If 2016 was a year of growing pains for businesses and chatbots on Messenger, then 2017 was a year of actual growth.
On average, 2 billion messages are being sent between businesses and people each month on Messenger, the Facebook-owned messaging service announced on Wednesday. Businesses are particularly popular with Messenger users in the US, Brazil, Thailand, Mexico and Vietnam, and Messenger is most popular with businesses in the professional services, retail, local entertainment, public good and media industries, according to Messenger.
As businesses have increased in popularity on Messenger, so has businesses’ interest in automating their Messenger accounts into bots. There are more than 200,000 bots on Messenger. That’s twice as many bots as Messenger featured in April, which also happens to have been the same month that Messenger unveiled its Discover tab to make it easier for people to find bots and businesses to message. That the number of bots has doubled since Discover’s debut is more correlation than coincidence, since discoverability was one obstacle that bot makers pointed to as restricting bots’ popularity on Messenger.
But it’s not only businesses and businesses’ bots that people are chatting up. There’s also Messenger’s own bot, M. In November, more than 100 million people interacted with Messenger’s virtual assistant. Through automated prompts called M Suggestions, M can facilitate people’s conversations by recognizing when friends are planning to see a movie or go somewhere and prompting them to buy tickets from Fandango or order a Lyft, but people most commonly use M to attach stickers to the messages they send friends.
Messenger’s product manager for M Laurent Landowski attributed M’s increase in popularity to the virtual assistant’s expansion to nine countries since its initial rollout in the US in April. And he cited the popularity of people using M to send stickers as another example of people increasingly using Messenger to send more visual messages, as also evidenced by the popularity of video calling on the messaging service.