Sahail Ashraf posted on 24 April 2017
Facebook has just about closed out its annual developer conference.
It was glitzy, cool and all over the media because the media loves Facebook. The conference, named F8, has raised a few eyebrows due to the impression that not a whole lot of new stuff was shown off by Zuckerberg and friends.
On top of that, a rather horrible controversy around online crime has overshadowed the whole thing. But Mark still managed to get across a few points that should have some relevance to developers.
We will look at two developments, with the second one being what you might well refer to as ‘groundbreaking’.
We are not sounding cynical on purpose, but it made perfect sense for Facebook to discuss their bots. The brand wants to generally own bots over the next few years, and it obviously sees the expansion of the bot culture on Messenger as a major route forward.
Bots are great, and brands need to be on top of them if they want to secure strong customer interaction and support. Agencies and marketers in general take note: there are more bots coming and Facebook intends for them to become even more useful. This could even signal the end of human to human customer service if Facebook has its way.
The biggest issue here for brands is the fact that there are still other options. Facebook wants brands to choose them and only them when it comes to bots. Whether your client needs to use Facebook bots should be clear at this moment in time.
But if every brand is using Facebook bots on Messenger, is that a good thing for your visibility? Now’s the time to look at your client’s usage of bots and to make some key decisions about ways forward. We don’t doubt that bots will become the norm on messaging between brand and customer, but will there be space for the brand that likes to talk human to human?
Anyway, what they talked about at F8 this year was, we think, pretty much game-changing stuff. At F8 it was announced that brands and businesses in general can now be discovered on Messenger. This takes away the significant issues around finding businesses on the platform. Now, a ‘nearby’ function will literally highlight nearby businesses. The bots will then step in and handle much of the initial customer experience.
What isn’t clear is how these brands and businesses will be flagged up to users. It is possible that interests will be used, and obviously the fact that a user has liked a business previously. It’s an exciting new step, and it adds even more value to bots above and beyond the already useful customer service aspect.
This is the biggie. We can’t do anything ‘initial thoughts’ wise without looking at Spaces. Whichever way you look at it, there could be major benefits (or issues) for brands with Spaces.
It’s Facebook in virtual reality. And the only way to really convey just how weird and awesome this looks is to link to the video that was shown at F8. It is pretty crazy, and any agency or brand with any social media presence will immediately see some issues around Spaces.
What is important to remember is that Facebook Spaces is going to happen. Last year at F8 Zuckerberg outlined his ten year vision for the platform, and VR and AR featured super heavily. This means that it is the way forward, and it seems that Facebook views it as ‘being Facebook’ in the ten years to come. In other words, if people want to use Facebook, they can expect to be using it in VR. It is that simple.
There has been plenty of talk since the event started about the ‘death of the smartphone’ with people speculating that with VR being what Zuckerberg gets excited about, we are all going to be walking around with headsets rather than phones in our hand.
This may actually happen to an extent because Facebook genuinely wants to conquer VR and make it a part of everyone’s social media experience. There won’t be any problem with brands managing VR because Facebook will help companies to do so. The problem lies in the idea that people will be walking around in a virtual world. How will marketing fit into that?
There is a scary point that Zuckerberg made during the two days of F8. He put forward the idea that people can post reviews of restaurants and ensure they are displayed for anyone who walks past that restaurant, on its wall.
That in itself sounds weird (but we bet that he’ll make it happen on Facebook). If that much power is being given to consumers in a VR environment, will Facebook seriously allow brands to advertise ‘in the world’? In other words, will brands be able to use ads as someone, for all intents and purposes, walks past a store? And will that ad feel like it exists in that reality?
All questions that really cannot be answered yet. The one thing we do know is that the Spaces experience is on the way, and Facebook will do its very best to ensure that it is a major cultural thing. The platform obviously sees it as the way forward for social media, and we can see it being a major factor in how people communicate socially online.
There were other aspects of F8 that have some relevance to how marketing and branding occur on social, but we feel that the Spaces thing has genuine relevance to businesses. If this is how people are going to use Facebook within a few years (and you can bet your bottom dollar that the platform will have solved the Oculus fiasco by then), then brands need to think about how it will look for them.
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