According to a document leaked to TechCrunch, paid ads are coming with the new Facebook Messenger update, starting in Q2 of 2016. Although Mark Zuckerberg has stated previously, “I don’t personally think ads are the right way to monetize messaging,” the leaked document, if it holds true, backs up all the moves Facebook has been making that signal their intentions to monetize Messenger. Messenger has exploded in popularity, passing the 800 million user mark and being the most downloaded app in 2015. Last year, Facebook snagged Paypal’s VP of Global Brand and Communications, David Marcus, to run point on the social media giant’s efforts to transform the messaging app into a full service payment and commerce application and one of Facebook’s key sources of revenue. In addition, Facebook Messenger already allows for friend-to-friend payment, similar to Paypal and Venmo’s apps.
The alleged document states that businesses will only be able to serve ads to users who they’ve had previous communication with via the app. Facebook has made a concerted push in the last year for businesses to encourage communication with its customers via the app, and the call-to-action buttons that were added to Pages, as well as “click to message” ad units, perhaps foreshadowed the release of this capability. These moves should allow companies to run ads at scale when these ad units are fully released. Additionally, Facebook gave businesses the ability to create a new short link: fb.com/msg/, which allows users to start a chat with a business’s Facebook page.
It is not yet known what Messenger ads would look like or what types of marketing activities will even be allowed, but the impact of this news is huge. Brands and businesses could now have the ability to retarget users for new product launches and promotions, becoming an alternative to email marketing and further increasing the impact and potential of the app.
Moving forward, it’s important for businesses to view Messenger as a platform and not just a messaging tool. As marketers, make sure your business has set up the customized messaging URL as well ensure that both your organic and paid content is encouraging your users and customers to open direct communication via Messenger, so you can be ahead of the game when Facebook releases this feature.