Facebook Messenger Bot Updates - An Overview

Earlier this month, at the 2017 F8 developer conference, Mark Zuckerberg revealed significant updates to Facebook Messenger Bots.

What are Messenger Bots? In a nutshell, Chatbots (shortened from Chat Robots), are a form of interactive artificial intelligence, designed to simulate human conversation. They assist with simple tasks, such as online ordering, checking into flights and/or hotels, plus helping businesses to answer repetitive questions from their customers.

Image from Facebook Newsroom 

Image from Facebook Newsroom 

They have been around for a while on Facebook, ever since the Beta version was launched in 2016. The initial rollout did experience problems, most notably in terms of users having the ability to search for bots. However, with Messenger 2.0 there is now a Discover tab, where you can search for the best bots, places and businesses on Messenger. This includes bots specific to certain regions, in categories such as Food and Drink, Entertainment and News (note that developers must apply to have their bot included in Discover). 

Also, Chat Extensions now allows groups of friends to interact with a bot as part of a group chat—they can order to-go food together, make a shopping list, choose a hotel and book their stays as a group, paying for this all natively through Messenger.

Facebook also now lets businesses create Messenger Codes. Here, customers can launch a conversation with the right bot just by scanning a QR code (although whether QR codes will experience a surge in popularity is a completely different conversation…).

It’s worth pointing out at this stage that Facebook Messenger has 1.2 billion monthly users Worldwide. These users are already checking back multiple times daily to chat with friends. Now they can chat directly with, buy and receive updates from businesses without having to download any new apps. 

David Marcus, image from Facebook Newsroom 

David Marcus, image from Facebook Newsroom 

As David Marcus, VP of Messenger, said at F8: "We think of Messenger as being like the new social living room for the world, where people can hang out, share, chat, play games or buy things, while still being able to reach nearly everyone, wherever they are. We now think we are combining two tools of the past — the telephone directory (the way we used to find people) with the Yellow Pages (the way we used to find businesses)."

Right now bots are made through third parties and creating a professional one for your company is a job for a web developer. However, small businesses without the necessary resources can experiment with Facebook’s new Smart Replies feature. As Facebook put it, “This is where Page admins can now turn on automatic replies powered by artificial intelligence.” Available to restaurants in the United States and getting rolled out later in the year, this feature turns a company's most frequently-asked questions, such as business hours and location, into automatically generated replies.

Here are the thoughts of Pepijn Rivers, Chief Marketing Officer of Booking.com: "With more than 1.2 billion active users, Messenger gives us the perfect opportunity to extend the reach of our own messaging platform, enabling us to potentially converse with a significant chunk of the earth’s population. It also serves as an additional channel to supply our customers with the information they need - we simply take our chatbot straight to them. Just as with the Booking.com app, it empowers travelers to reach out to us anytime, wherever they are in the world."

It’s not yet clear whether Messenger Bots will be the resounding viral success that Facebook are driving for but to us it really does feel like the next big thing.

Have you tried using Chat bots yet? Let us know below.