The Facebook Messenger API only opened up at the beginning of April. Given that it takes 2 weeks for an app/bot to be approved, it’s unreasonable to think that bots would be everywhere, but I wanted to see if the largest companies in the world had started adopting the platform.
My approach was simple. I got a list and tried to message the Fortune 100. I used the messenger app on my phone. To explain how I categorized, if there was a messenger tag on the company icon I marked the company as “on FB Messenger”. Of course a FB Page can be using Messenger without a bot hooked up — they can just do manual chat. If there was no Messenger tag, that means the company doesn’t use Messenger. I sent a message to the company and tracked if the conversation was automated or manual. If it was manual I tracked if there was an autoresponder before the human option. I also tracked if I didn’t get a response.
Without further adieu…. there were zero chat bots in the Fortune 100. This was a little surprising. What’s more surprising is that there was only 1 company using an auto-responder. Auto-responders are incredibly easy to setup within the Facebook page itself. From the user perspective it’s a much better experience when I get a response message instantly. Hopefully the Fortune 100 sees an autoresponder as an easy first step to improve the experience.
26 companies in the Fortune 100 were on Facebook Messenger. 11 of the companies that I messaged never responded. Some of my outreach happened late Friday night, and it’s Sunday while I’m writing this. So I expect that given the extremely manual nature of the chats, some business will respond on Monday. This is a spot where an auto-responder would be helpful.
I’d guess the average response time (without autoresponders) was 20 minutes. There were two companies that were so fast that I had to quiz them to see if they were really human or bots acting as humans. **This will be an interesting game sometime soon** I started each conversation by asking how this worked, and if they were a bot? The conversations were informal and, dare I say, fun. Although there were a few companies that wouldn’t say anything except refer me to an email or website.
Some of the companies with FB Messenger activated (or those without) were surprising. The top 100 is filled with oil and infrastructure companies, that you might not expect to be on the leading edge, or want to talk with the public. A few, like General Dynamics & Honeywell, had FB Messenger activated (although I didn’t get a response from either). Banks and insurance companies were surprisingly well represented.
The feeling I got was that most of the companies I chatted with had plugged FB Messenger into some type of customer support platform. Other companies told me that they respond to the messages on their phone — like the individuals phone.
I was only tracking activation for the US. There were a lot of instances where there wasn’t a US presence, but there was an account for another country. The most surprising was Target. Their Messenger profile read Target.com, but the respondent let me know that this was the Australian account. Maybe it’s possible that other countries have fewer communication channels with these brands and Messenger has been relied upon as an alternative.
None of the other big tech companies were using the channel, and only one cell phone company was there. My cable company responded, and I might have ordered the remote that I can talk to.
I think we’ll see a lot more action in the coming months and I’m going to keep going through the Fortune 500. I’m excited to find the first live bot!