Users might hate it, but Facebook is now testing a self-serve sponsored messaging tool for small businesses that aren’t sophisticated enough to build bots. TechCrunch first reported back in November Facebook internally building a prototype of the Messenger Broadcast tool that let companies blast a message to anyone who’s already started a conversation with them. Now Facebook is starting to test the Messenger Broadcast Composer externally, beginning with a small percentage of Pages in the U.S., Mexico and Thailand.
Currently, the tool is free to use, but a Messenger spokesperson tells me that’s for a limited time only, and that eventually this will probably become a paid product that charges businesses. Messenger is capping the number of messages businesses can broadcast to deter spam, and won’t let them ping anyone who hasn’t voluntarily talked to them first. But some users still might find it interruptive, especially if less tech-savvy local merchants blast out low-quality promotions.
Now with 1.3 billion users, Facebook is eager to monetize Messenger. And some use cases like being able to asynchronously text a customer support rep instead of waiting on hold on the phone make perfect sense for Messenger. But with display ads injected into the inbox,sponsored message ads from big brands and now Messenger Broadcasts, Facebook risks its chat app becoming our new spam folder.
Using the Messenger Broadcast Composer, small businesses with no coding skills can choose a subset of people who’ve messaged them to hit with a text blast. They write up a title and body text, add an image and select a call to action, like a button people can hit to visit their website or a choice of pre-written replies.