Facebook revealed some news in the lead-up to the annual “F8 Refresh” developer conference: all businesses can now use Messenger API to interact with users on Instagram. The feature opens first to all developers globally, with a phased approach for businesses.

Phase 1 will see Instagram accounts with a follower count of more than 10,000 and less than 100,000 connected to the API. It plans to expand that to accounts with followers between 1,000 and 100,000 in July as phase 2, with the remaining accounts coming online by Q3.

The feature was first announced as a closed beta in October with select companies: 30 developers and 700 brands in total. Now, any brand or organization that uses Instagram to interact with customers can use it.

The key point about this tool is that the integration represents a significant step forward in how businesses can leverage Facebook’s broader platform.

In the past, a brand wishing to interact with customers needed to do so directly through Instagram or through Facebook’s unified business inbox, which is limited in how it can be used, especially by businesses that might be handling large volumes of traffic, or desirous of being able to link those customer interactions to broader customer service databases.

The Messenger API, by contrast, can be integrated into any third-party application that a company or brand might be using to manage communication, whether it’s a social media management platform such as Hootsuite or Sprinklr, or a CRM application that can incorporate other types of customer data, for example, warranty information or loyalty card numbers.

Facebook noted that one of the key findings from the closed beta was that brands and businesses wanted better ways to manage communications from one place; and another was that many of them are making more investments in software to better manage their communications and workflows. So, extending the Messenger API to Instagram was a long-needed feature in that regard.

The move to expand the Messenger API to Instagram makes sense in a couple of different ways. For starters, Facebook was turning up the volume for some time on how it leverages Instagram’s commercial potential, starting with advertising but expanding into areas like conversation between brands or businesses and users, and more recently, enhanced shopping features. Facebook also notes that 90% of Instagram users follow at least one business, so creating a better route to manage those conversations is a logical move.

At the same time, Facebook was working on ways to better link its various apps and platforms, which include Facebook itself, Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram and Oculus, not only for users to interact across them, but to help businesses leverage them in a more unified social strategy. The implementation of the Messenger API, originally created to help brands interact with bots and manage conversations in Messenger to include support for Instagram, fits into both of these larger strategies.

Perhaps it’s an indication of what the social network’s top priorities are for this year’s event: partnerships to enable more business to happen on the social media giant’s platforms.

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