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Facebook Messenger Etiquette for Brands: 10 Things NOT to Do

More and more, people are moving to private social channels to conduct their business online. But there are different rules for interacting one on one.

Becky Tumidolsky April 17, 2020
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If you’re not using Facebook Messenger to engage customers and prospects, you’re missing out. Two-thirds of consumers prefer to use messaging apps to connect with brands.  Given that Facebook had nearly 2.5 billion active monthly users in Q4 2019, Facebook Messenger is the place to be if you want to distinguish and grow your business.  Consider these numbers: Some brands are using Facebook Messenger to drive loyalty and sales. But millions more aren’t. If you want to set your brand apart, this is a prime opportunity. In this post, we’ll explain how Facebook Messenger can benefit your business—and the rules of etiquette for this important channel.

Bonus: Download a free guide that teaches you how to turn Facebook traffic into sales in four simple steps using Hootsuite.

Why use Facebook Messenger for business?

Users see Facebook Messenger as a direct, private line to the heart of a business. It’s also a great way to get a quick, personal response. In this setting, your business can serve people well, build relationships, complete transactions, and set the stage for future sales. With Facebook Messenger, you can not only engage consumers through personal messaging, but also buy ads to draw consumers in or reengage people who’ve already contacted you. Currently, there are two types of Facebook Messenger ads
  • Click-to-Messenger ads—A call to action appears on the brand’s Facebook page. When users click through to Messenger, a conversation starter appears. It usually contains an offer that encourages the user to take a next step.
  • Sponsored message—A sponsored message appears in the Messenger inbox of a user who has interacted with the brand’s Facebook page. These ads can take various forms (see our complete guide to advertising on Facebook).
By making the most of Facebook Messenger through great advertising and customer service, you’ll build a loyal brand community that’s receptive to your offers and more inclined to spend. 

10 etiquette mistakes to avoid on Facebook Messenger

On Facebook Messenger, you’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression. To earn a consumer’s trust, you’ll need to demonstrate sincerity, care, and respect. For starters, you’ll want to avoid these 10 etiquette mistakes.

1. Not having an automatic greeting or response

If someone sends you a message, don’t greet them with silence. Friendly text should appear as soon as the message thread is opened. Use instant replies to acknowledge receipt of a message, say “thanks,” and set expectations for how soon a live person might respond. You can personalize your greeting by including the user’s name. You can also provide contact information so the user can reach you on another channel. For a step-by-step guide to creating instant replies, read our Facebook Messenger complete guide for business. Facebook messages from Original Coast Clothing Source: Facebook for developers

2. Taking too long to reply (or not replying at all)

Having a question or request go unanswered by a business is disappointing. And for many consumers, it’s a deal breaker.  You’ll need to act fast once a user sends a message and receives an instant response. One thing to keep in mind: as soon as you open a message in Facebook Messenger, the sender can see that it’s been viewed. Don’t open messages till you’re ready to respond, but make sure you do so within a few hours. Businesses that have a response rate above 90% and response times under 15 minutes can earn a “very responsive” badge. It’s a great way to show your brand is caring and customer centered. To earn the badge, start by following these Facebook-recommended practices "Very responsive to messages" badge on WebMD Facebook page If no one is available to respond right away, schedule an automated away message for the time period your Facebook Messenger will be closed for business. (Or, you could use Hootsuite Inbox to assign messages to a teammate who is available. The video below shows how.)

3. Not providing context

It’s important to send timely responses, but it’s also important that your messages reflect:
  • What led the user to contact you
  • Whether they’ve interacted with the brand page or purchased before
  • Whether the user’s message is related to an earlier exchange
Any message that lacks context might seem tone deaf. It could also create unnecessary friction for someone who’s trying to get help or complete a purchase. With Hootsuite Inbox, each new message appears in a user-specific thread. There, you can see past activity and reference it in future messages. 

4. Using sarcasm or irony

Using sarcasm and irony on social media can be dangerous. How many times have you seen people misinterpret and take offence at a tongue-in-cheek remark?  If you’re not communicating in a straightforward way, you might never know you’ve lost someone’s business (or any hope of getting it). Can edgier brands get away with a little more attitude? Not in Facebook Messenger. If someone is reaching out with a question or suggestion, a snarky comment suggests you’re not taking the person or their concerns seriously.

5. Messaging too frequently

On March 4, Facebook changed its 24-hour response policy. Businesses now have 24 hours to send messages (by human or bot) in response to certain user actions, with no additional responses allowed afterward.  User actions that start the 24-hour countdown include:
  • Sending a message to a brand page
  • Clicking a call-to-action-button within a Messenger conversation
  • Clicking on a Click-to-Messenger ad and starting a conversation
  • Starting a conversation with the brand page via plugin
  • Reacting to a message
But no matter how or why a user reaches out to you, it’s not an invitation to flood their inbox. Limit your response(s), and make sure they’re relevant to the initial message. After the initial 24-hour period, you can send event reminders and order and account updates using streamlined message tags. You can also send sponsored messages to re-engage customers and prospects. Order status updates are always appreciated. So is the occasional flash sale. But don’t inundate people with offers. Too many Facebook Messenger notifications will eat up brand equity fast.

6. Sending sloppy, error-filled messages

Nothing says “uncaring” like a poorly written message. Friends may forgive grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors, but customers and prospects won’t cut you any slack. Before you hit “send,” take a minute to check for typos, missing words, misplaced punctuation, etc. Try tightening up the language. Make sure you’ve covered all the bases in your response. The person on the receiving end will appreciate the effort.

7. Writing long paragraphs

Think of the last time you searched for a simple answer but encountered a giant wall of text instead. You had to comb through to find what you needed. Frustrating, right?  The last thing you want to do is give your customers and prospects the same experience. A long Facebook message versus a short Facebook message Source: Facebook for business Keep your messages on point and easy to digest by limiting them to two or three short sentences. If the user’s question or problem is more complex, you might want to continue the conversation on another channel (phone, email, or live chat).

8. Letting bots do all the work

A Facebook Messenger bot can be a great business tool. But most of Facebook’s 6 million advertisers aren’t seizing the opportunity. Today, there are only 300,000 active Messenger bots. Bots can acknowledge users’ messages, gather input, and answer basic questions. They can also complete simple tasks—everything from checking flight statuses to recommending products.  You can use quick replies, for example, to ask for a user’s product preferences or contact information. Once the user provides the requested information, that action prompts a new message, and the quick reply request disappears. prompts for picking colors and sizes for your auto response message on Facebook Messenger Source: Facebook for developers Here are Original Coast Clothing’s quick replies in action:
Original Coast Clothing quick replies
Source: Facebook for developers Don’t rely too heavily on bots, or you’ll irritate consumers who prefer to deal with real people. If a question or problem is too complex for bots to handle, they should “know” to stand down. If a live person isn’t available to connect, direct users to a different channel so they can get the help they need. To learn more about how to create Facebook bots and how leading brands are using them, check out our complete guide to using Facebook Messenger bots for business

9. Forwarding a message to a third party

People use Facebook Messenger, rather than posting on a brand’s Facebook page, because the platform is private. Forwarding a user’s messages to a third party would be perceived as a breach of trust. If you need to involve a third party to escalate a customer service issue, for example, you should ask for express permission to forward the message thread. Otherwise, provide a phone number and/or email address the customer can use to connect with the third party directly.

10. Not saying goodbye

If you assume a Facebook Messenger conversation has ended and you fall silent without saying goodbye, you could leave the consumer feeling neglected or snubbed. This wouldn’t be a good look for your brand or a smart move for your business. It’s important to bring closure to every exchange. Always begin with some version of “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” You’ll never know what other loyalty-building or sales-driving opportunities await. Use Hootsuite Inbox to engage with your customers and respond to messages from all your social channels in one place. You’ll get full context around each message, so you can respond efficiently and focus on strengthening your relationships with customers. 

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By Becky Tumidolsky

Becky began her freelance career as a B2B content writer in 2001. Since then, she has earned multiple industry certifications and a master's degree in professional writing. Becky currently serves as senior copywriter for Ontario Systems, an award-winning B2B technology company.

Read more by Becky Tumidolsky

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