Facebook Messenger tests ‘conversation topics’

With more than 1 billion users and an increasing audience to keep engaged, the social media app is trying a feature that suggests discussion topics. Here’s how it looks—and works.

Facebook Messenger is looking into increasing users’ opportunities for interaction.

Using data from users’ Facebook profiles—e.g., interests, events, recent interactions or music playlists—bots will generate conversation topics and post them in your Messenger feed.

In its testing phase, here’s how conversation topics appears:

TechCrunch reports:

These conversation starters appear to rely on Messenger’s connection to Facebook’s larger social network. It references things your friends have done lately including where they’ve been or events they plan to attend.

Suggested topics might include things like the songs a friend just listened to on a music streaming service, or an event they’ve indicated they’ve said they’re interested via Facebook Events.

Chris Messina, developer experience lead at @Uber, has access to the test feature. So far, he says he likes it for its ease of use.

Here’s why:

I can imagine striking up a conversation with my friend Drew about an event he’s going to because I might want to go, too. And rather than going to the Facebook event page to see if he’s going, Facebook already knows that we hung out recently (because I checked in on Swarm and posted to Facebook) and so it’s bubbling up people I’ve interacted with recently.

The same pattern applies to Jenn. I checked in with her this past weekend, and now it’s giving me more visibility into music she’s been listening to. If we had similar music tastes and I saw she was listening to a new track I was into, it’s totally plausible that I’d ask her what she thought about it and maybe suggest that we find a show to go to.

I understand that some people may find this creepy, but I would have been able to discover this information if I went to the Facebook event page or visited either profile. Facebook is surfacing information I already have access to but just might not have seen otherwise.

Tips for social media managers

How might this potential feature affect social media mangers’ outreach? Here’s more from TechCrunch:

The idea behind Conversation Topics is simple. If you’re looking for a way to break the ice with a new Facebook friend or catch up with an old one, these conversation prompts can help you figure out what to talk about.

In addition, the feature would have the added benefit of being a more basic News Feed of sorts, as it lets you catch up on friends’ recent activity, without having to scroll through News Feed and its clutter of shared links, posts from Facebook Pages, ads and other content.

This past spring, Facebook execs launched Messenger usernames and links for business pages, which encouraged more direct messaging between business owners and customers. It also aimed to simplify the search process and user experience.

Conversation topics stands to benefit brand managers who continually seek to “break the ice” with new and existing customers. Having access to data from your target audience (people who “like” your page) opens up a variety of possibilities to interact.

Pending the response to the feature’s test run, it could wind up serving as an engagement tool that’s both authentic and relatable.

Before you start strategizing, though, here’s what security analyst Graham Cluley says to bear in mind:

Facebook has carried out plenty of experiments in the past—offering a small subset of users a feature—before eventually turning it either into a new facility that’s available to everyone or quietly dumped.

If Facebook does push conversation topics to the masses, it will be interesting to see if the social networking giant will care about adding extra granularity into its privacy settings – giving users a choice as to whether their Facebook friends will be offered suggestions on how to start a chat with them.

Ragan.com readers, how might you use this feature—if it does become part of the Facebook landscape?

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