Just a few weeks ago I wrote a post outlining the different ways to start conversations with a Facebook Messenger Bot. In a little less than a month, Facebook has released some new and powerful features to help brands and bot builders help users connect over Messenger.
If you’re looking for the basics, please read the first article above. Here, we’re going to pull apart some of the newer and more advanced features.
Links with reference params: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/messenger-platform/referral-paramsThis has been one of the most requested features asked for by developers. When Facebook announced the API, they released short links to a Page’s, Messenger Page. It’s simple http://m.me/PAGE_NAME would link you to their Messenger Page. With the newest feature, it’s possible to add a reference parameter to tell the bot where the clicker is coming from. So now, developers can respond differently based on how the user clicked to the Messenger bot.
For instance, if you’re on a Spanish-language webpage and you click to the bot, the bot can reply in Spanish. That’s simple example, but knowing exactly where the chatter is coming from can really capture intention well. The link structure is: http://m.me/PAGE_NAME?ref=myparam. So if you click here, you’ll connect with the @Mssg bot and we’ll know that you came from this post. http://m.me/atmssg?ref=medium_usage
If you read the first post, these reference parameters may sound eerily similar to the Send to Messenger Plugin. https://developers.facebook.com/docs/messenger-platform/plugin-reference/send-to-messenger The Send to Messenger plugin is a code snippet that can be added to a site ad displays as a button. When the user clicks that button, they are taken to Messenger AND with the button click the bot is passed a little data which tells the bot which button was clicked and supposedly, where the visitor came from.
So at first glance the reference parameters and the Send to Messenger plugin would appear to be nearly identical. But there are significant differences. First, the link is much easier to distribute anywhere that one can put a link. The Send to Messenger plugin requires a little coding and administrative permissions on the website in order to add the code snippet.
The bigger difference is the process of how the data from the click is delivered to the bot. When a user clicks the link, they arrive at the Messenger Page and if it’s their first time interacting with the bot, they must start the conversation (probably click the Get Started button). Only then will the ref data hits the bot’s server and the bot can identify the source and send the appropriate response.
With the Send to Messenger plugin, when the user clicks, they first need to confirm their identity with a FB popup. Once they confirm, they redirect to Messenger. The bot receives the reference parameter upon the user’s arrival and can trigger the first message to the user.
When they are lined up, the differences are fairly minute. Anyone that starts a conversation with the bot will need to click the link/or button and will have to click the Get Started button/ or confirmation before the conversation starts. There are two factors to decide whether to use the link or Send to Messenger button. The first factor is where would the link or button appear. If you have administrative access to the page, you may want to add the button. Without page access the link may be the only option — on Twitter for instance.
The second factor is about user experience, and I’m completely speculating here. Everyone is used to clicking the popups that grant access to FB info, or similar links. We just click YES. Once people click the Send to Messenger button, the confirmations click might be automatic. The same likelihood of a click might not exist with the short links + ref params. Messenger bots are new, so when people land on the Get Started Page, they may not click at such a high rate. If it’s possible to use the button, I’d probably suggest to start there.
The second feature I’ve been playing around with is the Structured Message (JSON) that sends to Messenger when the user clicks a Facebook Ad. This is available when the objective of the ad campaign is Website Clicks. The last step of the ad setup, Pages & Links, now shows an option for the Destinationto be Messenger. Under the Messenger destination there is an option for a Structured Message. If the Structured Message destination is selected, the ad requires a little JSON snippet, which is really easy to figure out.
When the user clicks this ad, they are sent to Messenger, and the Structured Message is delivered to the clicker. This structured message is a template with a picture and 1-3 buttons. These buttons can trigger a specific bot, or even link to a URL. This is a very engaging experience for the user and appears to be a great way to avoid any problem where the user gets to the Messenger Page, and just bounces.
Finally, Facebook released ads inside of Facebook Messenger, called Sponsored Messages. https://www.facebook.com/business/help/630500673789880 I haven’t Sponsored Messages, or even seen them in the wild yet.
The setup seems straightforward, Facebook will send an ad in the Messenger user. The most notable requirement for Sponsored Messages is that they can only be sent to users that have interacted with the bot previously. Obviously, Facebook wants users to choose to interact with bots first, before a bot can advertise to an individual. Smart move in my opinion.
Facebook is adding features that help bots get users. They seem very responsive to feedback from the community. As expected the best options to start and track conversation are paid options and part of Facebook Ads. There are a lot of nuanced options available. If you’d like to talk through the particulars, message our bot with the hashtag #question.