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Lo-res_474431326-SThe announcement from Facebook that it would be shifting to focus more on interpersonal messaging capabilities, rather than wider news feeds, has implications not just for the social media platform and its users but also for the marketers that advertise on the popular site. In news feeds, it is relatively straightforward for companies to insert advertisements and sponsored messages. But in direct, person-to-person messaging, their strategies will need to change, especially if they want to avoid negative consumer reactions.

Most Facebook users have grown accustomed to seeing advertising and sponsored entries on their news feeds. They can click to request that Facebook show them fewer such advertising messages, but they cannot avoid them completely. Although some users still complain about such entries, for the most part, people have come to recognize their news feeds as public arenas, in which advertising seems generally acceptable.

In contrast, when engaged in one-on-one or small group messaging, users are less likely to accept intrusions by advertisers. A conversation with friends or family members is not a context in which consumers want to see branded messages. Beyond the risk of negative responses, the exact methods that advertisers can use to reach users through messaging services remain somewhat unclear.

However, a few innovative marketers suggest some potential options. For example, by establishing service operations within a messaging app, companies can make it easier for people to solicit those services. In this case, the marketing is not a conventional advertising message; rather, it represents a new channel through which to interact with users. Thus Domino’s maintains a presence in Facebook Messenger and on Slack, and pizza lovers can send the company a direct message to get their dinner delivered to their doors.

Rather than direct services, some companies rely on messaging options to offer recommendations and insights. Users can receive cosmetic and hair color ideas; they also might use this channel to access important electronic documents, such as electronic tickets, boarding passes, or receipts.

Regardless of how the marketers figure out methods to connect with message service users, it is likely that Facebook will find a way to profit from it. Despite being somewhat obscure about what the shift in its emphasis to messaging means for advertisers, observers note that the savvy company would not undertake such a move without a good sense of how it could earn new revenue from doing so. These sources of revenue might come from a percentage earned on every transaction (e.g., for every pizza Domino’s sells, it pays Facebook a fee) or else from fees charged to brands to maintain a presence and connect with specific customers through its Messenger.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you agree with the sense that Facebook would not have made this change without knowing how to earn revenue from it?
  2. Would you find it acceptable to receive advertising messages in the midst of conversations with your friends on Messenger? What about service offers? How do they differ?


Source: Nat Ives, “Facebook’s Pivot to Messaging Puts Advertisers in a Tight Spot,” The Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2019