it was a comment on a post.”
Competing with Twitter
The move could also be a play at rival Twitter, which has established itself as the social media network of choice for customer complaints and queries over recent years.
But Parker says that maintaining a Facebook Messenger presence will require a lot of resources from brands and those that just create bots to respond to messages will cause more harm than good.
“We’re monitoring this closely and see it as a major opportunity for our clients.”
Steve Parker, managing director at AllTogetherNow
He warns: “But brands will need to make sure they resource the new role for Messenger properly so they can respond quickly to resolve issues, otherwise savvy customers will jump straight back on to public Facebook pages and Twitter to air their grievances to as many people as they can.”
Using Messenger for storytelling
Asda’s US parent Walmart has already experimented with Messenger as a customer service tool. Last year, for example, it trialled a new service at store level that connected shoppers directly with staff through Facebook Messenger.
In an interview with Marketing Week last year, Facebook’s head of ad tech Dave Jakubowski said it was working on ways to integrate storytelling-based marketing features onto Facebook Messenger.
And Bolton is confident Messenger can become another key channel for story-based messaging for both Asda and Walmart.
She concludes: “Twitter is currently utilising a great method of storytelling through Conversation Video – where you watch a piece of content, choose an option to tweet out and then receive the next piece of content based on the option you selected.
“Messenger could be used as another way to serve people more personalised content, as well as to gain consumer feedback and thoughts on content that’s relevant to them.”