Businesses try their best to keep public complaints about their products or services at bay, but with the public forum that is Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) or a business' Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) Page, it's often hard to avoid. Facebook is now giving Page owners the option to take a conversation private by responding via Messenger. This move is positioned to benefit both businesses, which get to keep complaints mostly private, and customers, who get a personalized response from the business.
Facebook, however, could be the real winner, as it's still working to figure out the best way to monetize Messenger. The messaging spinoff app has 700 million active users, per Facebook's most recent update. And while it might feed a lot of excellent data back into Facebook's News Feed algorithm, the company has yet to figure out how exactly to monetize it. But CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes getting more businesses on the platform is the first step to monetization.
Businesses on Messenger
At Facebook's developers conference earlier this year, the company unveiled Businesses on Messenger. The pilot program with select retailers allows businesses to answer questions about specific items during the checkout flow, send order confirmations, and track order shipments. Facebook plans to expand these features to more businesses in the near future.
Allowing businesses to take public conversations to Messenger and making it easier for users to contact businesses through Messenger is another incentive for businesses to increase their presence on the platform. Facebook is even adding a badge on Pages that respond quickly to users' messages to provide a little extra nudge.
Facebook is also providing tools to Page owners to make it easier to respond to common problems with canned responses and features that make it easier to manage a large influx of messages.
Twitter recently made some changes to its Direct Message feature that enables businesses to reach more of its audience. Users can now send messages to anyone, even they don't follow each other, and Twitter added a Direct Message button to users' profiles. Still, the most common way for businesses to respond to complaints is by publicly responding to tweets that mention the company.
A long-term bet
In the relatively early days of Facebook, there was pressure from some investors to insert banner ads and other inorganic content into the site in order to start monetizing it. Instead, Zuckerberg and company found a way to encourage businesses to join the site and start driving business through organic interactions. Then Facebook could help them expand their reach by leveraging its total audience and the data it has on its users.
Zuckerberg wants to follow a similar plan with Messenger and WhatsApp, and he believes it will drive more long-term value than simply adding inorganic content or trying to sell things to users.
"The long-term bet is that by enabling people to have good organic interactions with businesses," Zuckerberg said on the company's second-quarter earnings call, "that [it] will end up being a massive multiplier on the value of the monetization down the road when we work on that and really focus on that in a bigger way."
That's a very long-term strategy, but Facebook already has over 40 million businesses on its main platform that it can try to persuade to join Messenger and its 700 million active users. Facebook was working from nothing and a smaller user base when it first started courting businesses in 2006. So it's likely that the timeline for monetization will still be faster than Facebook's monetization curve for its flagship product. Still, Zuck asked investors "for some patience on this to do this correctly."