Earlier this month, Facebook pulled back the veil on how it plans to make money from its chat app, Messenger.
The social network said it plans to test different things, including News Feed ads that would take users directly to new message threads and letting brands send potential customers “Sponsored” message blasts.
TechCrunch previously reported that Messenger ads would start rolling out in the second quarter, but one of the points of confusion has been whether or not companies will be able to send chats to people that they haven’t previously had contact with.
The answer: Brands can’t start chats out of the blue, but they can send sponsored posts — at least in Facebook’s initial tests.
Facebook user and public relations worker Katelin Schwarck says that she was initially surprised when she got a Message Request from a name she didn’t recognise. Turns out, it was an ad.
Here’s what it looked like:
Schwarck says she doesn’t “Like” the business’s Page, but she has visited the company’s website once.
If you’re logged into the social network while web browsing, Facebook knows what sites you’ve visited, and brands can use that information to send their blasts.
This is one of our first real looks at a Messenger ad in the wild.
Facebook gives people the opportunity to block the ads by either rejecting their Message Requests or blocking all communications from that particular company.
Facebook couldn’t immediately say whether the business would have to pay simply to blast the ad or only if the user chose to accept its message.
“We are testing sponsored messages from a small number of businesses,” a spokesperson says. “People will always have the ability to receive or block messages from each business, and we will be reviewing feedback to businesses as these tests progress.”
Schwarck said that she didn’t mind the ad, but wouldn’t “want to see my inbox flooded” with them.
That will be one of the lines that Facebook will have to tread very carefully moving forward. As it paints a picture of a future where people replace phone calls or app downloads with Messenger communication, it will need to make sure that the in-ital chatbots actually work well and that users don’t get overwhelmed with too many Sponsored posts. Although users are used to seeing their News Feeds flooded with ads, the sanctity of one-to-one communication in Messenger makes ads feel more jarring.