According to Mark Zuckerberg’s recent lengthy essay, the social media giant will ‘pivot to privacy’, putting this at the top of its list of priorities. Zuckerberg claims the Facebook of the future will be built on several principles: private interactions, encryption (specifically end-to-end encryption as found in WhatsApp so nobody, not even Facebook, can see what you share), reducing permanence, safety, interoperability (ease of communication across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, in this case) and secure data storage.

Naturally, Zuckerberg fully intends Facebook to remain the social media platform of today and tomorrow. But it’s easy to be cynical about this announcement if you have a basic understanding of Facebook’s business model. Facebook’s ‘pivot to privacy’ is missing discussion on its underlying business model: Facebook is in the business of profiting off user data.

It doesn’t sell user data to third party marketers, but it profits off it. In order to truly change their ways, Facebook has some options, but none of them are good for it as a business. They can:

  • Totally change their business model. Not a good option if you’re making $56 billion dollars a year from advertising.
  • They can show provide more transparency and give users more controls. But how much transparency do you provide, and how do you do it? Because these are not easy issues to explain. A lot of the world still doesn’t care, but more and more users are interested, advocacy groups are interested, and regulators are very interested.

Here’s a quote from Sheryl Sandberg on transparency:

“One of the problems with the business model is we’ve done a terrible job explaining it, and people don’t understand it. And when you don’t understand something, you can become very uncomfortable.”

Mark Zuckerberg adds:

“I think the vast majority of people would rather have an ad-supported platform for free than something they had to pay for.”

But if these options aren’t great for business, then how can we be sure Zuckerberg will keep his promise? Particularly when trust in his company is dangerously low following the Cambridge Analytica scandal? At the very least, Zuckerberg isn’t naive about this. In his statement, “frankly we don’t currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services,” is one among a few sheepish acknowledgements.

The answer is that, put simply, Facebook now intends to focus on profiting from messaging. 

What does this all mean for publishers?

Moving (further) away from the news feed sounds daunting, but you’re far from the first to wonder how to make this work for you. Let’s talk about I AM POP.

You’ll notice their tagline is “Reach your audience directly on messaging apps”. It’s succinct, and that really is all there is to it. Your audience can receive a message sent en-masse as though it were a friend saying hi.

You can even create an ‘interactive narrative’ – a feature I Am Pop boldly calls “a whole new medium for storytelling”. Boasting an average open rate of 94%, I Am Pop looks like a seriously inviting proposition for publishers, whose social news feeds are crowded, with algorithms filtering out 98% of updates.

Crack Magazine use the platform very effectively. Every Monday morning, they send ‘AM:DM’ – a collection of five music recommendations. Here’s how it looks:

Crack Magazine Pivot To Privacy

Louise Brailey, Crack’s Head of Film and Digital Editor, was happy to share some insights on the effectiveness of the service.

“When we were fleshing out the concept AM:DM, we were keen that it wouldn’t become a feed for our own content – we already have a weekly mailer which performs this function. Instead, we saw AM:DM as a chance to experiment with something a little fresher.

“Essentially, our editorial team uses it as an opportunity to share music direct to our subscribers’ inboxes, first thing on a Monday morning, that will set them up for the week ahead. This could be an overlooked album from the past, an obscure DJ mix that fell between the cracks, a DIY release on Bandcamp that deserves a broader audience, whatever. Sure, this means sacrificing traffic to other websites, but for us, it’s a chance to flex our curatorial muscle and expand Crack Magazine’s editorial purview – we feel this is just as valuable, if not more so, than driving traffic to the site.

“We’re hovering around a 90% open rate, and we’re gaining new followers each week, so we’ve struck a chord.”

In a recent feature on Music Business Worldwide, I AM POP founder Tim Heineke said: “We are entering an era of post-social. Private messaging is the new social network. Users are increasingly flocking to DM, private chat, groups and stories, fuelled by privacy concerns.” Head of Growth Max van den Ingh added: I AM POP is championing the shift from newsfeed sharing to direct messaging in the music industry.”

But there’s absolutely no reason to suggest I AM POP should remain a privilege exclusive to those in the music industry.

So how can I set up I AM POP?

Before messaging your audience using I AM POP, you need them to subscribe to you on Messenger. Once you’ve connected Messenger to I AM POP via your Facebook page, you’ll see your dedicated Messenger link; it starts with ‘m.me/’. When your audience follow this link, they’ll be instructed to click the ‘Get Started’ button. After that, they’re subscribed.

How do I grow my subscriber list?

The easiest step to take is put your m.me link in your social bios, inviting people to subscribe for exclusive content, or material that your publication doesn’t otherwise provide. I AM POP suggest creating a custom Facebook cover photo too. Here’s an example from Australian musician Tash Sultana:

Tash Sultana Pivot To Privacy

If you want to engage fans in the specific way Tash has – by getting them to message you something for a specific automated response – follow these steps:

  1. Go to your I AM POP Dashboard
  2. Go to “Automated”
  3. Click on “Replies” You should be seeing the following: “Create replies to fan messages. A fan sends a message, the bot responds.”
  4. Click on the “+”
  5. Get creative

If you’re an I AM POP user, you can head to the Grow section of their site to retrieve an embed code you can use to add a ‘Message Us’ button to your own site.

Elsewhere, it’s totally up to you to engage people however you like. Don’t rule out creating a specific post or video post announcing your new service and encouraging people to subscribe. 

How can I optimise my Facebook page for maximum Messenger growth?

On your Facebook page, go to “Settings > Messaging > General settings” and enable “Prompt visitors to send messages”. With this switched on, the chat will be open automatically when somebody visits the page on desktop, helping convert that traffic into Messenger subscribers.

You can submit the Messenger bot to Facebook to be included on their Messenger Discover tab, “where people can browse and find Messenger bots, nearby places and businesses to message”. Here’s more information on it. There’s a lot of submissions so not everyone can be featured, but here’s an article that’ll help you maximise your chances.

Don’t forget, you’re able to customise the CTA on your Facebook page’s ‘Send message’ button. We’d encourage you to experiment with this, and search for the magic formula that really helps you to drive I AM POP subscribers.

Doesn’t I AM POP have any competition?

Of course! Namely, from Chatfuel, which is currently the most popular Messenger bot available. Its list of clients features some of the largest companies on the planet. It’s also not going to cost you as much money as I AM POP. For these reasons, it remains a go-to for brands looking to explore chatbots for the first time.

Chatfuel doesn’t come without its drawbacks: without coding skills, you won’t be able to see the conversations that have taken place inside Chatfuel. Also, when you link out to a separate webpage, there’s no data available to tell you whether the link was clicked or not. This would need to be tracked with a tool like bit.ly

Most important, perhaps, is I AM POP’s extensive functionality. They provide a more intuitive interface and dashboard than Chatfuel, simple statistics functions and audience segmentation tools, and the potential for creativity with their various chat templates. You can even create your own. As such, we’d recommend I AM POP for professionals in creative industries; it’s a platform well-suited to digital publishers.

To be impartial, it’s a fascinating time for social media. Facebook’s recent controversies combined with its potential merging of Instagram and WhatsApp messaging puts significant emphasis on the possibilities of profiting from dark social, which, naturally, will become an area of primary focus. As such, Messenger could evolve as fast as Facebook’s news feed, particularly as it increases its capacity to share with WhatsApp and Instagram. All this means that the potential of what chatbots are capable of should expand dramatically in the coming years. As such, we’d recommend getting started now to stay ahead of the digital publishing competition.