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How EU Privacy Changes on Messenger Impact Chat Marketing

This blog is provided for informational purposes. It is not intended to provide legal advice. Beyond Points urges its customers to consult with their own legal counsel to familiarize themselves with the requirements that govern their specific situation. This information is provided as of the date of document publication, and may not account for changes after the date of publication. We encourage all businesses to update their own privacy policy.

Since December 16th, 2020, Facebook has placed restrictions on its Messenger API usage to comply with the European Union’s privacy guidelines. These restraints are in line with rules the European Commission recently unveiled that are meant to change the way big tech firms tackle harmful and illegal content.

The decision to enact these changes came about due to a landmark ruling by the EU’s top court that rendered the EU-US Privacy Shield invalid. These restrictions may be temporarily relaxed; however, there is no telling when this may happen.

Consumers may feel that these restrictions protect their privacy. However, these changes are detrimental to big firms who can’t use their customers’ data in the same way or rank the services they offer above competitors’ in app stores and search results.

In case companies don’t comply with how the EU is regulating their digital markets, they are liable to face break-ups and heavy fines that cost them up to 10% of their total European turnover.

Who Is Affected by the Restrictions?

The restrictions affect all twenty-seven countries in the European Union, as well as Iceland, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Liechtenstein. These countries are collectively the EEA.

You can be affected even if your Facebook page is located outside of the EEA. Brands leveraging chat apps such as ManyChat or Chatfuel will be impacted as below:

  • Users who operate their pages within the EEA
  • Users who operate pages that have one or more admins from the EEA
  • Users who have any chats with people from the EEA

If your business is based outside the EEA these definitions may sound semantic, but it critical to understand them.  For most businesses based outside the EEA, only people who message your page from within the EEA will be affected.  That COULD be a small proportion of your subscribers.  HOWEVER – if your page has any admins from the EEA, was created by an admin in the EEA, or if you’ve ever had someone from the EEA as an admin on your Facebook page, your whole page could be considered to be based in the EEA, which means that 100% of your messenger interactions will be affected!

What Steps Can You Take To Deal With The Possible Aftermath?

Relax. Chat isn’t going anywhere. In 2021 we’ll see Instagram messaging come to the fore and we expect to see much anticipated chat integration with WhatsApp too.

If you are not EEA-based, have no EEA-based page admins, and generate no EEA-based traffic to your bot, you can breathe a sigh of relief right now.

Suppose you generate a significant amount of EEA-based traffic but aren’t based in the EEA. In that case, your features will be impacted only for EEA traffic. If your page has any admins who belong to the EEA, you should remove them. Having even one EEA admin can affect your entire Facebook page—even if you’re outside the EEA. It’s advisable that you don’t change your Facebook page’s location since this isn’t a verified solution yet.

Taking steps immediately to identify the country origin of brand engagers in your funnels is vital. Abiding by these new laws is also critical in managing data and future marketing strategies both for inbound and outbound promotions.

You can also get in touch with chat marketing businesses to find out the best course of action for your company’s specific needs. Google and Facebook aren’t the only channels you can use for greater reach. In fact, today’s competitive online market can be best leveraged through omni-channel systems. You can advertise your product or service to audiences through channels such as Pinterest, YouTube, Spotify, WhatsApp, and SMS marketing.

What Are the Restrictions?

While EEA users will still be able to access Messenger and LiveChat, they’ll have to engage with the channel in guest mode. Guest mode keeps you from viewing and manipulating Facebook users’ native information, which includes:

  • Full name
  • Profile picture
  • Location
  • Time-zone
  • Gender

Effective December 16th, the data mentioned above will be unavailable for current and new subscribers in the EEA.

Facebook will also enact the following changes for EEA users:

Quick Replies and Buttons

Many marketers use buttons to embed URLs, thereby driving traffic to their pages. You can add buttons to text blocks or images.

Quick replies allow businesses to prompt customers with guided, simple options to reply to direct messages. Customers choose a prompt from a list of options, enabling prospective clients to have automated, seamless experiences and quick resolutions to their problems.

The restrictions prevent EEA subscribers from seeing buttons when they use Facebook on their desktops, thereby hampering businesses’ organic traffic. However, quick replies and buttons can be rendered on iOS and Android smartphones.

Quick reply rendering remains unchanged on desktops, but you can’t use quick replies for URLs anymore. Therefore, there’s no direct solution for sending traffic to a user’s desktop aside from putting a link in the message.

It’s reasonable to assume that chat marketing services will introduce new features that enable businesses to recognize whether a customer is using a smartphone or a desktop. However, companies can’t create relevant experiences for Facebook desktop users in the EEA until this happens.

What You Can Do

When an EEA user uses a desktop to engage with your bot in guest mode, they’ll only be able to use quick replies. Businesses need to assess the exposure they can get within the EEA and through EEA users. For now, it might be best for you to only display live chats on Messenger on mobile devices and remove ref urls and widgets if a significant portion of your traffic comes from inside the EEA.

It can be tough to determine whether a user is on a mobile device or desktop when they engage with your bot through other points of entry, such as your Facebook page’s CTA button. You could opt for solutions that detect devices, but these typically require button clicks—which, again, won’t be available to users in the EEA.

Instead, you could request EEA users to click plain URLs in your initial message, which would then detect the device, or use a live-chat tool that’s web-based.

Growth Tools

The Growth Tools that services like ManyChat offer Messenger bot users won’t be available for EEA-based users and pages effective December 16th. These tools include modals, live chat, QR codes, and Referrer URLs. Referrer URLs won’t work if you use custom parameters. However, users will still be able to use the naked .me link ( to redirect them to your start screen or welcome message.

Note also that as a secondary impact of this, customers will no longer be able to access Facebook Ads through your chat bot software.

What You Can Do

It’s advisable for you to disable the growth tools that won’t work for EEA traffic any more. This includes referrer URLs, slide-ins, and pop-ups.

You can still take advantage of the tools that will work for users in the EEA after December 16th, such as keyword triggers and the Comment Growth Tool. New bot subscribers can use keywords that you provide them in an initial message to trigger the main menu. The Comment Growth Tool enables you to send subscribers message when they begin interacting with your bot. You can personalize messages in Flow Builder to target existing and new subscribers in different ways.

One-Time Notification (OTN)

The OTN enables pages to send requests to users to send follow-up messages after the one-day messaging window is over. EEA users and pages can’t use the OTN due to the new restrictions.

What You Can Do

You’ll still be able to use the OTN feature for non-EEA subscribers. However, you can only do so after asking subscribers and confirming that they aren’t EEA-based through automated messages.

You may still be able to target EEA subscribers by obtaining their explicit consent to market to them through email or SMS. Your business can reach customers through other channels that aren’t limited by the restrictions placed on Facebook, like Spotify and Pinterest. A professional agency can enable SMS marketing for you anywhere in the world.

Traffic Generated By Facebook Ads

The new limitations keep you from creating custom audiences through your bot subscribers if your page is associated with the EU. The Facebook algorithm won’t target prospective customers who are likeliest to engage with your Messenger ad.

You can’t optimize for leads or conversations in Facebook’s Ads Manager or create sponsored messages for potential customers who have messaged your page or Instagram profile.

What You Can Do

Target your page’s cold audiences by testing clicks-to-Messenger ads. While you may see an increase in the cost per action, it’s not likely to be hefty.

Since the JSON default ad set-up will be deactivated for EEA users and pages, you can use the visual JSON ad set-up that triggers Messenger flows through keywords incorporated into advertisements.

Media Attachments

EEA subscribers won’t be able to receive or send audio or video formats effective December 16th.

What You Can Do

You can still target EEA subscribers through .jpg or .gif files, so replace any audio or video messaging with files in these formats. You can also provide your customers with download links to files outside Messenger.

Dynamic or Persistent Menus

The new limitations prevent EEA subscribers from viewing your dynamic or persistent menu on Messenger.

What You Can Do

You can’t replace the persistent menu, so ensure that your main menu’s build-out has a proper flow that users can trigger through quick replies or keywords.

The Future of Chat Marketing

Suppose a large volume of your page’s traffic comes from the EEA. In that case, it’s best to use an omnichannel marketing approach so you can target subscribers through SMS and email.

You can also market your page to EEA subscribers through web-based conversation options instead of platform-centered apps like Facebook Messenger. These channels have fewer restrictions than Facebook’s current EU-imposed limitations. Beyond Points typically is first with leading tech and is testing application options into 2021 that allow more flexibility for brands.

However, the restrictions placed on EEA users and marketers don’t mean the end of chat marketing. Consumers can use multiple platforms to receive relevant responses from businesses around the clock. With people becoming used to personalized advertisements and customized marketing, chat is more important than ever to provide customers support before and after making purchases. It’s the way consumers choose to get direct and immediate solutions to their online experiences.

Over the last five years, Beyond Points has leveraged conversational marketing as a proven high performing conversion tool. Ironically because messaging by nature is instant and also a personalized experience, it offers consumers flexibility to choose to engage at a time that suits them. We will continue to combine the best technologies to serve our growing brands effectively incorporating chat marketing.