Innovation

Facebook boosts business appeal of Messenger with new NLP capabilities

Facebook officially launched Messenger Platform 2.1, which allows businesses to more easily add automated conversations for customers.

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Image: iStockphoto/DragonImages

On Thursday, Facebook launched Messenger Platform 2.1, adding additional natural language processing (NLP) capabilities aimed at making the platform a better tool for business communication. According to a Facebook blog post announcing the new version of Messenger, the platform has also received updates to improve collaboration across apps and to improve payments.

The new NLP capabilities will make it easier for enterprise users to build out automated conversation on Messenger, the post said. If a business enables the built-in NLP feature in their Messenger bot, it can help the company better understand what the end user is asking and preempt a response.

The technology detects the meaning in the text sent to the business through Messenger, identifying conversational entities around hello, goodbye, thanks, date and time, location, monetary amount, phone number, email, and URL, the post said. Using NLP, the post said, brands could scale their efforts more easily on Messenger.

SEE: Easy Natural Language Processing (NLP) in Python (TechRepublic Academy)

To enable cross-application collaboration across a Messenger experience, Facebook also launched what the post called "the handover protocol." This allows a business to build more than one experience in a single bot, and easily move from a customer chatbot conversation to a live human interaction on the platform, the post said.

"This allows customers to obtain quick answers to common questions through automation, and then receive more personalized customer support from live agents," the post said. "Handover protocol makes it possible for multiple service providers to power a single Messenger experience."

Payments in Messenger also got an upgrade in Messenger 2.1. A new SDK will streamline the Messenger webview payment system, allowing for a one-step payment process. This feature is currently in beta, available in the US only, the post said.

Businesses will also get access to five new Call to Action (CTA) buttons that can be placed on their Facebook page in order to drive more user toward experiences in Messenger. The five buttons are as follows:

  1. Shop Now
  2. Get Support
  3. Get Updates
  4. Play Now
  5. Get Started

Additionally, the Extensions SDK is getting desktop support, leading to a more consistent experience across the web and mobile, the post said. The user ID and sharing features will also now be available on desktop.

It's no secret that Facebook has been targeting the enterprise with efforts like Workplace. However, with the new features in Messenger 2.1, along with past updates such as end-to-end encryption, Messenger could prove to be the crux of Facebook's attempts to attract more professional users.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Facebook launched Messenger Platform 2.1, adding NLP features that could help make it a more effective platform for customer communication and enterprise messaging.
  2. A new handover protocol will make it even easier for businesses to transition a customer from an automated chatbot conversation to a live chat if they need additional help.
  3. New Call to Action (CTA) buttons will attempt to drive more users to Messenger, and the Extensions SDK will make a more unified experience across platforms.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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