Facebook released a number of changes and innovations for marketers, consumers, brands, and technologists yesterday at its F8 conference. As is typical for an engineering-led organization, what the general public was told was not as interesting as what developers were told.
The big announcement of the day, of course, was the addition of bots to Facebook Messenger. Wrapped inside that announcement, however, was Facebook's first general public, consumer-grade artificial intelligence play, Wit.ai.
Wit.ai gives your average, technically competent marketer the ability to start constructing artificial intelligence algorithms for chat bots. If you can use the children's programming tool Scratch, using Wit.ai is not a significant leap forward. Building a bot on the new send/receive API is equally straightforward. If you can write code in the web's most popular languages such as Ruby, Python, PHP, or Java, you can begin writing a Messenger bot immediately. I was able to get one started in an evening, with relatively little difficulty.
The second major announcement was the Live API. This permits any camera, with appropriate development and code, to stream to Facebook Live. Gone are the days of having to do live video only from your mobile device. CEO Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated a live stream from a drone at the event; think carefully about all of your existing video tools and how you will deploy them in a live environment. Imagine 360-degree live, immersive video: that's where Facebook is going.
The third announcement was the Sharing Devices API. This is Facebook's entry into the Internet of things. Devices can share content to Facebook. Imagine an Internet enabled television sharing what program you're watching with your friends. Imagine an Internet enabled car sharing your roadtrip, photos and all.
The fourth announcement was the Reactions API, something I predicted when Reactions went live. We marketers will finally get granular reaction data including the total number of Reactions, the type of Reactions, and who reacted with what Reactions. This will assist us with structured sentiment analysis as a complement to existing unstructured sentiment analysis methods.
What can we take away from all these announcements? Certainly, there are many opportunities for marketers to take advantage of each of these APIs. The Messenger bot will provide Slack-like interactions inside a giant ecosystem. Expect to see many of the same innovative bots that we currently see in Slack within Facebook.
For example, Statsbot, a Slack application that delivers daily Google Analytics updates, would be ideal for marketers who want to receive a quick update about how their website is doing.
The bigger picture is that marketers and technologists, marketers and developers, can no longer be separate. Look at Facebook's 10 year roadmap:
Any organization that wants to win market share, awareness, leads, and sales will need to tightly integrate marketing and development. If you are a marketer who never talks to a developer at your organization, you are a liability to your organization rather than a benefit. Conversely, if you and your developers are having beers once a month or once a week, chances are you are well set up for success in the new digital ecosystem.
Marketing technology is no longer optional. To be fair, it was never optional to begin with. If you do not have a developer, get one - even if it is only a part-time contractor. Think you can't afford a developer? There are plenty of developer exchanges online, and many students in school who you could work with in an internship role.
In the next few years, marketers who do not understand development and code will be as out of date as marketers who don't understand the web or mobile. Be ready.
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