Growing chatbot audiences under Facebook’s Subscription Messaging changes

Chatbot Marketing


On July 31st 2019, Facebook changed the way businesses are allowed to message users and took away a powerful tool that many marketers (including yours truly) have used to keep their users engaged: the non_promotional_subscription message tag. Businesses who wish to use this message tag must now apply for access to use this tag and Facebook has written a strict definition as to what non-promotional messaging means.

The eligible use cases Facebook provides for the non_promotional_subscription tag are:

  • News: Integrations whose primary purpose is to inform people about recent or important events, or provide information in categories such as sports, finance, business, real estate, weather, traffic, politics, government, non-profit organizations, religion, celebrities, and entertainment.
  • Productivity: Integrations whose primary purpose is to enable people to manage their personal productivity with tasks, such as managing calendar events, receiving reminders, and paying bills.
  • Personal trackers: Integrations that enable people to receive and monitor information about themselves in categories such as fitness, health, wellness, and finance.

Facebook has always had what is commonly known as the 24+1 messaging rule. The 24+1 rule means that as a business, you can send any kind of message (promotional or non-promotional) for 24 hours after a user interacts with your brand’s Messenger. After the 24 hours ends, you have one more chance to send a promotional message. After you send that 1 message, you have to wait again for a user to interact with your Messenger before the 24+1 time limit starts again. 

So, how does the new non_promotional_subscription definition affect the existing 24+1 rule? Well, Facebook has always allowed you to send users non-promotional content any time you want. But marketers have used this definition loosely. For example, a common workaround the 24+1 rule was messaging users a day before a sale to ask them if they would be interested in receiving a sale notification. If they interacted with this message, then you were good to notify them of your sale!

The recent policy change might signal a shift in Facebook’s strategy for the way businesses use Messenger. Facebook’s stated priority is to engage users and promote community, and spammy bots do not contribute to either end goal. Violate the message tags and risk getting your page shut down. So, while it might inconvenience marketers, it definitely protects the user. And in the long run, it’s a great opportunity to think of creative ways to really engage with your audience and build long-lasting relationships with them.

Since these changes, we’ve had to do a major overhaul for our marketing strategy for eCommerce clients on Messenger. Here are the 3 strategies we’ve come up with. (Readers, please note that our preferred platform is Manychat.)

1. Set up your sequences

Sequences are Manychat’s form of drip marketing. Drip email campaigns are  a series of emails designed to convert the customer over time. Email’s (almost) free, so a well designed drip sequence can get you amazing ROAS. Examples include f a thank-you-for-signing-up message, a discount code for the next purchase, both, or more. You can use these same tactics in your Messenger. 

Whether you’re getting people to subscribe to your Messenger through an ad or organically, make sure you’ve prepared a holistic Facebook Messenger strategy and have some sequences ready to go. You can keep subscribing users to more and more sequences, depending on how they interact with your initial sequence. The possibilities are endless. 

Of course, you can only message your users every day (making use of that 24+1 rule) for so long. Chatbots are still a relatively new medium for users so use your sequences creatively to show them what your chatbot can do and how they can make the most of it. Maybe it’s something as simple as a reminder that they can ask your bot a question any time to get an instant answer – you can set this function up easily using the “keyword” feature in Manychat. We’ve got tips for that up next. 


2. Set up your keywords

 Keywords are a simple way to achieve a semi-sentient chatbot. A well designed chatbot can take some work off your hands and act as an automated customer service representative. Since not everyone has the time to train an AI and gestate a Turing-compatible chatbot, the next best thing is to set up relevant keywords. 

A keyword is what your user types in to trigger a pre-designed conversational flow. Really think about what your user wants from your chatbot and your brand. FAQs are an easy first step. But we’re talking about being creative and really utilising your chatbot. If you’re a fashion brand, what about providing a 24/7 stylist chatbot to help your customers choose the right outfit? You can design your chatbot to always be on call when they type “style me”. Or maybe you’re a vineyard and your user is hosting a dinner party. When they need to know which wine pairs well with grilled mahi-mahi, get them to type “find me a wine” and your chatbot can put your business’ knowledge to work. 

If you can think of inventive ways in which your brand can service your customer, you’ll be able to add value to their interaction and keep them coming back for more. Of course, activating that 24+1 rule is just the cherry on top.


3. Sponsored messages

This one we didn’t come up with but is very important nonetheless after the changes made to the non_promotional_subscription message tag. Facebook has now made it so businesses can send (paid) ads in Messenger. These are called Sponsored messages. You can do this directly through Facebook Business, or through a third party platform like Manychat. 

Don’t get these confused with Messenger ads which only appear in the Messenger home screen. Messenger ads have been around for a little while now and are similar to Facebook ads, occupying spaces your users are in. Sponsored messages are excitingly different and allow you to really talk to your targeted audience. It’s a medium that allows your marketing campaigns to be as targeted and personal as you need them to be.


A few things hinge on successful sponsored messages in Messenger. One is your audience. The sponsored messages feature doesn’t discriminate and will be sent to every user who has ever messaged your Facebook page and has an open thread with you – including ones that have unsubscribed. Take this into consideration and make sure you have your Facebook audience’s set-up so you’re sending your ad to the right people. People probably won’t appreciate a message from a business they’ve already unsubscribed from. 

The second is the size of your subscriber base. Make sure you’ve garnered a solid number of Messenger users before you waste your money. Remember, you’ll only be able to send messages to people who have subscribed to your page’s Messenger. Before you start sending ads through Messenger, hopefully you have a great chatbot marketing strategy to get people messaging your page in the first place. 

The third is making sure you utilize the medium of Facebook Messenger and especially that 24+1 rule. Depending on your brand voice, use visual elements to make your messages engaging, write snappy copy, and keep it interactive so you can extend the time you can message your users. 

Have you had trouble adjusting to the new restricted non_promotional_subscription message tag? Feel free to share strategies you’ve come up with to keep your users engaged.


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