Facebook's Bot Ambitions, By The Numbers

Six months or so after inviting brands and businesses to build bots into Facebook Messenger, the network has swelled to around 30,000 tiny computer programs. That’s up from about 11,000 in late July.

 To date, Facebook has also onboarded over 34,000 developers, the social giant said on Monday.

To get more businesses on board, Facebook is now offering capabilities specifically to help them get discovered on Messenger.

This month, the social giant also started rolling out Messenger as a destination for News Feed ads. Now, when advertisers select Messenger as a destination for News Feed ads, they can use any call-to-action in their ad, such as “Shop Now” or “Learn more,” to link to Messenger.

Despite the program's impressive growth, it remains to be seen whether bots can deliver on the promise of improving businesses’ customer service and commerce abilities at significantly lower costs. To be sure, bots have their critics.

Yet customer service experts say brands would be wise to follow Facebook’s lead.

“Facebook is poised to [become] a one-stop shop for consumers to make purchases, connect with brands and consume content,” Scott Horn, CMO at customer service provider [24]7, recently told me.

Thanks in large part to Facebook's influence, brands are listening. Following the lead of 1-800 Flowers, CNN, and Fandango, confectionary giant Mondelez recently announced its big bot ambitions.

More broadly, Facebook is still encouraging partners to reimagine their consumer-facing business in terms of bots. Directly within Messenger, they can already provide automated subscription content like weather and traffic updates, customized communications like receipts and shipping notifications, and even live automated messages.

This summer, Facebook added star ratings so users could give developers feedback on their bots, while a new “quick replies” option offered a more guided experience for people as they interact with bots.

The network also recently added a “persistent menu” to improve bot navigation, add account linking to connect customers’ accounts with Messenger accounts, and add more content types, including GIFs, audio, video and files.

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