Facebook Messenger – Becoming a Beast of Its Own
Everyone thinks of Facebook as the social media gorilla, and rightfully so, but few people recognize that coming in not far behind Facebook is Facebook Messenger. In fact, many haven’t even realized yet that Messenger is an entity separate from Facebook (Facebook and Facebook Messenger separated in 2014). The user count for Facebook Messenger has grown to be massive. As 2015 came to a close, Facebook Messenger hit the 800 million user mark, making it the world’s second largest social networking platform (just one messaging app touts more active users — WhatsApp — and Facebook owns that too). There are indicators that Facebook Messenger could be Facebook’s primary focus for 2016, with the goal of growing it much larger and continuing to expand its capabilities. While this is exciting news for users, this will also lead to exciting opportunities for businesses as well.
Signs of Messenger’s growth have been in plain sight, if you’ve been watching. In 2015, Facebook finally allowed people to sign up for Messenger without having a Facebook account, which in and of itself was huge. On top of that, Facebook made significant updates to Messenger in 2015 including speed enhancements, businesses on Messenger, increased customization for conversations (colors, nicknames, emojis, etc.), video calling, the ability to send and receive money, and more. The result of all of this? Traditional SMS messaging is on the decline and Internet-based messaging is quickly rising. Word is spreading, and users are signing up in droves for Messenger.
A couple months ago, Facebook Messenger (partnering with Uber) introduced a feature allowing users to request a ride from within Messenger – a very important step for monetizing the messaging app. Integration like this gives mobile phone users quick and easy access to businesses; the need to download separate apps on your phone for business is eliminated, and interacting with businesses becomes as easy as sending a text. The more simple and easy it is to access a business and its products, the more likely consumers will be to spend money with those businesses moving forward.
Entering 2016, Facebook is looking forward to the expansion of AI integration; their personal assistant, M, will assist with everyday tasks like booking a restaurant, sending flowers, making plans for a night out, etc. M is currently available to about 10,000 users in the San Francisco area and Facebook plans to slowly expand this. There is also speculation (Facebook has yet to confirm) that Facebook is building a desktop Messenger for Mac. If 2016 brings one or both of these enhancements/additions to the public, this would undoubtedly lead to even greater user growth for Messenger, both on the business side and on the user side. Greater user counts combined with easy access to consumers equals fantastic news for businesses.
As the importance of targeting Gen Y and Millennials becomes ever more important, businesses need to be aware of the technology of tomorrow. Soon coming could be the days of a person logging onto Facebook Messenger, chatting with their friends, booking a restaurant reservation for the evening, ordering a piece of jewelry and requesting it be delivered to their doorstep later that day. The more aware of these opportunities, the faster businesses can take advantage of the technology available and gain an edge on their competition.