How Successful Brands & Publishers are Using Facebook Messenger

Instant messaging in the late 1990s, thanks to AOL’s AIM, was accompanied by sounds of doors opening and closing as people entered and exited your Buddy List.

But as the world turned mobile, so too did instant messaging.1

While texting provided a means for instantaneous communication, people ran into issues when texting outside of data plans and the accompanying high fees when texting between countries.

Find out how the most successful publishers are reaching mobile users.

Messaging apps, a generally free and instantaneous means of messaging, filled the gap and have quickly reached 3 billion monthly unique users, more than social network apps, which account for 2.5 billion monthly unique users.2

In early 2016, when popular messaging apps announced they would allow publishers and brands to utilize chat bots–programs which facilitate automatic, highly personalized dialogue and content recommendations based on previous interactions–to communicate with users at scale, many took notice and jumped right in.

Here’s how the most successful publishers and brands are using Facebook Messenger.

CNN, one of the first publishers to join Messenger’s bot platform, sends subscribers a daily digest of top stories within the app and also recommends personalized content based on previous user preferences and interests.

On average, their users spend two minutes with the bot and show a specific interest in politics and social matters. Additionally, Alex Wellen, SVP and chief product officer of CNN, stated that a “double digit” percentage of their users have asked the bot multiple questions either in full sentences or using keywords.3

TechCrunch uses its bot to send trending stories once a day. Additionally, their bot allows for personalized recommendations based on reading history and has the ability to subscribe to specific topics and base delivery time on their users’ location.4

While TechCrunch has not shared specific numbers, the publication has noted that in the course of one month the number of active sessions and subscribers has doubled. Travis Bernard, TechCrunch’s director of audience development, went so far as to say, “In the next few months, if we continue to grow at this rate, [usership] would definitely surpass the TechCrunch app.”5

Fusion created their bot to interact with Messenger’s users who are under the age of 30–which accounts for 36% of Messenger’s audience. To do so, the publisher created a bot fluent in emojis; the user requests news topics with corresponding emojis and the responses automatically recommend articles. Fusion has claimed 42,000 users after only one month, with 20% of those users using the bot on a daily basis.6

While these are promising results, Messenger does appear to be struggling with promoting the bot.

For a majority of users, they have to hunt down the bots. John Borthwick, CEO of Betaworks, a bot developer said, “Facebook is just starting to figure out how to roll it out and promote it.”7

Regardless, the publishers who are utilizing bots on Messenger are primarily doing so for experimentation and for now, they remain in that mindset.

“For CNN, getting in early was a way to reach an audience that’s become bigger than social, and learn how people are using the app so it can improve the experience,” said CNN’s head of social, Samantha Barry.8

Messaging apps are growing in usage and many are questioning whether the future of all online interaction will be through them, ultimately demanding that publishers join and test the waters now.

Digital Disruptors

1. Petronzio, Matt. “A Brief History of Instant Messaging.” Mashable. N.p., 25 OctTomanchek, Jim. “Why Every Marketer Should Be Keeping Up With the Evolution of Messaging Apps.” AdWeek. N.p., 06 Mar. 2016. Web. 01 Sept. 2016.Zebian, Linda. “The Times Rolls Out One-Sentence Stories on Apple Watch.” The New York Times Company. N.p., 31 Mar. 2015. Web. 15 Aug. 2016.
3. Davies, Jessica. “One Month In: What CNN Has Learned from Facebook Messenger Bots.” Digiday. N.p., 30 May 2016. Web. 01 Sept. 2016.
4. Moses, Lucia. “How Fusion, Complex and Other Publishers Are Using Facebook Messenger Bots.” Digiday. N.p., 21 June 2016. Web. 01 Sept. 2016.
5. IBID.
6. IBID.
7. Moses, Lucia. “Why Facebook Messenger Bots Haven’t Caught on with Publishers.” Digiday. N.p., 28 June 2016. Web. 01 Sept. 2016.
8. IBID.