As of December 16th, 2020, Facebook will restrict the use of Facebook Messenger because of privacy rules of the European Union.
These changes have a huge effect on the way how you can use Facebook Messenger with chatbots.
In this guide, I will tell you why it is changing, who is affected, what is changing and how you can comply with these new changes (including a free template!)
Let’s dive in!
Why is Facebook Messenger changing?
Starting on December 16th, 2020, Facebook Messenger is changing because of new privacy rules of the European Union.
Facebook also provided their own documentation about these changes, but these are a bit technical.
What must be said is that these changes, can also change (Whut?)
Yeah, let me explain that. In the last couple of days, Facebook already changed their own changes, so it could be the case that by the time you are reading this, some features of Facebook Messenger are already available again. To stay 100% up-to-date about the latest changes, I recommend to check out the changelog of Facebook here.
That being said, Facebook has said to not expect any changes before January 2021.
Who is affected because of these Facebook Messenger changes?
The changes come into effect to the following audience:
- Facebook pages that are located in Europe
- Facebook pages with admins located in Europe
- Any chats with people in Europe
But what is Europe? Europe is:
- All 27 European Union member states
- United Kingdom
So, now we know who is affected, let’s see what is changing and what we can do about it.
But before we go in, I must say that these changes are harsh and deeply affecting how you can use chatbots on Facebook Messenger. I even doubt how all these changes are related to privacy issues.
Nevertheless, we have no choice other than to comply with these new rules.
What will change?
So, what will actually change because of these new privacy rules?
Let’s check all of the changes one by one:
No Profile Picture
Normally, when a Facebook user starts a conversation, you automatically get their profile picture, but this isn’t the case anymore.
Luckily, this isn’t a huge deal.
Update: Facebook has updated its rules on 16th December 2020. First, it wasn’t possible to get all the user information (like first name, last name, etc). Fortunately, they have updated this rule and now it is just not possible to get the profile picture.
No buttons in Web client of Facebook Messenger
Usually, you would display buttons in Facebook Messenger, so that your users can click on them:
That’s not possible anymore if the user is using the Web client of Facebook Messenger.
However, if the user is using the Android or iOS app of Facebook Messenger, buttons will still work.
No Galleries (On Web Client)
Another element you could use in Facebook Messenger were galleries, such as this one:
These kinds of galleries will not show up anymore on the web client of Facebook Messenger.
But galleries will still show up on Android and iOS.
No typing indicator
Often chatbots use a delay function, that will show a typing indicator for a certain number of seconds:
That typing indicator will not show up anymore. So this is not a big change, but something worth noting.
No Persistent Menu
It is not possible anymore to show a persistent menu. Usually, you would have a persistent menu on the bottom-right of Facebook Messenger:
But this is not showing up anymore. This is a big drawback, because it allowed users to easily navigate to different chatbot flows.
Not able to send or receive audio, videos and attachments
This is just plain simple: You cannot send or receive audio, videos and attachments through Facebook Messenger.
It is still possible to send and receives images, though.
No profile in Live Chat
When your chatbot switches from chatbot to live chat, it was possible to show the profile picture and name of the live chat agent handling your conversation:
Unfortunately, you cannot show this anymore. So messages handled by live chat agents will show just the same as messages that come from your chatbot.
Send To Messenger Button and Checkbox Plugin not working
With Facebook Messenger, you could have these kinds of Send to Messenger buttons on your website:
Or you could add Facebook Checkboxes to forms on your website:
Both of these are not possible anymore and will not show up on your website.
Ref Links will not work
This is a huge drawback.
Ref Links were links that went to specific flows of your chatbot (and were really useful).
But these links will not work anymore. Now, automatically all your Ref links will go to your welcome message.
You cannot use the One-Time Notification
Ough, this is a big one.
This year, Facebook introduced the One-Time Notification as a way to reach users outside the 24-hour window. But, because of these new changes, it is not possible to use the One-Time Notification in Europe.
No PSIDs Matching
PSIDs are the unique identifiers of Facebook profiles. And you could use them to easily switch from one chatbot builder to another one.
But because of the new changes, we cannot match these PSIDs anymore. Therefore, if you change from one chatbot builder to the other, you cannot take all the users with you.
No Templates (Receipt template, Airline template)
Facebook offered templates to offer a richer conversation experience than standard messaging, such as a Receipt template, Media template, Product template and Airline templates.
For example, here is an airline template that airlines could use to show boarding passes:
Or the Receipt template (for order confirmations):
These kinds of templates will not show up anymore, because of the new changes.
How can you comply with these new FB Messenger changes?
So, how can we comply with these new changes to Facebook Messenger?
This is what you need to do:
- Remove any Facebook Page admins based in Europe, if possible
- Store existing User Profile information in a custom field
- Replace buttons with Quick Replies or Multiple Choice User Input
- Replace URL Buttons with links
- Tell users in live chat who you are
- Remove all Send To Messenger buttons and Checkbox plugins
- Remove Galleries, typing indicators and send/receive files
- Create a chatbot flow when someone says “home”
- Set keywords instead of Ref URLs
- Website Chat Greetings per Page instead of Ref URLs
- Ask for email or phone number instead of the One-Time Notification
- Check if the user is affected by these new EU rules
I also created a free template that you can download, so you don’t have to recreate some of these steps yourself 🙂
Remove any Facebook Page admins based in Europe, if possible
If you have admins of your Facebook Page who are located in Europe, remove them from your Facebook Page.
This, of course, will only be possible if you also have admins that are located in other parts of the world.
By the way, this will only work if your Facebook Page isn’t based in Europe and doesn’t have any chats with people in Europe.
So, how do you remove these Facebook Page Admins?
Just go to your Facebook Page settings and click on Page Roles.
Then, Edit the person based in Europe and click on “Remove”:
Store existing User Profile information in a custom field
What about users that already talked with your Facebook Messenger chatbot before December 16th, 2020?
Good one! I would recommend storing that information in a separate custom field, so that if they come back after December 16th, 2020, you could give them a personalized experience.
Here’s how I would do it for the first name and last name of the user. First, create five custom fields in your chatbot builder called ‘First Name Real’, ‘Last Name Real’, ‘Locale Real’, ‘Timezone Real’ and ‘Gender Real’:
Then, create a rule that assigns all the existing values to those new custom fields, if a user gets the tag ‘User Profile Information’ (and is a Facebook user):
Accordingly, you need to go to the Audience overview and assign the tag to every user, so that each user will go through that flow:
NOTE: You only have to do this once. And I recommend doing this on December 15th, 2020, in the evening.
Replace buttons with Quick Replies or Multiple Choice User Input
Unless you are 100% sure that all of your users in Europe are using their mobile phone, I would recommend changing all the buttons to quick replies or Multiple Choice User Input (these are quick replies, but then the user must answer the question before moving on in the chatbot flow):
The downside of this is that you cannot check whether the user is using their mobile phone (Android or iOS) or the web client. Therefore, you could better be safe than sorry, and replace every button with a quick reply or multiple-choice user input.
Replace URL Buttons with links
Just like with normal buttons that go to specific chatbot flows, we also cannot show buttons that will send the user to a website. Therefore, you must replace these buttons with links:
Often, people use UTM parameters to send extra information to the website (for Google Analytics) so you can track what kind of campaign gives the best results. Because of that, links could become really long and ‘ugly’. If you are using that, I would recommend using a service like Bit.ly to create small links.
Tell users in live chat who you are
Because users cannot see the name and profile picture of the live chat agent anymore, you need to tell users who you are. For example, if you are a coffee cafe you could say “Hey [first-name]! I’m Mary from the Cappucino Café, how can I help you today?”:
Remove all Send To Messenger buttons and Checkbox plugins
Because Send To Messenger buttons and Checkbox plugins will not work anymore, you should remove these from your website.
Remove Galleries, typing indicators and send/receive files
Because we cannot use Galleries, typing indicators (delay) and the sending or receiving of videos and files, you need to go through all of your chatbot flows and remove them one-by-one.
Yes, it’s harsh, but it is the only way to stay compliant.
Create a chatbot flow when someone says “home”
The persistent menu was an excellent way for people to navigate to different flows of your chatbot. But, you cannot use the Persistent Menu anymore.
Therefore, I would recommend to set up a menu flow when someone types in “home”:
By the way, why the word ‘home’ and not ‘menu’? Because, for example, if you are a restaurant you already have a menu flow (showing the menu of your restaurant).
Set keywords instead of Ref URLs
One of the biggest drawbacks of the new changes is that we cannot use the Ref URL anymore.
The Ref URL (also called Bot URL) allowed you to send users to specific flows of your chatbot. But as of December 16th, all Ref URLs will automatically go to your welcome message.
One way to address this change is by using keywords to let users go to specific flows.
So instead of saying to your users that they need to use a certain Ref Link, you should say:
Go to my chatbot with this link, and type in [keyword]
It is still possible to use a Ref Link, but this always goes to your welcome message. Therefore, users need to type in a keyword to go to a specific flow.
Website Chat Greetings per Page instead of Ref URLs
Another way to solve the problem of Ref URLs is by using different website chat greetings per page.
If you have a Facebook Messenger chatbot, you can put a chat widget on your website. Also, you can set a different greeting per page and let the user go to a different flow.
So instead of asking the user to go to your chatbot and type in a certain keyword, you can share a link to your website page.
And on that page, you set a specific greeting message that goes to a specific chatbot flow.
Let’s say you have created an ebook and want users to opt-in through your chatbot for that ebook.
Then you just could create a page on your website (https://yourdomain.com/ebook/) and let this chat widget appear:
If a user clicks on one of the buttons, they will go to your chatbot specific chatbot flow, instead of your welcome message.
P.S. The free template that I share with this post, is also structured this way. Just click on the Messenger icon on the bottom-right of this page and you can check it out 😉
Ask for email or phone number instead of the One-Time Notification
You cannot use the One-Time Notification anymore, which was a great way to reach out to users outside the 24-hour window.
So a good alternative to reach users outside the 24-hour window is to use multiple channels (also called omnichannel marketing).
Therefore, you must ask for the email or phone number of the user, so you can send them emails or text messages (through SMS or WhatsApp).
Check if the user is affected by these new EU rules
If you don’t have any page admins located in Europe, but you do have chatbot users that are located in Europe, you can condition on whether they are affected by these new rules.
And based on whether they are affected by these rules, you can send them different messages:
Note: This will only work if your Facebook Page isn’t located in Europe and you don’t have any Facebook Page Admins that are located in Europe.
Now It’s Your Turn
Well, those were all the changes and how you can adjust to them.
I even created a free template that includes:
- A rule that stores User Profile Information in a separate custom field
- A flow that starts when a user types in “home”
- A flow that checks whether the users is affected by these new rules
- Website Chat Greeting for a specific page on your website
If you want this template, just click on the Facebook Messenger chat icon in the bottom right!
Now I’d like to hear what you have to say:
What do you think of these changes?
And did you use other ways to solve these?
Let me know in the comments section below.