How Facebook Messenger will help you discover new apps

Finding new apps is easy. Remembering to use them more than once Not gonna happen.

Facebook found a new way to point you toward new, must-have apps with app install ads in News Feed. The ads are a hit, accounting for a large chunk of Facebook's ad revenue each quarter. Facebook has made so much money from app install ads that other social networks like Twitter and Pinterest have followed suit. But getting people to open those apps after installing them instead of relegating them to the last page, where apps go to die, is a challenge.

So Facebook turned its popular stand-alone Messenger app into a sort-of app store. More than 600 million people use Messenger each month to send each other text, photos, and videos. But with the new Messenger Platform announced Wednesday at Facebook's annual F8 developers conference, you can send any content created within an app integrated with Messenger to your friends without leaving Messenger.

The platform launched with more than 40 partners, many of whom had just two weeks to prep for Messenger integration. There's JibJab, which lets you add GIFs, stickers, and emoji to your family's faces. Ditty creates a song by marrying a familiar tune to lyrics you write. Hook'd lets you send karaoke selfie videos. JJ Abrams's production company Bad Robot created an app called Action Movie FX that adds special effects to your video clips. These are apps that I wouldn't think to use every day, but if they're easily accessible when I'm sending messages--a context where GIFs, song clips, memes, and funny videos make the most sense--then I'd be more apt to dig into them more.

More apps are coming on board soon, according to Backchannel, including one from L'Oreal that would let you give your photo a virtual makeover and share the image with friends for their critique.

How it works

When you open Messenger, the app lets you choose to compose a message with text, a photo, video, voice message, emoji, or sticker. Now a More icon denoted with an ellipses will pop up additional choices--apps you've already downloaded that are integrated with Messenger, plus a selection of apps that you can install without leaving Messenger.

"There's a lot of competition and a large barrier for me to decide I want to use an app over and over again," Facebook product manager Lexy Franklin said during a Messenger Platform session at F8. "It's so easy for me to reply with any piece of content with the content itself. This all occurs in the messaging context with a rapid back and forth. This is an incredible tool for reengagement."

The composer is now a mini-storefront for apps, like a featured spot in the App Store. And the composer is also like a folder on your home screen--but instead of digging through a slew of apps, they're right at your fingertips. The apps you use the most will stay pinned to the top of the list, with suggestions from Facebook on apps to download just below. But discovery will also be organic: When your friend sends you a Facebook message with content created in another app, the sound clip, GIF, or meme will have an attribution below--a link that will let you install the app or open it to compose a reply if it's one you already use.

When I recently spoke with Facetune cofounder Itai Tsiddon, he told me that Facebook's app install ads were a significant driver of growth--in fact, Facebook uses Facetune as a case study for how install ads can immediately boost an app's popularity. Tsiddon plans to pursue a similar Facebook ad strategy with his team's new photo-editing app, Enlight.

If Facebook Messenger can drive people to use they apps they install, then its install ads will have more power than ever. Messenger Platform is a big play that works for Facebook, developers, and you.


Caitlin McGarry

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