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The pandemic made businesses harness the power of social media to target consumers, here’s …

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  • Since the pandemic, brands have had to speed up their digital transformation. Many brands are now using Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp not just to stay connected with consumers but to sell their products directly to them as well.
  • Brands are also increasingly using innovative technologies like AR and VR to engage with consumers on social media platforms.
  • Arun Srinivas, Director and Head – Global Business Group at Facebook India tells us the role Facebook has been playing in helping brands in their social media commerce journeys.

The last one and a half years have witnessed a tectonic shift, not just in the way brands use digital as a medium to communicate with their existing consumers or to onboard new consumers, but also in the way consumers interact or want to interact with brands. The pandemic has brought with it a lot of learnings, with brands now using the power of social media platforms like Facebook more than ever before, to build stronger connect with consumers.

In India, over 416 million people access Facebook every month. Of these, 255 million people access Facebook every day, thereby presenting a massive opportunity for brands to target consumers where they spend a lot of their time virtually.

“Over the last few years, and especially in the last 1.5 years, we have seen consumer behavior change drastically. Sectors across the spectrum, be it online groceries or more traditional sectors like banking, have understood the power of digital and have been asking how to make their consumer’s lives simpler. Last year, a traditional organization like the

State Bank of India

realized that people were still coming to their branches to check their balances or print statements. That’s when they used Facebook Messenger for these tasks and were able to serve close to 600,000 people. Many other sectors, like auto or fashion, have been hit hard by the pandemic. So a lot of businesses have really had to pivot, to see how they can get the consumer’s interests going. We have partnered with both Maruti and

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Hyundai

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where we have done a series of virtual launches where customers have got to use technologies like AR and VR to understand what the inside of the car really feels like. It is also about training people about how they can leverage our offerings to best serve their customers. So it’s not so much about digital advertising spends but it’s almost like a change in some parts of their business modelwhere they are looking at hyper-local solutions by leveraging Facebook,” explained Arun Srinivas, Director and Head – Global Business Group at Facebook India.

How Facebook is helping brands stay connected with audiences

When the pandemic hit, brands big and small were faced with major supply chain disruptions. For many, business came to a complete standstill. However, platforms like Facebook helped them stay connected with the audiences. Once things started slowly opening up, there was a change in consumer behavior where people started getting comfortable with buying online and a lot of brands across the spectrum realized the benefits that came out of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp’s massive reach.

“Today, our platforms reach over 400 million people and more than 250 million people log in every day, so in some sense, it is like a census of India’s internet. And whether it is Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp, we are in leading positions and we have witnessed massive adoption, across the length and breadth of the country. It’s not just that our numbers have grown month-on-month in terms of people coming onto our platforms, time spent and engagement on these apps have also significantly gone up. When it comes to video, India and the US are the top two markets of video adoption globally and when we started marketing Facebook Watches which is our video platform, advertisers started seeing the benefit too. Video and especially short-form videos like Reels are helping communities engage with the platform through the power of content and creators. It is also helping businesses understand these communities and creators and finding a synergy to really market their businesses around them,” added Srinivas. On an average, over 6 million Reels are produced in India every day (as of the last 3 months – July 2021).

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Facebook’s consumer survey with

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Boston Consulting Group

showed that digital adoption and online shopping in India had accelerated by 2-3 years in the country within months of the pandemic.

The pandemic also pushed a lot of offline retailers who had been easing into their online journeys speed up their digital transformation. This has prompted a host of innovations like BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-up In Store), to make their shift to online quick and seamless. Businesses in the watches and jewellery segments that have adopted BOPIS are seeing traction from consumers who are comfortable shopping this way.

The advent of discovery commerce

Meanwhile, the pandemic also led to the advent of discovery commerce in India. Today, many consumers are increasingly discovering products and brands online. And as one of the most important channels of discovery in the virtual world, social media is an essential link in the path to purchase.

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A recent online survey commissioned by Facebook with

GFK

showed that 96% of the surveyed people said that they discover brands and products online. Furthermore, 83%, who discover new brands or products online typically discover on a Facebook platform. 96% of weekly users who discover apparel, beauty, furniture or consumer electronics on the Facebook apps ultimately make a purchase, said the survey.

Explaining how discovery commerce is an important trend to watch out for, and how Facebook is aiding in its growth, Srinivas added, “If you look at the first phase of e-commerce, it was largely around, what you’re clear on, what you’re looking for, and then you look for the products within the same category, and then you end up buying those. But the pandemic has really started shaping the next stage of evolution in commerce, which is discovery. You discover a lot of these brands for the first time on your Facebook or Instagram profiles, you end up getting interested in the products and then you are directed to that particular website to fulfill the transaction. Brands come up with new products or innovations, but as a brand, how do you really make sure consumers know about the launch? Discovery commerce is all about discovering a product on your feed, debating on whether to buy the product or not and then eventually finding a way to transact. This is a trend that we are seeing a lot in the US and Canada but we are also seeing early signs of that in India.”

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Updates to Section 7 of the Developer Policies – Facebook Gaming Policies

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We have updated Section 7 of the Developer Policies effective immediately. No change is required from the developers’ end, only awareness about these changes.

As part of our continuous focus on improving developers’ experience, we have made some updates to the Section 7 of the Developer Policies which covers all Facebook Gaming Products, such as Web Games on Facebook.com, Instant Games and Cloud Games. As part of this update we have removed outdated policies, and streamlined the language and structure of Section 7 to better reflect the existing state of our Facebook Gaming Products. We have also reorganized some policies under the Quality Guidelines. These updates do not introduce any product change, nor do they include any new requirements for developers.

Please review the updated Section 7 to familiarize yourself with the updated content structure.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Creating Apps with App Use Cases

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With the goal of making Meta’s app creation process easier for developers to create and customize their apps, we are announcing the rollout of an updated process using App Use Cases instead of the former product-focused process. App Use Cases will enable developers to quickly create apps by selecting the use case that best represents their reason for creating an app.

Currently, the product-focused app creation process requires developers to select an app type and individually request permission to API endpoints. After listening to feedback from developers saying this process was, at times, confusing and difficult to navigate, we’re updating our approach that’s based on App Use Cases. With App Use Cases, user permissions and features will be bundled with each use case so developers can now confidently select the right data access for their needs. This change sets developers up for success to create their app and navigate app review, ensuring they only get the exact data access they need to accomplish their goals.

Starting today Facebook Login will be the first use case to become available to developers. This will be the first of many use cases that will be built into the app creation process that will roll out continually in 2023. For more information please reference our Facebook Login documentation.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Understanding Authorization Tokens and Access for the WhatsApp Business Platform

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The WhatsApp Business Platform makes it easy to send WhatsApp messages to your customers and automate replies. Here, we’ll explore authentication using the Cloud API, hosted by Meta.

We’ll start with generating and using a temporary access token and then replace it with a permanent access token. This tutorial assumes you’re building a server-side application and won’t need additional steps to keep your WhatsApp application secrets securely stored.

Managing Access and Authorization Tokens

First, let’s review how to manage authorization tokens and safely access the API.

Prerequisites

Start by making sure you have a developer account on Meta for Developers. You’ll also need WhatsApp installed on a mobile device to send test messages to.

Creating an App

Before you can authenticate, you’ll need an application to authenticate you.

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Once you’re signed in, you see the Meta for Developers App Dashboard. Click Create App to get started.

Next, you’ll need to choose an app type. Choose Business.

After that, enter a display name for your application. If you have a business account to link to your app, select it. If not, don’t worry. The Meta for Developers platform creates a test business account you can use to experiment with the API. When done, click Create App.

Then, you’ll need to add products to your app. Scroll down until you see WhatsApp and click the Set up button:

Finally, choose an existing Meta Business Account or ask the platform to create a new one and click Continue:

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And with that, your app is created and ready to use. You’re automatically directed to the app’s dashboard.

Note that you have a temporary access token. For security reasons, the token expires in less than 24 hours. However, you can use it for now to test accessing the API. Later, we’ll cover how to generate a permanent access token that your server applications can use. Also, note your app’s phone number ID because you’ll need it soon.

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Click the dropdown under the To field, and then click Manage phone number list.

In the popup that appears, enter the phone number of a WhatsApp account to send test messages to.

Then, scroll further down the dashboard page and you’ll see an example curl call that looks similar to this:

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curl -i -X POST https://graph.facebook.com/v13.0//messages -H 'Authorization: Bearer ' -H 'Content-Type: application/json' -d '{ "messaging_product": "whatsapp", "to": "", "type": "template", "template": { "name": "hello_world", "language": { "code": "en_US" } } }'

Note that the Meta for Developers platform inserts your app’s phone number ID and access token instead of the and placeholders shown above. If you have curl installed, paste the command into your terminal and run it. You should receive a “hello world” message in WhatsApp on your test device.

If you’d prefer, you can convert the curl request into an HTTP request in your programming language by simply creating a POST request that sets the Authorization and Content-Type headers as shown above, including the JSON payload in the request body.

Since this post is about authentication, let’s focus on that. Notice that you’ve included your app’s access token in the Authorization header. For any request to the API, you must set the Authorization header to Bearer .

Remember that you must use your token instead of the placeholder. Using bearer tokens will be familiar if you’ve worked with JWT or OAuth2 tokens before. If you’ve never seen one before, a bearer token is essentially a random secret string that you, as the bearer of the token, can present to an API to prove you’re allowed to access it.

Failure to include this header causes the API to return a 401 Unauthorized response code.

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Creating a Permanent Access Token

Knowing that you need to use a bearer token in the Authorization header of an HTTP request is helpful, but it’s not enough. The only access token you’ve seen so far is temporary. Chances are that you want your app to access the API for more than 24 hours, so you need to generate a longer-lasting access token.

Fortunately, the Meta for Developers platform makes this easy. All you need to do is add a System User to your business account to obtain an access token you can use to continue accessing the API. To create a system user, do the following:

  • Go to Business Settings.

  • Select the business account your app is associated with.
  • Below Users, click System Users.
  • Click Add.
  • Name the system user, choose Admin as the user role, and click Create System User.
  • Select the whatsapp_business_messaging permission.
  • Click Generate New Token.
  • Copy and save your token.

Your access token is a random string of letters and numbers. Now, try re-running the earlier request using the token you just created instead of the temporary one:

curl -i -X POST https://graph.facebook.com/v13.0//messages -H 'Authorization: Bearer ' -H 'Content-Type: application/json' -d '{ "messaging_product": "whatsapp", "to": "", "type": "template", "template": { "name": "hello_world", "language": { "code": "en_US" } } }'

Your test device should receive a second hello message sent via the API.

Best Practices for Managing Access Tokens

It’s important to remember that you should never embed an App Access Token in a mobile or desktop application. These tokens are only for use in server-side applications that communicate with the API. Safeguard them the same way you would any other application secrets, like your database credentials, as anyone with your token has access to the API as your business.

If your application runs on a cloud services provider like AWS, Azure, GCP, or others, those platforms have tools to securely store app secrets. Alternatively there are freely-available secret stores like Vault or Conjur. While any of these options may work for you, it’s important to evaluate your options and choose what works best for your setup. At the very least, consider storing access tokens in environment variables and not in a database or a file where they’re easy to find during a data breach.

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Conclusion

In this post, you learned how to create a Meta for Developers app that leverages the WhatsApp Business Platform. You now know how the Cloud API’s bearer access tokens work, how to send an access token using an HTTP authorization header, and what happens if you send an invalid access token. You also understand the importance of keeping your access tokens safe since an access token allows an application to access a business’ WhatsApp messaging capabilities.

Why not try using the Cloud API, hosted by Meta if you’re considering building an app for your business to manage WhatsApp messaging? Now that you know how to obtain and use access tokens, you can use them to access any endpoint in the API.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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