By now, you’ve probably heard that Facebook is making some changes to their Messenger policies as of March 4, 2020. But before you start to feel stressed, let’s get a few things clear about these updates:

📈 Messenger is and will continue to be a highly valuable, impactful channel for building relationships with customers and expanding your business. No changes there.

📍 Facebook isn’t shifting focus away from Messenger—in fact, all signs point towards them aiming to grow it even more. (Messenger was the first thing Zuckerberg mentioned in his keynote at F8 2019.) This channel isn’t going anywhere.

🔮 “Conversation is [still] the future of commerce.” Even Facebook says so.

Yes, these impending changes to the Messenger policy will mean you’ll likely have to make some adjustments to your chatbot marketing strategy. But Facebook is updating their Messenger rules to protect and add value to the end user’s experience on Messenger. So the good news here is that your business will benefit from this, too.

How? Well, the Messenger team states that they designed these revised policies to “encourage businesses and developers” to do two things:

  1. Respond to customers in a timely fashion when they reach out.
  2. Share important updates that are personally relevant to their customers.

Faster response times + more relevant content = happier customers.😄 Happier customers lead to higher brand trust, better reviews, more word-of-mouth, increased sales, and business success all around. 📈

And that’s exactly our job here at Chatfuel: to help you find business success with a Messenger bot. That’s why we’re here to guide you through these Facebook Messenger policy changes, so your business can adapt and thrive. Read on for everything you need to know about the updates, including how to adjust your Messenger strategies now and in the long term. 👇

What exactly is changing

Three main aspects of the Messenger policy are changing as of March 4, 2020:

  1. The 24+1 window will become the 24-hour window only
  2. The 17 message tags will be reduced to four
  3. Subscription messaging will only be available to registered, approved news pages

The 24+1 standard messaging window

It’s the time frame during which your business is allowed to contact users with promotional or non-promotional content for free. The window opens and reopens any time a subscriber responds to you in Messenger.

The update: It’s changing from 24+1 to 24 hours only.

24h standard messaging window

Message tags

The only free messages your business can send outside of Facebook’s standard messaging window are those that fit one of their specific use cases. Each use case has a corresponding tag that you have to apply to the relevant message. Tagged messages can’t include promotional content.

The update: There will now only be four tags instead of 17.

message tags

Subscription messaging

Just like message tags, subscription messaging allows certain businesses to send regular, non-promotional updates on specific topics to users outside of the standard window.

The update: Only registered news pages will be able to use subscription messaging.

subscription messaging

Meet your new message tags

As mentioned, Facebook is cutting their message tags from 17 to a more-manageable four. Three of these four tags are available for use as of March 4, 2020. The fourth (HUMAN_AGENT) is in closed beta for the time being.

Properly tagging any messages your business may send outside the 24-hour window is crucial. If you tag and send content that doesn’t fit the rules, Facebook will enforce consequences for your page—ranging from blocking your ability to send messages to potentially blocking or deleting your page entirely.

Facebook’s new One-Time Notification (OTN)

One more thing: Facebook also released a One-Time notification API in February 2020. It lets businesses send one, single message outside of the standard messaging window if the subscriber has requested it. For example, if a user’s preferred t-shirt size is out of stock at a certain online store, they can request to receive a single notification from the brand via Messenger when that size is back in stock.

We’ll be releasing a Pro plugin in April to make setup of OTNs a breeze! (Get the latest updates on new features by joining our Facebook community.) In the meantime, set them up with these instructions.👇

Your policies-preparation checklist

Here are a few things you should do as soon as possible to prepare for the Messenger policy updates on March 4, 2020:

  1. Apply for subscription messaging if applicable. Are you part of a news organization that wants to send non-promotional subscription messages outside the standard messaging window? If so, you have to register with the Facebook News Page Index (NPI) and be approved. For those that fit this use case, we recommend applying immediately.
  2. Do a Messenger-bot audit. Go through existing tagged messages you have set up to send outside the standard messaging window. If any of them fit the new tags, simply retag them. If they don’t fit the new tags, you have two options: 1) If it makes sense to send that message within the 24-hour window instead, do that. 2) If not, consider sending that information via sponsored message or another messaging channel starting on March 4.
  3. Start gathering alternative subscriber contact information. Collect and verify phone numbers so you can message your audience via SMS too. Gather email addresses so you can add these subscribers to your mailing list. (And make sure to get consent to message users on both of those channels!) It’s something you can begin doing right away, so you’ll have other ways to reach your audience when the updated Messenger policy kicks in. More on this in the next section.

Tips for adjusting your long-term Messenger strategy

Once you’ve completed the checklist for short-term preparation, it’s time to think about adjustments to your long-term Messenger strategies. Here are a few areas to focus on so you can continue effectively reaching subscribers with helpful content from your brand.

Start sending sponsored messages. 💬

A sponsored message is another type of Facebook ad. So they’re not free, but they do allow you total freedom as far as what content you can send to users via Messenger, and when. (But you have to stay within Facebook’s Community Standards, of course—no hate speech, violence, or adult content!)

The 24-hour window doesn’t apply to sponsored messages, so you can send promotional content this way to reengage inactive subscribers at any time. Learn how to set up a sponsored message and link it to your bot with our native integration.👇

Sponsored messages can have a huge impact—and without breaking the bank. To prove it, we ran our own sponsored-message campaign here at Chatfuel. We spent $9.19 to send 1,136 messages, which is less than once cent per message—on par with what the average SMS-marketing provider charges per text recipient. Of those, we were able to restart 282 conversations, which comes out to a cool $.03 each. 😎

Our sponsored-message campaign cost us $.03 per restarted conversation.

💡 Tip: If your sponsored message will only be relevant to some of your subscribers, you can send it just to them. To do this, create a segment of the users who you want to receive your message in Chatfuel's People tab. Then use the Segment Sync feature to easily sync their data to Ads Manager. From there, creating a custom audience for your message (and regularly updating it to reflect those who have unsubscribed or already converted) is a breeze.

Focus on a multichannel sales and marketing strategy. 📊

In a survey of over 45,000 shoppers, the Harvard Business Review found that 73% shopped on more than one channel. And those people are buying more, too: Multichannel shoppers spend 3x more than single-channel shoppers.
This means that expanding your marketing strategy to reach customers on other channels in addition to Messenger is a smart move, policy changes or no policy changes.

You can use your Messenger bot as the front-end of your sales funnel, then gather subscriber contact information so you can reach out on other channels later. As mentioned, SMS and email are two we recommend. Not sure where to start? Watch this video on integrating your bot with an automated text-marketing service. 👇

Experiment with Instagram. 📸

No, Facebook hasn't yet announced chatbots for Instagram DMs. But they did recently release an ad type that brings users from their IG feed to your brand's IG inbox! So although you'll have to manually reply to any messages you receive this way (for now), it's a new avenue for conversational marketing that's worth exploring.

Encourage users to make the first move. 👋

Of course, if a user engages with your bot without being prompted, the 24-hour window reopens. To encourage that, first make sure your bot is designed with the user in mind. It should delight, inform, assist, or otherwise add value to every user it interacts with—and it's your job to tell users about these capabilities, so they'll want to revisit it. Your Messenger bot should function as an engagement tool to facilitate compelling, useful conversations and build relationships with customers.

Then, make your bot available in as many places as possible. Again: Whenever you embed or link to it, make sure to tell your audience there about what it can do for them and why they should come back and use it again.

  • Use the Customer Chat plugin so your Messenger bot can appear in a chat window on your website. It’s a great way to get new bot subscribers, but can also encourage reengagement with existing subscribers who go there to browse.
  • Share the link to your bot in emails or on social media. (You can also use REF linksto send users to a specific portion of your bot, like the flow for a contest or quiz.) Remember: In the email or post, mention why users should come back to chat with your bot again. Make it explicitly clear how it can help them.
  • Create a post on your business page with the Get Messages objective and pin it there. That way, both existing and potential new bot subscribers will see it whenever they visit your page.
When you choose “Get Messages” when creating a Facebook post, the“Send Message” button will be automatically embedded. It’ll direct users right to your bot.

The future of Messenger marketing is bright ✨

These Messenger policy changes show that Facebook is more focused on the Messenger channel than ever. To see continued success on this platform for your business, shift your strategies to comply with the new rules. As always, Facebook will continue to reward businesses who follow their policies.

Have questions or need more advice on adapting? Join the conversation in our Facebook community. Then, find tips on following Facebook's other Messenger policies, like handling user data carefully and always providing a way to opt out. Cheers to your business’s continued success with conversational commerce on Facebook Messenger!