Facebook of the Future

I remember back in the day (circa digital 2014) that the privacy debate shifted slightly in the direction of one Mark Zuckerberg. Particularly around montising What'sApp, data retention of our Facebook chats, and just generally not being so transparent - so that we might later be delivered value in the form of advertisement. Turned out at the time, we were all much ado about nothing.

Then we were much ado about something just as quickly.

Practically every media publisher has reported a leaked document describing what I can only see as a great Facebook machination to introduce glorious, targeted marketing collateral to our group chats about whatever is on TV - via Facebook Messenger.

Here's the trick though - you have to opt in; and so we sigh one of relief. But then, opting in (the assumed point for Facebook) will require some serious motivation/incentive on the part of we the masses.

Listen though, this isn't some novel futuristic talk - although given the pictures of Zuckerberg this week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I'd forgive you for thinking otherwise.

I've been saying for ages (really ages) that all these chat apps need a good old revenue model. Maybe this will be Facebook's.This is not new news however, WeChat, the vastly superior What'sApp, Amazon, Twitter and everything else of the APAC world is already a social CRM system in it's own right. The same potential we get with email could be unlocked via Facebook messenger if only we allowed it to; nay - if we allow it to.

WeChat admittedly (perhaps famously) limits the numbers of messages brands can actually send their fans in a circadian rhythm; Facebook would probably do the same.

So far all good - the social messaging apps might survive having grown a revenue model that isn't entirely offensive. But then again, noise is noise - and we fled to What'sApp to get the hell away from Facebook (and Ads generally).

I feel like Facebook, in running this experiment will have to do so very tentatively indeed, and brands using the new tech will have to be clear about what people will (and will not) receive as well as being able to unsubscribe faster than lightening.

Receiving order updates for instance, and indeed receipts, makes perfect sense in Messenger, getting promo'd to death by your local watering hole, that coffee shop you went to that time you were in Tokyo, and the pug clothing store you bought a few things from with the intention of actually buying a dog - makes somewhat less sense.

There are a number of obvious use cases however; notifying users when items come back in stock or when big sales like Cyber Monday start would be obvious use cases.

However the ads are used, a message limit seems the sensible option that would prevent revulsion from the consuming public.

Ultimately, it'll be up to us as marketers to exercise some form of restraint; like the golden days of digital - spamming is not to be the operation de jure, sensible and relevant shall be the operation de facto.

Facebook will have to keep a watchful eye on how things proceed to judge value, friction, usage, profitability and accountability in equal measure.

Equally, the nuts and bolts of the Facebook UI and perhaps even API will have to change; will it be single stream like the monetized Line App or will it get "so WeChat" that I'm paying for taxi (as I do in Shanghai) with it?

For example, could you see yourself one day using Messenger to pay in-store, pay for cabs, play games - all simply to take advantage of the convenience that the channel offers post purchase?

Ultimately, It's all going to be about utility. Will this be a great revenue generator for Facebook, a useful tool for brands and a channel so valuable to consumers that we all need not annoy one another?

Honestly, as someone who is wired to the absolute conceivable maximum (I have at least six messenger Apps), sees but reads few emails, tweets like a caffeinated tweet bot but still misses that delivery notification from the everything store in the post; I'll be using it.

So long as I'm not disrupted; but then, isn't that the point of digital anyway.

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