Messaging your favorite brands through Facebook with questions about Quesaritos or complaints about holiday cup designs may seem like an innocent enough way to kill some time – I’m looking at you, bored teenagers, stoned college students and bored old folks – but moving forward, you may want to be extra scrupulous when deciding to use Facebook Messenger to do things like ask Arby’s what’s up with its venison sandwiches, lest you get pinged with ads for the rest of your life.
Importantly, none of the brands above have openly said they plan on using Facebook Messenger for ads, but if they, or any of the other companies trying to harness the power of social media on Facebook, want to start spreading their messages via the site’s chat service, the social networking giant is giving them that power – but with one important caveat: Brands can send you ads via Messenger only if you’ve started the conversation with the brand first. It’s a little bit like that guy who turned into your stalker reminding you that, hey, you were the one who said you thought he was cute back in 4th grade.
These “sponsored messages,” as Facebook calls them, part of the rollout of Messenger Platform v1.3, are described as “a highly targeted, in-context ad type that allows businesses to re-engage people who have an open, existing conversation with their business” and can start immediately. However, don’t expect some social media intern to hit you up on chat to discuss how your experience at 365 by Whole Foods went: These interactions will be driven by bots – automated computer salespeople programed to sell you stuff.
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What isn’t clear is whether Facebook users will have the option to start a conversation with a brand and then opt out of future chat interactions from there. As Lifehacker points out, the best way to avoid these ads for now is probably just to avoid chatting with any company on Facebook all together. But on the flip side of that, if you’re lonely, maybe this is just the news you were waiting to hear?