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EDITOR’S BLOG 21-04-16 Chat comes of age

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Skeldon2014BWsmallLast week’s news from Facebook’s F8 conference that the social network was going to make a big push with its Messenger app should come as no surprise. From the social media giant’s point of view it needs to do something to monetise its adverts and shop fronts and what could be better than making them truly interactive through chat?

Facebook’s thinking is that by leveraging the 800million people it has using Messenger and WhatsApp, it can turn effectively static ads on its newsfeed into something that consumers can chat to – adding a much needed layer of engagement to proceedings and hopefully making its ads more valuable to brands.

The additional news that it is going to add chatbots to proceedings too is also interesting, as this will make it much easier for brands – and indeed Facebook – to handle the vast volume of messages this approach could generate.

IMImobile was one of the first telemedia players to jump on this announcement, integrating Facebook Messenger support into its cloud communications platform IMIconnect and its contact centre software application IMIchat. This, as you can imagine, will be the first of many such announcements from telemedia companies as they all get on board with the rise of OTT messaging – and Facebook has finally given it a riason d’etre.

The move by Facebook to not only embrace OTT messaging in such a mainstream way, but to connect it with interaction and advertising and brands suddenly makes OTT look like an even better business to be in.

As we have said many times, the move towards OTT and the use of messaging apps to push everything from TV content to now advertising is a growing theme and a worry to the telemedia industry and the MNOs on which it runs. Giving it mainstream access and pushing it into a commercial sphere is very interesting indeed.

Until now its been speculative as to what impact OTT messaging could have. Now there is a clearly cut case that it can be monetised while being popularised: its there for the taking.

Take retail for example. In the US, Taco fast food chain Taco Bell is using chatbots to help consumers order food. Here again AI in its simplest form is being used to help ask questions about the menu and to customise orders, but potentially this tech has the ability to automate en masse interaction between consumers and brands. This could be a retail revolution and a much needed monetisation fillip for social media.

It is also something that telemedia can exploit. There are rumbling around how this sort of approach throws wide open how tech companies can start to use messaging in a whole new way and monetize it. There will be much more of this in the next issue of Telemedia magazine (out next month) and it will be one of the key subjects for discussion at World Telemedia in Marbella in October, but for now it provides a tantalizing insight into how the worlds of retail, social media, messaging and telemedia are colliding (again!) – maybe this time the networks will not put up all the usual barriers and stop it from taking off. If they do then its pretty much game over and we can hand all out messaging over to Facebook and WhatsApp and the next big thing.

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