Facebook Messenger Playbook: How to Make the Most of Advertising on Messaging Apps

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It’s been four years since Facebook acquired WhatsApp and launched a standalone messaging app, Messenger. With $16 billion spent on the WhatsApp acquisition, 1.5 billion users on the platform, and 1.3 billion monthly active users on Messenger, Facebook is finally beginning to monetize their messaging apps. A smart move considering messaging apps have more monthly active users than social networks and almost half of consumers would rather message a brand than call or email them.

Advertising was introduced on Messenger in 2017, and in early 2018, WhatsApp debuted a paid offering that allowed businesses to contact users for a small fee. The advertising capabilities on WhatsApp are still limited, however on Messenger the offerings have continued to grow. More than half of US internet users have used chatbots, and 53% of consumers are more likely to shop with a business they can message. It’s a place that brands and advertisers need to be, so we’ve created a three-step guide to help you navigate the complexities of advertising on Messenger.

1. Make Sure Your Brand Is Prepared to Handle Inbound Messages

Conversations between consumers and businesses on Messenger should feel organic. Gaps in conversation can kill the authentic feeling and frustrate consumers. Staffing a community management team equipped to deliver prompt responses around the clock can get extremely expensive. Instead, use a Facebook bot developer to develop an automated Messenger experience. Bots can do everything from providing users information about certain products and services to addressing customer complaints.

When Kia launched their Niro model last year, they developed a Messenger bot that used artificial intelligence to understand user questions and perform a wide range of tasks. People could use the Niro bot to easily learn more about the car’s specs, inquire about warranty and service support, conduct an inventory search at dealerships, and request a test drive or quote.

Facebook also allows users to buy products directly in Messenger using their payment integration. Advertisers can even offer videos, mobile games, quizzes, the option to set up reminders, and more, all within the app. Messenger is truly a blank canvas for brands to develop a personal relationship with users.

AI-powered bots are becoming more and more powerful, however it’s always a smart idea to give users the option to switch over and speak with a human at any point.

2. Use a Mix of Paid Media and Discoverability to Cultivate an Audience

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to launch a Messenger bot and expect a massive audience overnight. To help cultivate an audience, brands can employ two main strategies: discoverability and click-to-Messenger ads.


To drive engagement, Facebook recommends adding plugins to your website that direct people to Messenger, including visual codes for people to scan at retail locations, and updating the call-to-action button on your business’ Facebook Page.

McDonald’s got creative in a recent Brazilian campaign and placed a Messenger QR code on their tray liner allowing customers to play a game and receive a coupon. It’s ingenuity like this that helps cultivate an audience on Messenger without relying solely on paid user acquisition.

Click-to-Messenger Ads

Click-to-Messenger ads are Facebook, Instagram, or Messenger ads that send people into a Messenger conversation with your business.

We recommend using a combination of Custom Audiences, personalized creative, and customized greeting messages to most efficiently engage users. The first step is creating Custom Audiences based on certain action users have taken in app (viewing a video, for example) or on site (landed on your home page, looked at a certain set of products). Then target the audience with a relevant, creative message.

An apparel brand, for example, might want to show different creative to users who looked at men’s sneakers and users who looked at women’s leggings. Then, when those different user groups click to enter a Messenger experience with your brand, they can be sent a specific greeting message based on their recent activity. Using the same example, users who looked at men’s shoes can be greeted with a custom, relevant message, not just a generic “hello.”

Mastering this process requires creating numerous Custom Audiences, creating an increased number of ads, and constantly A/B testing. But when it’s done correctly, this strategy can pay dividends and unlock an entirely new, effective marketing channel for your brand.

3. Re-Engage Users Who Interacted With Your Brand on Messenger

A real benefit of engaging users with your business’ Messenger experience is unlocking the ability to send Sponsored Messages. Facebook’s Sponsored Messages product allows businesses to send recently engaged users a message directly in their Messenger inbox.

Love Your Melon recently took advantage of Sponsored Messages to impressive results. In a 3-day blitz, the company targeted users who previously engaged with them on Messenger and were able to accomplish a 14x return on ad spend (ROAS), a 19% click-through rate (CTR) from Messenger to their website, and a $0.15 cost per link click (CPLC).

The monetization of messaging apps is still in its infancy compared to traditional social media apps, but that’s all the more reason for brands to lean in. Not too long ago, mobile advertising was in a similar place to where messaging is today. Businesses who sat idly by as the transition from desktop to mobile occurred paid the price.

Users are 3.5 times more likely to open a Facebook message from a brand than to open a marketing email. Moving just 20% of your email budget to messaging platforms next year will pay dividends. It’s a small investment in testing and education that will prepare your brand for the day messaging is the main channel of communication between brands and consumers.