Watch Out – The Apps Are Coming!

Last month Facebook announced the new Facebook Timeline at f8. But whereas the Timeline is more relevant for user profiles, what is more interesting for businesses is Facebook’s expansion of the open graph and the possibilities in the new social apps.

Social apps explained

So far we have become familiar with Facebook’s social plugins, which meant that you can Like and Recommend content through buttons outside of Facebook. Your activity is then shared to your Facebook profile, so that your network for instance can see that you ‘liked’ a movie on imdb.com. This part of Facebook’s open graph standard reflects Facebook’s vision to make the entire web more social.

With the social apps, Facebook is expanding the open graph and throwing verbs in it, so that developers can create an app for more or less anything. This enables a developer to build an app for Facebook, where you no longer only ‘like’ a movie – but you can also ‘watch’ it. This is for instance what is already being done with Netflix, Spotify and The Guardian. Now, instead of only liking a song, a story is created real time telling that you are listening to a song, or you see your friends reading an article instead of liking it. With these social apps, real time stories are created that show what you and your friends are doing. This also allows you to pick up on the music your friends are listening to and be inspired from each other.

What does social apps mean for businesses

With Facebook’s new social apps, businesses have gained a great potential of getting more exposure.  In the future, we will see more and more stories being published to the feed from brands that have created apps – maybe you will see a friend who bought an iPad at the Apple Store, which creates positive exposure for Apple while at the same time allows for the user to share an online experience with friends.

With all of these new stories and activities constantly being created, one can only imagine how the news feed and ticker will look like. But like Facebook is already limiting the amount of stories in the news feed with updates, the same will happen for apps. An algorithm called GraphRank will determine how much exposure apps will get in the news feed and ticker. GraphRank is a subset of Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm that determines which news stories to feature in the news feed. But whereas EdgeRank is more relevant for page owners, GraphRank is relevant for app developers. The basic idea of GraphRank is to assist users in finding the most relevant apps and content based on how the content is doing in the users’ social circles.

It will still take a while before we will be able to see the real effect of Facebooks social apps. But I guess that the news feed will only be more and more crowded along with more apps being created and more brands building a presence on Facebook in the future. My advice for companies is to continue doing quality content and adjust your efforts accordingly.

You can also read about Timeline, Social apps and GraphRank in Facebook’s blog post.

Get Ready for the Bots – on Facebook Messenger

2Facebook Messenger was released 5 years ago and now has over 900 million users. Originally receiving a flood of negativity towards a standalone messaging app, compared to one simple Facebook app, users seem to be warming to it. The decision to make it standalone does make a lot of sense, since messaging is a big part of people’s lives nowadays and Facebook even bought the domain messenger.com to launch a version for web browsers last year. Their 900 million users will more than likely be merged with Whatsapp’s 1 billion users, which means that Facebook will have the personal phone number of every single user – sounds like $19 billion well spent.

 

Open for Business

So that’s humans covered. Where to go next? Facebook is now venturing into their next Messenger-based project: bots. If you haven’t been keeping up, Facebook launched Messenger Platform last month, which holds within it, chatterbots. Luckily, these bots are not machine learning bots, such as the disaster that was Microsoft’s Tay. They do have some humorous replies if provoked but they ultimately steer the conversation back to the subject they’re designed to cater for. Thanks to their highly advanced Send/Receive API, these bots are able to reply with actual structured messages, including links, images, hotel reservations, the weather etc. You may immediately compare this to Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now and Amazon Echo, but what sets bots on Messenger apart is the fact that businesses can develop them, which in turn gives them another way to develop customer service. Simply put, bots could end up changing the world by replacing humans in such job sectors. Without the bespoke customer service integration that Messenger bots provide, the above voice-activated services will most likely not be able to solve business-related queries themselves. Having said that, the way bots behave is very reminiscent of the way Siri does. Maybe they’ll talk to each other one day and we’ll get the best of both.

 

Customer Service and Added Value

So how can these bots work for brands? Well, eventually, every major company in the world will have an account, which will be a first port of call when contacting their company. The reason this is almost definite is due to Facebook’s already-mammoth-sized network of users. It doesn’t get any bigger than Facebook when advertising to individual people, so connecting Messenger bots (as customer sales reps, for example) is extremely attractive. Messenger codes, one of many things taken from Snapchat, will also make it easier for businesses to connect with their customers. One industry example is how bots will almost certainly change how banking works for the consumer, replacing an app or web-based system with a dialogue with a machine that is able to understand your every need. The option to send money within Messenger itself is highly likely too, like Snapchat allows. This could also eliminate the hassle of speaking to a bank’s voice recognition system when calling by telephone – no more time (and money) wasted by the dreaded “I didn’t catch that. Please try again.” These voice recognition systems are essentially bots done badly, but they’re based on voice, which is a lot more difficult to translate into zeros and ones. Plus, you cannot autocorrect your voice (yet). I can see this whole system being replaced by bots – it could even connect you to a human advisor with ease, as you’re most likely already using your phone. Even if you’re using the desktop version or Facebook Chat, I’m sure they’ll figure something out. Besides banks, what other markets will benefit from this? Restaurants, travel and possibly supermarkets with online shopping services are big industries for it to thrive. The healthcare industry could also be a large portion – Healthtap have already created their bot, which isn’t surprising considering one of the first ever chatterbots was called DOCTOR and simulated a psychotherapist. In fact, the potential amount of markets are endless for this stream of interaction – just like it is with human customer service.

 

At the end of the day, customers are moving towards messaging as their preferred choice of customer service. And as generations progress, it will no doubt become the standard – a phone call will most likely be reserved for long, meaningful conversations with friends and family, which in turn will add even more meaning to them. The phone call will no longer be taken for granted, but talking to robots will be.