A quick explainer what changed and how brands can grow their Messenger audience with Messenger games.
Many of us remember the time when we received a handful of FarmVille invitations a day and, maybe for the first time Facebook was pretty annoying if you cared about friends rather more than your digital pigs.
Zynga, the game company behind the FarmVille craze, started after Facebook opened their platform for third parties in 2007.
They launched with Texas Hold’Em Poker, the first game on the social platform, and were the fastest growing third party on Facebook with 40 million users in April 2009.
Then came FarmVille. 10 million daily active users in 6 weeks, 80 million in 6 months.
Zynga became an upstart with a billion USD valuation and hundreds of millions in revenue through in-game purchases — gaming on Facebook was a global phenomenon.
In 2012 Facebook changed their mind and decided to walk away from gaming.
Mini-games started to hurt the user experience and Zynga became too big.
This was a tough decision, as Facebook made about a quarter of their revenue through gaming.
Facebook banned games into the dark corners of their platform and it became niche compared to the scale of Facebook.
Now Facebook is changing their mind again. Facebook Messenger games are placed front and centre and are starting to thrive like in the old days.
Facebook is displaying the active (!) players of a game every time you open the game. So it’s easy to spot that classic arcade games like “EverWing” (14 million users) “Basketball FVR” (8 million users) or “Super bowling” (3.6 million users) are dominating the platform.
For consumer brands, Messenger games are a real engagement and growth engine.
Here is why:
Brands which want to increase the engagement on social or increase the customer lifetime value (CLTV) have to build a Messenger bot audience.
To get an audience on Messenger the user has to opt-in, eg. through writing a message or clicking on an ad. Otherwise, the brand can’t message the user. Those are the customer acquisition costs (CAC) brands have to get Messenger user.
Messenger Games provide that opt-in, so every game user becomes automatically a Messenger bot user. 🎉
Red Bull – launched the Airdrop Game. Collect Red Bull organics with your balloon and avoid the rocks.
KLM – One of the leading brands in the messaging space launched „Flying in the sky.“ Flying with KLMs historic machines to collect coins and not run out of time.
The average CPC for a Facebook Messenger ad is currently a little above 1.20$.
With the traction that the first brand Messenger games have shown the CACs by using a Messenger game is around 3x lower than using ads. The best part about this: it’s a one-time investment so the return on investment is getting even bigger over time.
Especially for large brands which aim for a bigger audience that is a real opportunity to grow their audience on Messenger quickly.
All eyes will be on Facebook’s Developer conference, as the company is expected to make some big announcements. Two weeks ago, Facebook released the Facebook Messenger platform v1.4 and it already shows the shift in directions regarding their approach to Messenger.
Facebook announced the “Business on Messenger” platform as part of their 10 year strategy.
The goal from Mark Zuckerberg to connect all kinds of businesses with the over a billion Messenger users is nothing less than creating a new operating system. iOs and Android with its apps are running the mobile world, but Facebook with both platforms — Facebook platform and Messenger — is in a good position to create one app to rule them all, because of its high penetration.
WeChat got a 3 year headstart on messaging integrations. It already is the messaging platform for China that Messenger is striving to become for the western world. Most of the online-offline services, including e-commerce, transportation, payment and many more are integrated and most used over WeChat.
Bearing this in mind “Business on Messenger” attracted thousands of engineers and entrepreneurs. They developed over 40.000 bots and created one of the biggest (media) hypes in 2016.
Bearing this in mind “Business on Messenger” attracted thousands of developers, entrepreneurs to develop chatbots and created one of the biggest (media) hypes in 2016.
But despite the hype, Facebook is not in a rush.
After the launch of “Business on Messenger“ and early difficulties Facebook continued to improve the platform. New features for the integration of chatbots rolled out every few weeks, and Facebook was in quite open discussions with many developers in Facebook groups. The pace was so fast that many developers and start ups had difficulties integrating all the features and improvements in their products.
Besides the ambitious timeline for integrating chatbots in Messengers as the business to customer connection, Facebook also launched instant games in November of 2016. The viral basketball game 🏀 for f8 was demonstrating the potential of HTML5 minigames in Messenger, and with the update Pacman x y z, many more were following.
The third integration in Messenger
The lastest update of Business on Messenger came as unexpected to many. The Facebook Messenger platform v1.4 release includes several updates providing a sneak peak into what will be presented at f8, but the most interesting update was the “enhanced menu structure.”
The enhanced menu structure contains multiple changes. The persistent menu got upgraded from a small helpful feature to a very prominent persistent menu with submenus right in the middle of the chat interface.
In addition to the new persistent menu and maybe even more important: the message input field can be now disabled.
With a menu instead of a message input field and web view, Facebook is basically creating a new integration on Messenger: instant apps.
The conversational interface is challenging. For many developers, brands and entrepreneurs the field of AI and NLP is quite new. As a result many chatbots were providing bad experiences. Instant apps are addressing this problem.
Instant apps makes sense for use cases in which chatbots with a conversational approach are not working, because of technical challenges in the field of AI and NLP or because of a simplicity that doesn’t require a conversation at all.
Business on WeChat, which started years earlier, is almost entirely based on a conversational interface with buttons and webview only, for the exact same reasons.
So now there are three different types of Messenger integrations: (conversational) chatbots, games and instant apps.
Facebook is rather a user (data) driven company than interested in rushing to create new experiences based on gut feelings. So it’s quite likely that we will see a lot of continuously rolled out changes and other experiments on Messenger very soon.
How Facebook will handle the three different types and which ones work best for which use case will be for sure one of the most important question for and after f8.
Users have tried bots for a while now. Some of them are fun and impressive. But people have also been dealing with bad technology and unsatisfactory prototypes. They tried to figure out why to use bots, even though identifying the purpose of a bot is the job of its creator.
What is a bad experience for some, is an opportunity for professional bot creators. Do not present your users with a boring bot they do not understand, they will stop using it. Scripting an engaging bot conversation that makes users come back for more is not as hard as it sounds. Making a great chatbot is thereby less dependent on the technicalities like conversation paths, keywords, and call-to-actions. The one thing that makes the difference in the end is whether your bot has a great personality. This personality consists of a purpose, matching characteristics and a suiting tonality. Crafting a personality is the most important part of chatbot creation. Taking the time to create one will pay off very quickly.
The first thing to have a closer look at is the way your bot ‚talks’.
How to Create Your Bot’s Unique Tonality
Conversations in instant messengers have been a private domain up to now. People chat with friends, family and colleagues. Handle these conversations with care. Do not try to imitate a human being because people will immediately notice! Provide the crucial benefit of a chat: being personal.
How can one be funny, interesting and personal in interactive scriptwriting? Not by scribbling down some lines, picking one and then write some similar. Don’t start scripting before taking the step of creating the bot’s personality, thus it’s tonality. Developing it incrementally and skipping the conceptual work is a fatal mistake.
Form Follows Function
There is a reason you want to create the greatest bot in the world: You want to promote a product, a brand, or a person. Let’s take a look at some examples on how a bot’s purpose is crucial to its personality and thus influences its form, the tonality it shows in conversations.
Rescue programmed a bot to call for help when you are not able or it is not safe to make a call. It scans all important information really fast, just like a police officer or doctor would do. Whether Rescue imagined this person while creating the bot, or if it happened by accident: The purpose of helping people very fast in a smooth and easy conversation calls for a focused, yet calm personality.
Clarity on your bot’s purpose helps a lot in finding a suiting bot personality. Outline about 5 benefits of your bot and prioritize them. The most important one has to be your main purpose, the reason you want to launch a bot in the first place.
If you are aiming at user engagement, learn from the best: Danish singer Aura’s bot represents Aura as an artist (bot-personality), thus uses her own tonality and her ways of communicating with her fans. They turn to the bot for entertainment as well as information on their favorite artist. Aura’s very personal tonality suits her bot’s purpose to provide her fans with the feeling of being close to and engaged with their star. This engagement leads to user retention.
Poncho managed to create a bot that makes weather reports less boring by crafting a funny personality. It provides forecasts and then enhances its informational content with funny media and remarks. This entertaining part lets users enjoy the chats. The extension in Poncho’s bot personality causes the switch to a more personal tonality, which leads to an engaging interaction and thus chatbot retention.
There is more to a personality than its purpose and tonality: characteristics.
How to Do It: Create Your Bot’s Personality!
Creating a full and concise bot personality is neither magic, guesswork nor luck, but work. This is how you proceed: Imagine you were a script-writer for a movie or play. As such you invent the bot personality by pinning down all its characteristics.
If your imagination does not provide the perfect persona instantly, these questions will help: Do you have a mascot (for a product or brand)? Does this mascot have a personality that might serve as inspiration? Is there a core value for your company in general or to its way of communication that could inspire the personality? Can you think of a person you know, a celebrity or a fictional character that your bot could resemble? Using one of those or even mixing different templates is your starting point.
Now you fill this person, animal, or whatever you chose, with attributes and facts: Age, heritage, friends, occupation, just make things up! Of course they have to make sense, correspond to your cause and be concise. When deciding on further features that are not distinct: Open a spectrum from, for example, ‘yoga-enthusiast and healthy eater’ to ‘couch potato and heavy drinker’ and place your bot personality somewhere in that range. Do it for several opposites.
There is no limit to your imagination but one: All the attributes and facts you make up have to make sense if you form them into one personality and fit to your brand. By the time you found a set of facts and qualities that really adds up, you can always ask yourself: What would my persona do? And your bot personality will give you the answer.
Your bot’s personality will now provide you with suitable ideas on the way this chatbot addresses the user: its tonality. Is it humble and nice or rather cheeky and sometimes a little off? Is its way of communicating structured and formal or rather funny and associative? You will also have to decide if the bot talks in the first person, singular or plural, or in the second.
Sound like a lot of work? The bot personality you are about to create based on this insight will make telling your story a lot easier. Your bot’s tonality will be far away from the boring machine described in the beginning of this article. Scripting your conversational bot will be as much fun as interacting with it!