Expression Apps: Conversation As a Platform


Today at Facebook’s F8 Developers Conference, the social network announced a series of major updates coming to their standalone Messenger app. Starting today users will be able to discover and interact with a select number of chat bots called “Expression Apps” all from within the messaging platform. The social giant also introduced an entirely new development suite, aptly named Messenger Platform, which provides developers access to a host of APIs, and SDKs to aid developers in building these interactive experiences.


Messaging is the number one way we communicate with one another and the most common action we take on our phones. It is global, instant, interactive, and proactive – and because brands have seen the volume of inbound messages decrease drastically over the past year, Facebook wants to make as easy to get your content in and out of the app as possible.

All of these changes are an effort to bridge the gap between the 900 million monthly active users with the over 50 million businesses on Facebook. Consumers do not like calling 1-800 numbers and getting in contact with a business can be a hassle, thus these new features will provide e-commerce and customer service solutions, all without leaving the app.

By combining automated services with a human touch, these developments aim to create a tool where brands can express themselves in a richer way, and users have a revolutionary new method to communicate with businesses.


Expression Apps are rooted in the idea of using conversation as a platform and Facebook believes Messenger can be a one stop shop for brand communication, e-commerce, and customer service.

These applications function within Messenger by using bot technology and artificial intelligence to create conversational experiences which can be personalized and distributed at scale. These bots will be used in one of two ways: simple text messages or in what they are calling “Structured Messages.” Structured messages take a hybrid approach combining conversational elements along with a clean UI that features titles, images, bubbles, URLs and calls to action.


With Messenger Platform, businesses can add Messenger plugins to their websites that drive to the app, or they can publish their chat code, which is a personalized QR code similar to Snapcodes, where users take a picture within Messenger and are taken directly to a private conversation.

Lastly, in a recent update to the app, the search bar on Messenger stays persistent on top and users can search for the bot of their choosing.

For the brands with more advanced development resources, Facebook is also providing access to their bot engine which helps build more complex bots that combine natural language with artificial intelligence that can learn over time. They will be ramping this feature up slowly as need grows because these were built for companies that handle large volumes of messages.


The use of Expression Apps is in a closed beta where each app is closely monitored and must be reviewed before publishing. As the popularity of the program grows, each new app will be added to a waitlist.

Ads and promotions are not permitted in the messenger platform, though Facebook is currently testing sponsored experiences in at a very small scale. This is an opt-in only feature for users where they either click on the button from a 3rd party, or they give explicit permission to communicate with the page. Users will be given strong controls to report miss-use and overly promotional experiences.

Additionally, they are introducing new News Feed ads that feature a “message” CTA to drive users to Messenger with a focus on both new user acquisition and retention.  Facebook Page Insights will also have a new tab for reporting on Messenger activity.

For a one-time $99 fee, brands will be able to match their current CRM phone number data with their current Facebook fans using messenger.

Brands that succeed with Messenger will be those that take advantage of the built in data advantages of the Facebook platform – like location, interests, connections and previous interactions – to improve upon and customize conversations with their consumers, creating an elevated experience rather than just replicating the automation they have on other channels today.