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UX Best Practices: Using Emojis, Stickers and Gifs with Bots for Messenger

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Emojis, GIFs and stickers are commonly used in person to person communication, though they have slightly different uses and meanings. Here’s what we know about the use of these forms of communication between people:
  • Of the three types, emojis are more serious/formal in the information they convey, followed by stickers and GIFs.
  • When compared to emojis, people typically send stickers and GIFs to close friends and family members
  • GIFs are considered “funny” and “expressive.” Compared to emojis and stickers, GIFs are more expressive and can express emotions more precisely.
  • A single emoji can be sent as a form of expression, but are also often sent as a sequence of emojis (e.g. 🎉🎉🎉 to emphasize the sentiment or 🙄😜😂 to express more complex emotions).
  • Manage User Expectations: Be direct about what your bot can / can’t do. If you don’t want to provide support for gifs, images, etc. the best thing to do is to be clear with users that your bot doesn’t understand these. You can be direct and formal (“I’m sorry, I don’t know how to interpret images, gifs and stickers.”) or, based on your bot’s personality, you can respond with something more in character (“Sorry, I don’t have eyes! I can’t see images or gifs you send me.” or “My creators didn’t give me the capability to understand gifs and images. Can you help me by typing your response instead?”).
  • Train by Example: Just like with all bot outputs, if a bot says something to a user, then the expectation is that the bot will also understand the thing that it said. If you use GIFs, emojis and stickers in your responses to users, they are more likely to send them back to your bot, so be sure and provide support for bi-directional conversation based on the components your bot uses in conversation.
  • Understand sentiment: If possible, try to understand the sentiment behind the emoji that you’re responding to. Understanding sentiment is much harder for stickers and GIFs, but because emojis were standardized by the Unicode Consortium in 2010 as part of Unicode 6.0, there are tools out there that you can leverage for emojis. EmojiNet will provide keywords and similar emojis to the one being searched for, or can also search emojis based on a particular sentiment. There are also some sentiment analysis packages out there that can be used. Here are just a few: Github list of emoji rated for valence in JSON, Emoji > Sentiment library from NPM, Github emoji analysis
  • Provide meaningful output: For the most common emojis, you can hard code responses directly if you can’t integrate sentiment analysis. At the bare minimum, it is important to try and respond to the most common emojis and stickers from users with meaningful outputs (i.e. have a response and make sure it’s not a variant of “I don’t understand”). One of the most commonly used emoji/sticker in Facebook Messenger is the thumbs up sticker. You can consider this an acknowledgement from the user, so consider experimenting with responding as you would if the user said “ok” or “thanks” to your bot by using the thumbs up instead. Here’s an article that provides a list of the most common emojis from users in 2017 for Messenger.
  • Be cautious about mismatches in the bot response with the user sentiment: Don’t respond to a negative emoji, sticker, etc. with a positive response. It makes the user feel like they’re not being heard when providing negative feedback and it loses credibility. Additionally, there are very few circumstances in which ignoring user input is a good idea, so try not to ignore these inputs just because they’re different. Example of an interaction to avoid:

There are some significant advantages to using emojis, GIFs and stickers in your responses. It can be a great way to incorporate a bot personality that embodies your brand. It can also make the conversation more lighthearted, or more casual, which might be appropriate in some contexts. For example, recent research shows that adding emojis to engage users might work out well, but asking them questions about their physical activity might be better received without the use of emojis. However, if used, keep in mind that emojis do not look the same on every platform and they might have ambiguous meanings to users based on their cultural background and language.

Emojis come as text messages to your callback. Here are a couple of examples:

{ 
“sender”: { 
“id”: “<PSID>” 
},
“recipient”: { 
“id”: “<PAGE_ID>”
},
“timestamp”: 1458692752478,
“message”: { 
“mid”:”1B_UBJYvePYnQAOMIZLZJLC5640S_K72IRsYiZ2aIIz
FcDlDnKZPOllmCesLRzO_2YvwnX0VE2iVctjh-OmXVg”,
“seq”: 59333,
“text”: “:)”
} 
}{ 
"sender": { 
"id": "<PSID>" 
},
"recipient": { 
"id": "<PAGE_ID>"
},
"timestamp": 1544141335159,
"message": { 
"mid":"zFYmb2mX3vOeZzo62ZnRCbC5640S_K72IRsYiZ2aIIyvZGGRoG
RRevhV3qZwjiCA9z82sNv2ri-slKgIqLshFw",
"seq": 59382,
"text": "🙂"
} 
}

In both of the above cases, the user sees the same message sent to your bot, as Messenger will convert 🙂 to 🙂 for the user on screen. But because in one case the user typed “:)” and in another they selected the emoji from the emoji menu, your callback will receive slightly different input. Keep this in mind as you’re implementing your solution, so that your bot’s behavior is consistent across these two inputs, which are considered identical by users.

Images and GIFs have the exact same structure in the callback message your webhook receives. The developer documentation has a good example here.

Stickers have a slightly different format in the callback message. Here is an example of the thumbs up sticker that can be found on the bottom right corner of the Messenger user input bar.

{ 
"sender": { 
"id": "<PSID>" 
},
"recipient": { 
"id": "<PAGE_ID>"
},
"timestamp": 1544141768928,
"message": { 
"mid":"ZElljPP9ttpinKrBWi_9F7C5640S_K72IRsYiZ2aI
IxCiWwEDgmwqsDfPnRJeEaCT9YDHbK7rLtEJlJjvq0DWg",
"seq": 59406,
"sticker_id": 369239263222822,
"attachments": [ 
{
"type": "image",
"payload": {
"url": "https://scontent.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t39.1997- 6/39178562_1505197616293642_5411344281094848512_n.png?_nc_cat=1&_nc_log=1&_nc_oc=AWOixYXgN71O7TwlRODnEhedCoenAU8uS2YslmfhKRJlZxcSTLO_tXRQfH1lGtJtymQ37EKdtAY0XQ&_nc_ad=z-m&_nc_cid=0&_nc_ht=scontent.xx&oh=6156b594b1791351766973d936bebff1&oe=5C684675",
"sticker_id": 369239263222822
} 
} 
] 
}
}

In the example above, each sticker has a unique sticker_id. However, there’s no description of what the sticker means, or any way to look it up. The attachment is similar to the ones for images and GIFs and will give you the URL of the sticker, but will also contain the sticker_id again. During your design phase, you can choose not to support stickers at all (since they’re easily identifiable), or alternately you could choose to only support the most common stickers that users might send, and store your own mapping between the sticker and the sticker_id by trying the stickers out in your bot.

Developing a bot that handles emojis, GIFs, and stickers can be challenging, but when development is done and the bot is live, the experience between your bot <> audience can become colorful and imaginative. Have fun experimenting with different responses. Take the time to understand your audience and the way they want and love to interact. By using that information to build out your bot in a unique way, you will quickly find a recipe for success.

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Making Apps Easier to Access as Demand Surges

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As more people shelter and take to the web, simplifying their login experiences is proving helpful

As more people adapt to new public health and safety measures, they’re increasingly turning to apps for communication, connection and community — from text and video chat, to gaming and entertainment, to social good. We’re seeing spikes in usage across a wide range of interests and activities.

With this in mind, we think it’s important that app developers understand what they can do, today, to anticipate and help ease any friction users might experience as day-to-day needs continue to surge.

Over the last few months, we’ve seen above average usage of Facebook Login, which lets people use their Facebook account to login to numerous apps and sites. When Android features such as Custom Tabs and/or Express Login are used to open Facebook Login, people are able to connect to apps at higher rates.

We think there’s a strong signal that seamless login products like Facebook Login and its Android features are making it easier for people to quickly connect with their passions and interests at this time of increasing need.

And beyond what the data tells us, we’re anecdotally hearing this directly from developers too.

For example, the team at Wink says users are spending significantly longer times on its video chat app, and that Facebook Login is helping to boost its registration numbers:

“The biggest challenge now is that millions of people worldwide are forced to stay home, so online social connections are more important than ever. We’re seeing significant uptick in organic traffic to Wink from many countries, and users are spending significantly longer time on our app, to chat by voice and video with other users around the world. Facebook Login offers a lower friction registration process, and it’s helping to increase our registration completion rate.” – Andy Tian, CEO of Asia Innovations Group

Additionally, Mattel163, which has seen a spike in people playing UNO, thinks simplifying its login process is making it easier for groups to quickly connect to have some fun:

“There is a need to stay connected with one another, no matter how far apart. With the help of Facebook Login, Mattel163 has been able to provide social connectivity and joy through UNO. UNO players can join the game and share their special in-game moments on Facebook. Once in the game, players can add each other as friends, play together in a team-based 2V2 session, or set up a private game in Room Mode with friends. Recently, we provided free Room Mode to all players, where friends can meet, chat, customize rules, and goof off as if they were playing traditional UNO.” – Amy Huang, CEO of Mattel163

It’s clear apps are playing a critical role right now, helping people all over the world connect to their loved ones, interests and needs. If you’re a developer looking for ways to enable and help people at this time, evaluating your login experience may be a helpful place to start.

We have a collection of best practices, implementation examples and other resources for developers interested in implementing Facebook Login. Similarly, if you’d like to explore how to optimize this for Android users, make sure you’re using the updated Android SDK (which includes Custom Tabs for Android by default), and enable Express Login.

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How Startups are Pivoting During the Pandemic

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Businesses throughout the world are facing unprecedented obstacles because of COVID-19. And for startups, the economic implications of the pandemic will have long-lasting effects. While the challenges are still new, businesses are already reevaluating their goals, customer relationships, marketing tactics, and staffing models in order to weather the storm. Here’s how four startups are rethinking business strategies, supporting each other, and helping communities as they pave the way for the future.

In the UK, Collective Benefits, a Facebook Accelerator London alumni startup that provides big company benefits for the self-employed, has seen an uptick in demand for its services. “We’ve been overwhelmed with enquiries from the self-employed looking for protections and a safety net. They need financial support now,” says Kimberly Hurd, CRO. “To help, we accelerated the launch of our direct-to-consumer beta program to give freelancers direct access to our benefits and protections like sick pay. We ran a four-day, full-team sprint to open up to our waitlist and were completely overwhelmed by the response.”

In addition to providing more benefits to more people, Kimberly and her team have partnered with the UK Fintech and freelancer community to lobby for clearer and quicker income support for the self-employed. With the influx of work to be done, Kimberly has made a concerted effort to help her team focus on their health during this time. “We mandate breaks. It’s important to give time and space to reflect, think and focus on family and mental and physical health.”

While businesses like Kimberly’s are dealing with an increase in demand, other businesses are pivoting to focus on new business goals. “Don’t waste a crisis. Adapt quickly and take the opportunity to prepare for the future,” says Roger Do, CEO at QSearch, a Facebook Accelerator startup based in Singapore. QSearch offers a social listening dashboard where customers can easily create and test communication strategies on platforms like Facebook. “With the pandemic, we saw a need to bring forward some of our product development plans and accelerate the shift towards AI and machine learning. We were planning to gradually make that shift in two-years’ time, but to ensure our product is relevant and timely given the changing times, we’ve moved fast to accelerate this in just two months,” says Roger.

QSearch’s ability to quickly change its course is paying off. “As a result, we’ve seen a reduced cost of data analysis by 70% and our clients are also experiencing a higher ROI for their spend,” says Roger. Through the struggle, the one thing that Roger says helps is the support of the business community. “The Asian business community’s response has been inspiring to see. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, everyone in the startup ecosystem is chipping in to help and do our part.”

This support expands beyond Asia into other countries where startups are banding together to support one another. “Being in touch with other entrepreneurs during this hard time is helping me a lot,” says Felipe Miranda Costa, CEO and CTO at Cloudia—a Brazil-based company offering virtual assistants for modern health clinics. “In each conversation I have with a peer, there are always some good insights.”

During the pandemic, Felipe’s team has partnered up with Colab, a startup they met while participating in Hack Station, the Facebook Accelerator program in Sao Paulo. Together they’re working on a project called Brasil Sem Corona (Brazil without Corona) to help monitor the number of people infected by the virus throughout the country. Cloudia also created a chatbot to answer questions and concerns about COVID-19 that its customers can use with their patients.

Like Cloudia, many startups are working to provide helpful and accurate information about the pandemic. Facebook Accelerator alumni Turn.IO, a company committed to giving social impact organisations a platform to have conversations that improve lives, is doing just that. “With countries experiencing a massive need for direct communication about COVID-19, Turn.io developed a pro bono solution—HealhAlert,” says Lieze Langford, Business Manager at Turn.io. “HealthAlert disseminates accurate, timely information to the public via WhatsApp at population scale.”

The team is partnering with the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide information and support to any person using WhatsApp in the world. “Our strategy remains the same, but the execution has focused on faster roll-out and standardised content and user experiences so that global NGOs and governments can launch WhatsApp solutions within a week,” says Lieze. While these times are especially challenging for startups in all parts of the world, startups like these are finding ways to focus on new opportunities at hand that not only support their companies but the lives of those around them.

Looking for additional resources to keep your operation running smoothly? Check out our COVID-19 resource page for tips on running a business during economic downturns, social distancing and well-being. We’ve included a list of Facebook startup program alumni that have been identified as startups that are actively supporting COVID-19 response efforts. If you’re a startup that would like to be featured on our resource page or want to learn more about what our startup program alumni are doing to address COVID-19 challenges, please send a direct message to our Facebook for Startups page.

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Introducing Graph API v7.0 and Marketing API v7.0

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API Updates Provide Developers with Improved App Permissions and Campaign Controls
New Requirements Outlined for Mobile Developers and Facebook App Review

Today, we’re releasing Graph API v7.0 and Marketing API v7.0, along with v7.0 of the Mobile and Business SDKs. Together, these releases capture several timely updates, including new fields developers can use for the Instagram Hashtag Search API and Special Ad Categories and new permissions for page-related data. Additionally, we’re noting some important new requirements for mobile developers.

Lastly, we do have some API deprecations planned, however, we reduced the number in order to help minimize disruptions for our developer community during this challenging time. We have a lot of exciting updates to share with you, let’s dig in:

New Fields for Instagram Hashtag Search API & Special Ad Categories

We’re adding a timestamp field to the Instagram Hashtag Search API which will allow developers to get the creation time for any post accessible via this API. You can learn more about how to access this field in our v7.0 changelog.

We’re also making a minor, but important change to the special_ad_category field — we’re renaming it to special_ad_categories (note the change from singular to plural). Developers can specify a single special ad category (i.e., housing, employment, credit, or none) at the campaign-level. If your campaign does not need a special ad category, you can simply pass in an empty array, or [NONE] as the value.

New Permissions for Apps to Read/Write Page Data

We’re announcing six new permissions to replace manage_pages and publish_pages, all of which are outlined in our v7.0 changelog. Taken together, these new permissions will provide developers with more access and better control over page-related data. Availability of these new permissions will be released on a rolling basis, starting today through June 1, 2020.

Developers that already have access to manage_pages and publish_pages will be automatically migrated to the relevant, new permissions by June 1, 2020, and access will remain undisrupted.

Developers with no existing access to manage_pages or publish_pages should actively monitor their app dashboard for the new permissions as they begin rolling out today. By June 1, 2020, all developers will see the new permissions and are encouraged to apply. After this date, applications for manage_pages and publish_pages will be unavailable and no longer reviewed.

Finally, developers who have recently applied for access to manage_pages and publish_pages will continue to be reviewed, and if approved, will be automatically migrated to the relevant, new permissions.

New Deadlines & Requirements for Mobile Developers

If you’re an iOS developer, it’s important to point out Apple’s recent announcement, which states apps for iPhone or iPad must be built with the iOS 13 SDK or later and use Xcode 11 or later. The deadline for adhering to these new iOS requirements is June 30, 2020.

And if you’re an Android developer, note that Android SDK will now be using the Android X libraries. All apps leveraging the Facebook SDK v7.0 must migrate to Android X for continued use.

Important API Deprecations

As part of our ongoing commitment to privacy and security, we are removing access to a number of APIs. However, as a means of minimizing disruption for our developers in the current COVID-19 climate, we significantly reduced the number of APIs we are removing access to.

A list of endpoints that will be removed from the platform are listed in the v7.0 changelog, within their product or node sections. You should review this list to see if your app is impacted.

Also, please be aware of the upcoming version deprecations:

  • 7/26/2020 – Graph API v3.0 will no longer be available.

As always, if you have specific questions or concerns, there’s Facebook Developer Support. And if you haven’t already, please consider joining the Facebook Developer Community — it’s a tremendously helpful resource for communicating and connecting with Facebook developers all over the world.

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