Assuming you’ve been in the field of marketing for more than a year or two, you’ve likely already come to realize how noisy digital marketing can be.

Take the higher-education space, for example. For my primary employer, Kuali, I host one or two thought-leadership webinars each month. The content is really good, and we consistently receive 9+ out of 10 rankings from our attendees. Despite having excellent, and free, programming we have to try all the tricks in the book to get our message in front of our audience.

Just this week, in order to get higher-than-average opens from an invitation email, I had to personalize the subject line with the name of the university where the recipient is employed. For example, one of our recipients at Harvard University would have received the subject line “Herding the Cats of Culture, Politics, and Policy while Managing Change at Harvard University.”

That subject line received 27% more opens than the alternative in the A/B test I ran. Such is the life of a marketer… continually innovating, thinking up catchy new angles and doing everything imaginable for precious engagement. It is often tiring to keep your message above the digital noise so prevalent in the world of digital marketing.

The new engagement vehicle

While Facebook Messenger is anything but new, the ability to fully leverage it for marketing purposes is now only months old. In April of 2016, Facebook first released the ability to create chatbots inside of Messenger. But building a chatbot on their API was unwieldy, and thus nobody really did it. Chatbot-building platforms like ChatFuel, ManyChat, and Diagflow (formerly didn’t come onto the scene until late 2016 and have only started to gain true traction over the last 6 months or so.

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How to Build Your Own Facebook Chatbot in About 10 Minutes

Tens of thousands of chatbots have now been built on the Facebook Messenger platform, and the reason is obvious: engagement levels higher than any other channel!

Due to the immaturity of the platform, there hasn’t been a lot of research done establishing definitive engagement rates on Facebook Messenger, but my own clients, on average, are seeing 60% engagement rates. That means, for every ten people that click through one of their Facebook ads into Messenger, or that clicks the blue “talk to me” button on their website, six of them will engage with the chatbot and ultimately be giving you permission to continue to talk with them.

Facebook Messenger is the hottest new marketing channel, and chatbots make it possible. The technology that Facebook is putting into the chatbot platform is also fueling the growth of this channel. Below I’ve shared Facebook Messenger’s six software updates that I believe are true game-changers for marketers looking to use a Messenger chatbot to garner more leads or drive more sales.

6 Updates That Are Changing the World of Chatbot Marketing

In no particular order, the below Facebook Messenger updates are ones that I consider to have the greatest impact on chatbot marketing.

1. Discover Tab

Released in April 2017, the Discover Tab is a new Messenger section where users can look through chatbots that are available to them. It’s like an app store for Messenger chatbots. In order for your chatbot to show up in the Facebook Messenger Discover Tab there are some basic guidelines you need to follow as well as an approval process.

If you’ve got a great chatbot, then chances are good you’ll have no problem getting it approved by Facebook for inclusion in the Discover Tab. While it isn’t clear whether you’ll be able to proactively pay to get your chatbot in front of people in the featured section, it can only be assumed that Facebook will look to gain revenue there in the future. For now, though, if you create a good bot that has strong positive engagements, you may get a free featured placement.

2. Chat Extensions

Also released alongside the Discover Tab, in April of 2017, developers can now build interactive and social functionality into the chatbot via a pop-out drawer in the composer portion of Facebook Messenger. With the new Chat Extensions, you can have a chatbot that takes tasks and helps you follow up with them. Or, you can place a group dinner order (with friends) for an upcoming party you’ll be hosting.

With chat extensions, the options for marketers to now provide value-added functionality that will truly impress the user has been expanded exponentially.

3. Customer Matching

Released in March of 2017, Customer Matching allows you to send proactive messages to your customers via Facebook, even if you haven’t ever interacted with them online! Using Facebook’s relatively simple Send API, you can pass details on a customer to Facebook, such as their name and phone number, and Facebook will check those details against their user database and then allow you to message them if a match is found.

This is huge. Imagine you’ve just served a customer in a physical retail location. As they walk out of your shop they receive a Facebook Messenger message inviting them to chat with your business. The message invitation could be something along the lines of “I’d love to hear what you thought of our service today!” Once they accept, your chatbot can now message them for feedback, to solicit add-on sales, etc.

One thing to note is that from all my use of Facebook’s matching algorithm, I’ve generally seen clients’ customer data matched between 30% and 40% of the time. That means that Facebook won’t be able to get you in front of all customers this way… But if you have a critical mass of customers, this outreach potential could be huge for your business.

4. Checkbox Plugin

The Checkbox Plugin is a great tool that released last November (2016). It is a mechanism that allows you to put a little checkbox and “Send to Messenger” call-to-action to get people from your website or purchase confirmation page into your Facebook Messenger chatbot.

It can be used in so many ways, but one of the use cases that I think has the strongest application is in online retail. In the shopping cart, as your customer is confirming their purchase, you can integrate the Checkbox Plugin so your customer can get order updates right inside of Facebook Messenger. This is great because it also gives you permission to follow up on the sale and reach out with additional products that complement their original purchase, etc.

5. Payments

One of the older features available on Facebook Messenger, the Payments module has been available, to select chatbot builders only, since September of 2016. As one of the keystone functions for an e-commerce chatbot, this is one of Facebook’s most robust improvements they’ve released for Facebook Messenger.

Use of the Payments module in your chatbot (or on your own website’s purchase process) makes payments quick and easy, and allows you to capture the necessary information (contact details, address, etc.) for order fulfillment.

6. Click to Messenger Ads

Perhaps the most useful to digital marketers, this Facebook Messenger chatbot improvement allows you to seamlessly integrate your Facebook ads with a chatbot. With the Click to Messenger Ads improvement, released in September 2016, Facebook’s advertisers can set the ad destination to be an actual Facebook Messenger-based chatbot.

This is fabulous because as marketers are consistently enjoying Messenger chatbot engagement rates north of 50% they’ve now got an easy and affordable way of getting potential customers into their chatbot experience. Once you’ve got them there, you can easily advertise products, solicit feedback that can be leveraged for customer segmentation, or offer a content piece in exchange for more of their contact information.

If you haven’t already considered using Facebook Messenger chatbots to help drive growth for your organization, I highly suggest you start. My prediction: Concerning marketing channel performance, chatbots are the next email.