February 24, 2016Published by: Stephen Davies

How Facebook can get Messenger ads right

Last week TechCrunch broke the story of a leaked document Facebook allegedly sent to some of its top advertisers where the social network behemoth said it intends to start pushing ads in its messaging app, Messenger, sometime during Q2 of this year.

Facebook has yet to comment on the article (other than stating they do not comment on rumours and speculation) but the leaked document claims that brands will be able to advertise to Facebook users that had previously initiated conversations with them through the chat feature.

The document also goes on to encourage brands to engage users in message threads so they can begin advertising to them when the ad platform rolls out.

Messaging advertising is a different animal 

With the recent roll out of Instagram ads and Facebook's successful transition from a desktop platform to a profitable mobile platform, it's little surprise that it wants to monetise all of its digital assets.

It's not totally clear how the ads will be presented within Messenger but the TechCrunch article takes a stab at the types of adverts. These include:

  • Informing customers about a flash sale, free gift or other promotion
  • Announcing a product launch, and encourage foot traffic or provide a link to buy the item online
  • Delivering a new video, GIF or other piece of content created by the brand
  • Following up with retargeting-style reminders that an item the user previously considered buying is no longer out of stock or has dropped in price

Messaging is one of the most personal types of digital communication we use. It's likely we'll discuss more personal subjects on a messaging app than we would, say, on a public platform like Twitter.

That's why Facebook has to tread carefully here. Winning users' trust when it comes to advertising has been somewhat of a bumpy road in the past, but given the attention users pay to these types of messages a successful roll out will be a boon for the company (and as a result it will likely charge a premium to brands looking to advertise on the platform).

Making Messenger advertising user-friendly

So how can it ensure that it doesn't lose user trust and deter people from moving away from Messenger? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make it opt-in - Facebook should allow users to opt-in to Messenger ads, at least initially until they've ironed out any kinks and user concerns.
  • Don't make the ads contextual - If you're suddenly served ads for Thai food just after discussing with a friend on Messenger about how much you love Thai food, that may freak people out.
  • Allow users to determine the frequency of ads -. Given the opportunity, some users will prefer one ad per day than none at all. Serve them five ads per day and they'd likely prefer none. Let them decide.

There's no doubt that if this move is successful, Facebook will look to roll something similar out to WhatsApp, which it purchased for $19.3bn in February 2014 and has until now left to its own devices.

How would you ensure Facebook gets Messenger ads right?

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