F8 is Facebook’s annual, two-day developer conference in San Jose, CA—and 2019’s was one to remember! The Chatfuel team was thrilled to attend this year, and we have lots of exciting news and insights to share from our time there.
Let’s get one thing right: Facebook knows how to put on an incredible event! From a mashed potato bar and dozens of food stations to an after-party with a DJ, Skeeball, and Dance Dance Revolution, the atmosphere of the entire conference was electric and exciting. Facebook spoils its attendees with a free gift each year, too—this year’s was a coupon code for an Oculus Quest VR headset!
One of our favorite parts of the entire conference was the opportunity to network and spend quality time with other teams. The Messenger team, for starters, was incredibly generous with their time and encouraged our questions. Shoutout to Asha, Albert, Jorge, Martha, and Vivien! It was fantastic to be able to chat with them face to face.
We also had the chance to interact with lots of different Chatfuel customers—always a treat! We got to spend time with Fash and Janet, who built the Beauty Player bot, Natasha and Kyle from School of Bots, and Amanda and Dmitry from Master of Code, just to name a few. Networking in person with so many different teams sparked many thought-provoking and insightful conversations, which made F8 an even more valuable experience for us.
Messenger was the first topic brought up after Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote speech at this year’s F8, which isn’t typical. This shows us that Messenger is at the forefront of future plans for Facebook—great news for us here at Chatfuel! It also means there are lots of exciting new and upcoming Messenger features to explore and take advantage of. If your business uses or is considering using bots, you’ll want to hear about these!
#1: Lead Generation Templates for ads
This reveal was perhaps the most exciting! These templates will allow businesses that run Messenger ads to automatically populate industry-specific lead generation questions (or create their own).
For example, a real estate business could utilize Facebook’s pre-set questions about budget, neighborhood, number of bedrooms, etc. Users will be taken to the questions directly from a Facebook ad, and will be able to enter their information or select their answers seamlessly, without leaving the app. Once they’ve done so, it’s easy to export that data to any CRM that Facebook’s native lead-ad objective supports, such as Salesforce.
Though we heard some bot agencies expressing concern that this highly accessible feature will render their services obsolete, we at Chatfuel disagree! We see this as something that will benefit the bot industry as a whole, as we expect it will bring bots to the attention of even more businesses.
Plus, consider this: For every useful, accessible tool out there, there will always be businesses who prefer to hire an expert. Think of a website-building tool like Wix, for example. Many businesses choose to hire a specialist to create a custom website instead of opting for a pre-built template—and bots are no different.
#2: Appointment Booking API
Did you know that booking appointments is the number-one use case for businesses on Messenger? That’s why Facebook is developing their new Appointment Booking API. It will allow businesses to frictionlessly integrate with many major scheduling services, like Calendly, in order to schedule appointments directly in Messenger.
Another bonus: Businesses will be able to send automatic, push-notification reminders from Messenger about these appointments. So whether it’s a day before or an hour before, you’ll be able to remind your client that their slot is coming up. This feature will encourage more people to show up, improving your conversion rates.
Think, for example, about a car dealership that allows people to schedule a test drive this way. Sending them a push-notification reminder 24 hours before their chosen time should improve the chances that they’ll actually show.
#3: LightSpeed project
Facebook also announced they’re rewriting the code for the Messenger app from the ground up to improve its load time on all devices. This news is especially fantastic for Messenger bot builders in developing countries. Many of their subscribers are currently using Messenger Lite, a lighter, limited version of the app that lacks certain functionalities such as galleries and quick replies.
As a Facebook employee shared with us, this announcement means that Messenger Lite will eventually be phased out around the world. That way, everyone will be able to use regular Messenger and seamlessly enjoy the full functionalities of the bot experience, regardless of where they live.
#4: Messenger desktop app
Facebook also announced their planned release of a desktop app for Messenger. This update won’t change the functionality much, but it will definitely provide a more visually appealing interface and make the platform even more accessible.
We see this development as Facebook’s attempt to compete with other desktop messaging apps like iMessage, which allows people to send texts from their computers. The best part about this new feature, in our opinion: It shows, once again, that Facebook is continuing to invest in Messenger!
The last of the five main announcements at this year’s F8 was about interoperability. We didn’t hear many details on this front, but we did learn that users will eventually be able to message friends from any of Facebook’s platforms (Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp) with ease. The analogy Facebook shared to illustrate the point was how cell phone users with different carriers can still call each other just as easily as if they had the same provider. It sounds like it’ll be no different with Facebook’s family of apps in the future.
One interesting observation from this point is that it seems Facebook is trying to attract a younger audience back to its ecosystem. Even the imagery, music, and language used in many of the videos at F8 seemed to be geared towards millennials and Gen Z. Since one concern about Messenger marketing is that it’s not ideal for reaching younger people, this apparent shift in focus could change that.
- The Chatfuel team attended two of roughly a dozen breakout sessions about Messenger over the course of the conference. Why only two? The lines for each one snaked out the door and down the hall. Many reached capacity, so they had to turn scores of people away! Though it's a shame we didn't get to sit in on more sessions, it’s a great illustration of the fact that the demand for Messenger and its new features is bigger than ever.
- The key refrain from Zuckerberg and other Facebook representatives on stage was: “The future is private.” They told attendees that, if they could rebuild Facebook from the ground up today, they’d focus on messaging because it’s more intimate and provides a powerful connection. That’s more great news for us here at Chatfuel!
- The last point was not a new announcement, but Facebook reiterated at F8 that businesses will have to start paying to send Subscription broadcasts (which Chatfuel now refers to as Re-Engage messages), which are messages you send to people who haven’t interacted with your bot in the past 24 hours. Promotional messages, which use the Update tag to reach people who have interacted with your bot in the last 24 hours, will still be free. Though there was some upset about this news originally, we believe it will be a positive change. The beauty of Messenger is that it’s used for intimate and meaningful conversations. That’s why it’s great to hear that Facebook is working to prevent spam messages and unsolicited, sales-focused content—like many businesses now send frequently via email. Because businesses will have to pay to re-engage subscribers, you can bet they’ll only send their most important, valuable content.
Learning about the newest features Facebook has planned for Messenger was exciting, and the chance to interact face-to-face with their team and many of our own clients was even more so. Our key takeaway from the entire F8 conference was this: There’s more forward momentum for Messenger than ever before. Messenger and its business applications are growing—fast.
More and more businesses are taking an interest in Messenger and its marketing capabilities, and Facebook has noticed. They made it clear that Messenger is a key component of their strategy for the future, and we at Chatfuel are thrilled to continue building tools that move the Messenger ecosystem forward!