The other major Facebook platform, WhatsApp has been loss making but has been alluding to its path to profitability since the beginning of the year when it announced a trial of business profiles. Since then 3m people have used the service to contact companies according to Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook.
They are now expanding the trial to give 90 companies the ability to provide basic chat-bot type automated messaging for customer service requests as well as standard chat.
Further, any messages sent 24 hours after a user response will be charged higher rates than a typical SMS message. To me at least, this suggests that advertising messaging will be possible as well.
Typically SMS advertising has been low as people have (unsurprisingly) responded negatively towards them. I suspect WhatsApp will have the same type of reaction so advertising in the form of reminders and very specific sales notifications might be the early focus.
It is still early days with expectations being set low in the near term by Facebook themselves, but this is a major potential market opportunity as more people prefer to interact with companies via text instead of voice.
There are several companies vying for this space today including Facebook’s own Messenger platform, the smart assistants (Alexa, Google assistant etc) and many proprietary business messaging tools powering each company separately today.
I suspect the ease with which you can open a messaging app and reach a company will eventually commoditise the proprietary platforms leaving either the smart assistants or messaging platforms dominant.
Once in control of the medium through which companies communicate with their customers, in a similar way to how Facebook has monetised Facebook Pages, there will be opportunities for further monetisation.
Companies adopting these third party messaging platforms to communicate with their customers may well be shooting themselves in the foot.