Facebook Suspends Release of New Bots: What This Means for Your Bot Strategy

Facebook’s Troubles

On the small chance you’ve been living in an underground bunker and need a quick catch-up, let me try to sum it up: Facebook has been in hot water in the last two weeks and it’s impacting their messaging strategy.

Here is a recap:

Facebook’s product Open Graph API, intended to allow app developers to access Facebook data, was misused by a company called Cambridge Analytica. A data scientist who worked there broke the scandal. This set-off a series of unfortunate events for Facebook including: a slide in stock share, some bad press, and an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.

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Facebook Bans New Bots

All this has led to a huge shake-up in strategy for Facebook. Among the change in strategies: shutting down data brokers, and suspending the release of any new apps and bots on Facebook’s platform. Specifically, this means:

  • If your Facebook page does not currently have a bot, you will not be able to add one.
  • If your Facebook page has a bot, and you disconnect it, you will not be able to add it back.

According to Facebook’s head of platform partnerships, this is temporary—though no timeline is given. And there will be heightened policies and rigorous terms for app/bot creators who build on Facebook; those policies are still unknown.

Considerations for Facebook Bot Strategy

The Benefits of Tapping the Network

There are benefits to using Facebook bots:

1)   Once you gain permission from the user, you can send notifications to users through Messenger—which can be useful to increase loyalty and push new products/services.

2)  You can reach people easily on Facebook, a place where users spend down time.

3)   Facebook is a great place to launch content bots, as a place where people often share content among friends, this can help to make your content viral, etc.

The Downside of Building on Facebook

As a bot platform creator, our team discussed our platform strategy for creating and launching bots on Facebook. After much back and forth, we have purposely decided not to focus on Facebook, considerations being the following:

1.)   Your bot data and analytics are not transparent, nor is the bot fully-owned for your own use. One of the most valuable things your bot can give you is data about your users. When your bot is built on Facebook, it is Facebook who decides what data you will have access to, and what data you won’t be able to access.

2.)   Facebook bot discoverability is still an issue; which requires marketing investment
Facebook never fully solved their discoverability issue. Hence, you need to invest marketing time and dollars to have your users go outside your website to another platform and find your bot. You can put the bot on your Facebook, but it has restrictions.

3.)   If placed on your site, it requires a Facebook login. This creates a paywall of sorts for users and from our testing of bots, we know asking for name or e-mail address at the beginning of a conversation will drop your engagement rate by 40-70%

4.)   People are slowly starting to move away from Facebook Users in North America dropped for the first time. Users in North America dropped for the first time this year. So if you put time and resources into building on Facebook, you have to consider that your audience may leave the platform.

5.)   Facebook can at any time, change how bots are created, launched, or what third-party platforms are allowed on their own platform. Just ask Acxiom. So choosing your platform is crucial. If you choose the wrong 3rd-party provider to build your bot on and Facebook bans them, then you have to start all over again.

 

The real question bot creators should ask is: where are your customers and how do they want to interact with your brand? For brands like bands, artists, etc. it seems shareable content works well with Facebook bots. However, if you work in medical supplies, I’m wondering if that’s where your audience wants to chat.

The best way to decide is to start small and experiment quickly. It seems the biggest mistake people make is doubling down on specific bots, platforms, and channels without any prior history in the space.