The bot era has officially begun. In a widely expected move, Facebook today announced tools for developers to build bots inside Facebook Messenger, bringing a range of new functions to the popular communication app. Facebook believes Messenger can become a primary channel for businesses to interact with their customers, replacing 1-800 numbers with a mix of artificial intelligence and human intervention. If they are embraced by the general public — which is still far from certain — bots could represent a major new channel for commerce, customer support, and possibly even media.
“In case there was any doubt that messaging apps were the future of communication in the mobile-first era, a new study released this morning puts some solid numbers behind their traction – and their increasing dominance over email, among today’s youngest users. According to a report from App Annie, email is effectively dying among this crowd. Those aged 13 to 24 now spend more than 3.5 times overall usage time in messaging apps than those over 45 years old, while the older users still default to apps that replicate desktop functions, like email and web browsers.“
Forget building out an iPhone or Android app for your group, organization, or church. We’re (re)entering the age of messaging. If you want to remain (or become) relevant, you’re going to have to have a presence there.
Fear not, there are some great services out there such as AppyPie or Chatfuel to help you configure your messaging app (currently only works with Telegram but coming soon to Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Kik, Viber, and Slack).
But yes, messaging is the next iteration of social networking / SMS / email / web communications as we transition rapidly to a mobile-first computing environment… old conventions such as web browsers or email clients aren’t going to be the center of that experience, and neither will traditional “one size fits all” apps. Or as Chatfuel’s site says, “Chatbots are the new apps.”
“The golden era of mobile apps is already over. Americans have been downloading zero of them per month on average. Most of us have all the apps we need and have narrowed our use down to a few messaging and social networking services. So, instead of wasting thousands of dollars pushing an app on an unwilling public, businesses like Bauer Kitchen are taking their business to services such as Kik, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp that their customers are already using to text.“
As I keep saying, messengers (Messenger, WeChat, iMessage, Hangouts, Line, Snapchat etc) are the future of social interaction on the web, so this is a big first step in North America (already happening in Asia just as texting, emoji etc developed there first).
Twitter needs to get its Direct Messaging app and product out there. Quickly.
“Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more,” Facebook’s VP of messaging products David Marcus said in a Facebook post.
Messaging is big in Asia. Services like WeChat in China and Line in Japan / Thailand / Indonesia are how people communicate, buy things, book things, and operate. Sort of like how we (the enlightened) are amazed that people live inside of Facebook and think of it as the internet. There are even WeChat Stars like our YouTube stars. It is strange for us in the US to wrap our heads around (or at least me).
However, it won’t be for long. I remember sitting in a presentation by a Rakuten VP (they are a large Asian marketing firm that acquired messaging app Viber last year) at a conference in 2004… they were demonstrating data associated with the rising use of mobile phones to purchase items in stores or do cross comparisons via SMS in SE Asia while using brick-and-mortar stores as showrooms. I was blown away and thought “there’s no way anyone in the US would ever buy something on a mobile phone…certainly not furniture or computers.”
I was wrong. Best Buy is the best showroom Amazon could ever hope for (at least in my personal experience).
Five years from now, everyone in America will live inside the major messaging app that we settle on. Whether that’s FB’s Messenger, WeChat, Line, Snapchat (doubtful), Viber, Hangouts, WhatsApp or something we haven’t heard of yet, we will decry this newfangled “messaging media” and “messaging marketing” and look fondly on the days when we all just had Facebook newsfeeds or Twitter timelines.
Remember ICQ and AIM? We’re going back.
Messaging apps are what comes after “social media.” Facebook gets it. Even Apple (iMessage) and Blackberry (Messenger) get it. Google seems to be dragging its feet, which is scary to me.