We have launched a lot of products using chatbots, mostly to generate the first reviews and rank for core keywords, so we know how amazing they are if done properly. But some major changes are announced for rules for using Facebook messenger.

Facebook probably adjusts their rules to leave the user experience unharmed, as chatbots are purposely starting a conversation with people. Some people consider it a breach of their privacy and even spam, so this change of rules was just a matter of time and we have to adapt to it now.

This change will happen on March 4th so make sure you adapt your workflows by then in order to avoid your account being banned. Once you’re banned it will be extremely frustrating to deal with Facebook’s support. Facebook Messenger will begin implementing its new rules that will affect ALL chatbot platforms, including ManyChat.

Basically, this is what changed: after a 24-hour period, your bots can only send 4 types of messages that FB allows you to (if you add their newest accepted tags) + no more asking for reviews in the conversation.

What does this mean?

Let’s explain this on an example. Imagine a subscriber that hasn’t interacted with your facebook page for a while. That user hasn’t sent any messages in a long time to your chatbot, or replied to anything, or taken any other action within 24h from your first message. At this point, your 24-hour window is now closed. Can you still message them? The answer is YES, but the content you can send them is limited by new Facebook’s guidelines and the messages have to be tagged with one of the pre-defined Facebook’s tags. If your post 24-hour messages don’t contain a tag that tells Facebook what they are about, those messages won’t be sent.

What tags are those?

CONFIRMED_EVENT_UPDATE: Information about an event subscriber registered for. Send the user reminders or updates for an event they have registered for (e.g., RSVP’ed, purchased tickets). This tag may be used for upcoming events and events in progress. More details in the official FB link below.

POST_PURCHASE_UPDATE: Transaction confirmations, shipment status, order changes. Notify the user of an update on a recent purchase.

ACCOUNT_UPDATE: Application status, approvals, suspicious activity, fraud alerts. Notify the user of a non-recurring change to their application or account.

HUMAN_AGENT: Human responses to inquiries within 7 days. Allows human agents to respond to user inquiries. Messages can be sent within 7 days after a user message.

As you can see, the only type of messaging tag that is not entirely limiting to your direct dialogue wit the customer is the HUMAN_AGENT tag, which only happens if they reply. It’s obvious that you’re going to have to make more effort into making your conversation with the customer more diverse through other communication channels (in the first place, email and SMS that are now integrated into Manychat).

Here are more technical details about these 4 types of message tags to use: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/messenger-platform/send-messages/message-tags#new_supported_tags

IMPORTANT: Make sure to apply the appropriate tags to your messages, because messages that don’t have a Message Tag will not deliver outside the 24-hour messaging window as of March 4th 2020.

If setup properly – this change can be easy to overcome without bigger issues.

Luckily Manychat has two new-ish features that they now offer: SMS and Email flows. You can contact your customers directly through their email or phone numbers. Another interesting (not so logical though) fact: once your customers engage with you either through email or SMS, the 24-hour window resets. This means that Facebook does want to help you generate engagement as long as you don’t spam their users.

How to prepare?

The 4 new messenger tags will be pretty limiting so you will need to resort to using SMS or emails to reach out to your customers if no tag matches your content.

For anyone else wanting to do product launches using chatbots post-March 4, here are some steps to take:

  • Step 1: Enable SMS and Email in your chatbot flow. The first step is to go through all existing flows and tag messages that may be sent beyond the 24-hour window. If a message doesn’t fit any tag — replace it with an SMS or email step instead. Here is a great Manychat article about which types of messages need a tag, and which ones don’t: https://manychat.com/blog/facebook-messenger-policy-2020/#messages-you-dont-need . Our recommendation is to start changing your flows immediately and play around with the SMS and Email functionalities of Manychat, to learn enough and optimize your funnel even before this change takes place.
  • Step 2: You are legally obliged to ask for your customers consent before you can send them SMS. The SMS laws are super-clear about this and your recipient must explicitly give their consent by saying or clicking on a button that says: “I agree”. Remember, if you skip this step, and fail to request and record your customer’s consent, leaves a window open for them to file a lawsuit against you. So make sure to implement this security step as soon as possible. Here is one useful example on how to give you guidance: https://manychat.com/flowPlayerPage?share_hash=523129064851971_cca3c6f38b1a722bb71d191b39acc42ca21f6ba1
  • Step 3: Familiarize yourself with the “Mulitple Channel Broadcasts” features. It is important to get familiar with the message tags, SMS and email steps and test various flows to create your own perfect flow and find what works best for your brand. Let’s talk about the Multiple Channel Broadcast tool. The default conditions for a Multiple Channels Broadcast will prefer to use Messenger for users who have interacted within the last 24 hours, then defer to email opt-ins, and then to SMS opt-ins. Each user will only receive one message on one medium, depending on which conditions they meet first (from top to bottom). Some of your customers may prefer to move the conversation from Messenger to SMS or email. Being able to instantly cater to those preferences is an important part of making a personalized experience — improving conversion rates in the long-term.

This is just a high-level overview of how things will work two months from now, but there is one truth that must not be forgotten. And that is, no automation can replace a genuine engagement with your customers directly through content marketing efforts and storytelling. If your brand has a purpose and provides greater perceived value to your customers that what the product prices are; there is nothing to fear.

The most ecommerce businesses fall under D2C (direct to consumer) category, and we are firm believers that the best direct to consumer brands will thrive in 2020 through creating a frequent and meaningful conversation with their customers. One part of it can never be fully automated or faked, so you also need to think of all the ways you can improve your customer support and community management (female shoppers are particularly sensitive to this). For all the other ways of connecting with your customers that are continuous, start using automation tools such as Manychat, to make your life easier as your brand grows.

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