Facebook Messenger Ads - How to Improve Engagement

September 12, 2019 John Funk

There’s a scene in the 2002 sci-fi thriller “Minority Report” where the protagonist John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise, walks through a shopping center while confronted with a barrage of personalized ads. “John Anderton! You could use a Guinness right about now,” one blares at him. In the film, it’s certainly not presented as a positive thing — it’s a scene evocative of Cruise’s character realizing how heavily surveilled the society in which he lives truly is — but in a vacuum, for marketers, wholly personalized marketing is a fascinating theory and goal.

Truly personalized marketing, wherein a business reaches out to a person to offer them the exact thing they’re looking for at the exact moment in which they need it, is the Holy Grail of digital marketing, and it’s something where we’re not quite at. In the world of big data, digital marketers have surgical laser precision for many of a person’s individual qualities, and we use them to great effect, but that’s still not completely personal.

Sure, you can narrow your Facebook ads to only display to Asian-American women ages 35-45 who have been divorced, have at least one child, live in the suburbs of Cleveland, and enjoy playing tennis as a hobby — if not even further granular than that — but even within that category, you’re ultimately guessing as to that person’s needs, and desires. It’s an educated guess, but it’s still a guess.

One tool that marketers should be using more of is Facebook Messenger ads. These ads are a fantastic way to reach out to consumers in an organic way and help them find what they’re looking for — because they’re telling you. Is it truly personalized marketing, “Minority Report” style? No (and perhaps that’s a good thing), but clever use of Facebook Messenger ads will help your business improve engagement and ultimately drive conversions.

Facebook Messenger ads

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What Are Facebook Messenger Ads?

Facebook Messenger ads are exactly what they sound like: They’re ads that appear in Facebook’s messaging app, which is both standalone and integrated to Facebook’s website. 

Broadly speaking, Facebook Messenger ads can be thought of as similar to LinkedIn Sponsored InMail, though they’re more versatile and arguably more effective for a number of reasons, which we’ll cover later. Both are advertisements that use direct messaging to improve engagement and efficiency; however, Facebook Messenger offers more options.

There are three primary types of Facebook Messenger ads: click-to-message ads, sponsored message ads, and message home screen ads. Let’s dissect the three.

Click-to-Message Ads

Also called destination ads, these, at first, seem like any other type of ad on Facebook. They work the same way; they show up for a user as they scroll through their feed, just like any other ad would. However, if a user clicks on the ad, rather than being brought to an external landing page, it opens up a conversation between your brand and the user via Messenger.

This is beneficial for a number of ways:

  • It keeps people in the app they’re using. If a person is lying on the couch browsing Facebook via their phone and they click on an ad that interests them, and the ad closes the Facebook app to open their browser, what do you think will happen? Odds are, they’ll close the landing page and go back to what they were doing. Keeping engagement entirely within Facebook means reducing bounce rates.
  • It lets you use softer sells and CTAs. We’re all used to the standard lingo of CTAs: “Shop now,” “Buy today,” and the like. These are tried, true, and effective, but they’re not always suitable for leads, particularly those closer to the top of the marketing funnel. Now imagine that the CTA is something like “send message,” “get a quote,” or “talk to an expert.” One requires much less investment on the part of the lead, which means they’re much more likely to engage and be put in a position to learn more and become more interested.
  • It provides immediate feedback. People are increasingly likely to prefer interacting with companies over messaging apps as opposed to phone calls or emails. Messaging apps offer immediate interaction — rather than waiting days to hear back for an email — while also letting you compose your thoughts or even tab away for a few moments in a way that a phone call doesn’t. However, there’s a caveat: A Harvard Business Review study found that brands that don’t reply within 5 minutes drastically reduce the likelihood of conversion. If your brand is too small to offer round-the-clock social presence, consider using chatbots to at least bridge the divide.

Facebook Click-to-Message Ads

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Home Screen Ads

These function more or less exactly the same as your typical Facebook ad, with the exception that they appear directly in the Messenger inbox of the lead you’re hoping to reach, alongside all the other messages and conversations they have going. 

These ads are broadly similar to any other ad campaign you might run on Facebook, though the benefit is that they open up an audience who might not otherwise be seeing your messages. People use messaging apps like Messenger and WhatsApp more than they do social media on its own; we know this because Mark Zuckerberg told us in 2014. There are millions upon millions of people who use Facebook Messenger far more often than they do Facebook on its own, and these ads can help you reach those people.

Sponsored Message Ads

These ads are fairly simple: You send a message to the inbox of your target leads, which they see as a conversation just like any other they engage in. This can advertise a product, a service, an event — anything at all. 

This type of Facebook Messenger ad is most broadly similar to LinkedIn Sponsored InMail — both are messages out of the blue to a prospective conversion — but with one caveat that, in our opinion, makes them more useful: While LinkedIn Sponsored InMail allows you to message anyone on the network, even if they’ve never heard of you before, Facebook sponsored messages can only be sent to people who have previously engaged with your brand through Messenger. 

That sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? How can restricting the potential audience for an ad be more effective? 

Facebook Sponsored Message Ads

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The downside to direct, targeted advertising like Sponsored InMail is that you always run the risk of coming off as invasive, or making the lead feel like their privacy is being threatened — what you think is a helpful offer that they’ll be interested in comes off like, well, that scene in “Minority Report.” If done poorly, it can make a lead’s first experience with your brand a negative one.

In contrast, sponsored message ads can only be sent to people who have already messaged your brand before — perhaps through the click-to-message ads mentioned above. This means that you’re sending a message to someone who is not only aware of your brand, but who has potentially already had a conversation with your brand. This feels less like a random, invasive message out of the blue and more like reconnecting with someone you’ve already met as an individual.

There are some excellent use cases for sponsored messages:

  • Local businesses. Sponsored messages can be targeted exclusively at people near your location. Messaging queries for local businesses are very common: Think about things like “when are you open?” or “do you have any vegetarian options?” These aren’t messages you send a company on the other side of the country! Consequently, telling people about a new sale or a new offering can work very well to get bodies in your door.
  • Remarketing. If you’re like us, you read “can only be sent to people who have previously engaged with your brand” and your Digital Marketing Senses started tingling. Sponsored messages practically seem designed to help you reach out again to past customers who haven’t become regulars, or leads who fell out of the marketing funnel at some point in the process.

All told, these three options provide excellent ways of reaching out to an audience you might not otherwise have access to, in a way that seems organic and authentic without being invasive. Facebook Messenger ads help get the intriguing part of the personalized “Minority Report” ads without the invasiveness. 

So, What Are Some Facebook Messenger Ads Best Practices?

Hopefully we’ve convinced you that Facebook Messenger ads are worth investing in. This is true for businesses large and small, for-profit and nonprofit alike. Facebook Messenger ads works for brands as diverse as QVC and Humane Society International, which spent less than $1 per new lead. Car company Kia found that it was driving three times as many conversions through its Facebook Messenger chatbot Kian, than it was through its website.

So, how can you do it right? Here are some Facebook Messenger ads best practices to keep in mind and improve engagement:

Facebook Messenger ads CTA

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Know How to Set Them Up

This feels like a no-brainer, right? Thankfully, Facebook Messenger Ads are easy to set up for anyone with a Facebook Business Manager account. The critical part is that under the “Conversions” section, you select “Messenger” from the options. This means that when someone engages with your ad, they’ll send you a message rather than be directed to a page.

Other things to make sure you’ve done before taking an ad live:

  • Check the CTA. If you make ads on autopilot, you might neglect to include a CTA that accurately reflects the action you want people to take. “Send Message” is a good default.
  • Make the message reflect the ad. Similar to how unified messaging works for a good landing page, if a lead clicks your ad, the message should reflect what got them interested in the first place. In other words, if your ad is about your selection of shoes, the initial message — which must be set in Messenger Setup before taking an ad live — should be about your shoe offers. The closer a match to the thing offered in the ad, the more likely you’ll be to strike up a conversation.

Include an Offer in Your First Message 

Coupon codes for discounts are a fantastic way to kick off a conversation while putting your business in a favorable light. While discount codes might not work for all brands, it’s important to start off by making a lead feel like you’ve already offered them something of value. 

Respond Promptly

Remember that Harvard study? If you don’t have something set up for timely responses, you run the risk of losing the lead you could be making. This can be a basic chatbot, or it can be a social media team — or it can be both. 

Creating a Facebook Messenger chatbot may seem daunting, but it’s actually not nearly as hard as it seems. Basic responses can tide leads over until a real life person can jump onto the conversation.

Facebook Messenger chatbot

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Think of Messages As a Start

Perhaps you’ll get lucky and make a sale right then and there in your first Facebook Messenger exchange… but probably not. These ads that we’ve looked at are great at driving engagement and making prospects more likely to convert into customers, but they’re not the end-all-be-all. You need a plan to ultimately turn conversations into conversions, and that can vary depending on your offering.

Want advice from a pro on how you can make Facebook Messaging ads work? Contact SevenAtoms today, and we’ll start putting our digital marketing knowledge to work for you.

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