Messaging is one of the hottest social channels today, but it's also one that's hard for businesses and marketers to access.

That could, however, be changing.

According to a document obtained by TechCrunch, Facebook plans to bring ads to Messenger, its messaging app, in the second quarter of the year:

The document...says businesses will be able to send ads as messages to people who previously initiated a chat thread with that company. To prepare, the document recommends that businesses get consumers to start message threads with them now so they'll be able to send them ads when the feature launches.

The document also notes that Facebook has quietly launched a URL short link that instantly opens a chat thread with a business. Facebook confirmed the existence of the URL short link functionality. That seems to back up the validity of the leaked document.

Those short links are already active and available to all Pages. According to TechCrunch's Josh Constine and Jon Russell, Facebook is already working with a number of brands, including Canadian telecom provider Rogers, to use the short links for customer service use cases.

Interestingly, according to the document they obtained, "If businesses achieve a 90 percent response rate to messages within 24 hours over the past week, their Messenger handle will become searchable on Facebook."

What isn't clear at this point is what Messenger ads will look like and what restrictions Facebook will place on their use beyond limiting ads to users they've interacted with previously.

Ostensibly there will be some restrictions designed to ensure that overzealous businesses don't bombard users with unwanted ads. 

For more on this, read: What will Facebook Messenger ads mean for marketers?

Twitter joining the messaging wars?

While Facebook appears to be prepping to make Messenger more business-friendly, Twitter looks like it is preparing to make its service more messaging-oriented and business-friendly as well.

On Thursday, in an effort to better support customer service use cases, Twitter announced that it has launched the ability to add deep links to tweets that initiate Direct Messages.

To enable this feature, a business must update its privacy settings to allow Direct Messages from all users.

After that, deep links can be added to tweets by adding a link with the format{numeric user ID}

In addition, Twitter announced a new feature, Customer Feedback, that gives businesses the opportunity to poll users after a customer service interaction.

Initially set to launch with select partners, Twitter hopes that Customer Feedback will help brands obtain quantitative data about these interactions.

"Care teams have told us they love the open-ended feedback they get from people via Tweets and Direct Messages, but they also need the ability to survey customers in a structured way to better measure and improve their service experience," Twitter product manager Ian Cairns explained.

With this feature, businesses will be able to use two industry standard question formats: Net Promoter ScoreSM (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT).

How will users react?

While there is no disputing the fact that large numbers of consumers are using social channels for customer service, and are interacting with brands generally on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, it's not clear that they'll welcome the growing commercialization of messaging experiences that are largely personal today.

Facebook in particular could be courting a backlash by introducing ads to Messenger.

WhatsApp founder Jan Koum, who joined Facebook's board of directors after WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook for more than $19bn, previously voiced opposition to ads.

So did Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, who stated, "I don't personally think ads are the right way to monetize messaging" after his company bought WhatsApp.

But with more than 800m active users each month, it's going to be increasingly difficult for Facebook to ignore Messenger's ad monetization opportunities.

Of course, if Facebook doesn't tread carefully as it explores these, and users revolt, it could make it more difficult for businesses to use Facebook to provide customer service.

After all, if people become aware of the fact that their customer service interactions are what allow for ads to be delivered to them via Messenger later, they might avoid using Facebook for customer service altogether.

Another possibility is that social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and their business users, will find ways to embed ads in messaging experiences in ways that don't turn users off.

For inspiration, they might look to the East, where popular Chinese messenger apps like WeChat are much advanced when it comes to monetization.

Patricio Robles

Published 22 February, 2016 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (3)

Guy Hatton

Guy Hatton, Director at Clinic

Private messaging is a niche that could well become mainstream. CyberDust - - ties together privacy into a social network. It seems like a paradox, but it could just work.

over 2 years ago

Jeremy Whitt

Jeremy Whitt, Management Consultant / Chief Marketing Officer at The Promethean Group

I'm guessing several brands will cause significant back-lash from unwanted ads / solicitations and spam... IMHO, the brands that succeed (if in fact there are any successes) could be those that create extremely personalized and narrowly targeted touch-points with each individual... Basically treating DM as a 1-to-1 relationship sell or the concierge model. That's some fairly sophisticated software and heavy on the data sciences, so would only expect the mega-brands to succeed. Hopefully FB agrees with this conjecture and only engages those with the financial capability to "do it right."

over 2 years ago

Alexandra Cameron

Alexandra Cameron, Marketing Executive at Knexus

It's interesting how ad blocking has shaken up the digital marketplace. As Ian Cairns explained, "companies need the ability to survey customers in a structured way to better measure and improve their service experience." Annoying ads have never been an optimal solution to improve your service experience. I would say it was a complete put-off...Not sure how private messaging will change the overall picture..I'd even say utilizing messages for adv purposes can damage the brand reputation even more..Getting several facebook message notifications a day with a spam message doesn't make my shopper experience any better...Brands should think how they can add value to us in a digital environment rather than look for an adv gun replacement

over 2 years ago

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