In April, the world’s largest social network began testing sponsored messages. At the time, Facebook was sensitive to the potential for abuse, and limited access to sponsored messages to select advertisers. “These will definitely be limited…we’re very paranoid about that and we don’t want bad things to happen to anyone,” Facebook VP of product for Messenger David Marcus told TechCrunch.
Now, Facebook is apparently satisfied that it has the proper controls in place and is opening sponsored messages for Messengers to all advertisers this week.
The sponsored messages work by directing users from a News Feed ad to a Messenger conversation with the advertiser. Advertisers can also use sponsored messages to re-engage with users who they have interacted with previously via Messenger. Those users can be invited to a Messenger chat with a brand chatbot.
Advertisers will only be able to use sponsored messages with users they have already interacted with in some fashion, and users will have the ability to block advertisers who send them unwanted messages.
It’s all about ad load
According to Facebook’s Marcus, who spoke at the Web Summit 2016 in Dublin, Ireland, “We believe that the combination of driving people from News Feed into a Messenger experience, and having an additional opportunity to re-engage with sponsored messages is a game changer.”
It might be, but given that many if not most brands are interacting with users through Messenger chatbots, it’s also possible that advertisers will struggle to make good use of sponsored messages. That’s because some of the Messenger chatbots that have been launched thus far leave a lot to be desired , so it’s not clear that spending money on ads to drive users to Messenger conversations will be effective for advertisers who don’t have productive chatbots.
But sponsored messages are important to Facebook, which predicts that it will reach full News Feed ad load in 2017 . That means ads will almost certainly be added to new locations within the Facebook experience, and with more than a billion monthly users, Facebook Messenger is one of the places Facebook is bound to focus.