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Why I don’t write about the Facebook Messenger + Dialogflow integration

Over the last few days, I received two separate user questions asking me why I don’t cover the Dialogflow + Facebook Messenger integration on my site. I wrote some thoughts previously about this, and here I will provide an update post-GDPR.

This is obviously my opinion, so if you don’t like the conclusion I suggest you continue doing whatever you were planning to do and just imagine you never read this article. 🙂

Reasons why you think it is a good idea to build Messenger bots

Clearly, there are some major factors why people choose to build FB Messenger Bots. Here are some of them:

  • the audience is huge
  • the reach is massive
  • “everyone is on Facebook”

Let us look at these factors one by one.

Audience size

It is well documented that Facebook has previously reduced the effective audience size of businesses on their platform in an effort to get them to pay for ads.

Reach

The reach you will get is directly proportional to the liability you will face because of GDPR. Said another way, the more you exploit your reach, the greater the chance someone will report you as being in violation.

Everyone is on Facebook

While this statement is true, it doesn’t do you much good if you end up taking enormous liability because of the two reasons I have stated above.

The small business/marketer/entrepreneur will assume the most liability

This is probably the most risky thing about Messenger bots. Since the folks at EU are basically saying “We are not trying to harm small business, and our judges will only go after the giant companies. Just trust us” you can be quite certain that the exact opposite will happen. 🙂 Also, have you noticed that no one who makes this comment is actually an entrepreneur/small business owner?

For example, this is how I imagine the whole thing will play out:

Small Biz Owner: “I thought it was OK to send endless notifications because Facebook provides the feature, so it must be OK right?”

Facebook: “We only provide the features. We cannot assume any liability for anything that goes wrong, It says so in this fine print here, see?”

EU Judge: “OK, this is all too confusing. The law is too vague even for me! OK, Small Biz Owner, I am going to slap some arbitrary fines on you, and give you endless paperwork which will cost you a fortune in time if not money, just to make an example out of you. OK, Facebook, here is a million dollar fine.”

Result: Facebook is poorer by a million dollars (so no free snacks for their employees for a month), and you have lost your peace of mind, and your business has been set back by a few years.

Why I don’t write tutorials about the integration

The reason is quite simple. My preference would be to fully understand something before explaining it, including things like the business aspects of solving a particular problem. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is even possible for a single person to understand and explain all the liabilities you are exposed to if you try to create a Messenger bot in the post-GDPR world. (And this applies even if you don’t use Dialogflow at all).

My suggestion

Just wait and watch. Don’t get into Facebook Messenger bot development for 6-12 months. Let the GDPR shakedown happen. Maybe a few of your competitors will go out of business because of said violations, and you can capitalize on it. Or maybe nothing happens and you lost a small window of opportunity. Which, when you think about it, is no different than the 10 other windows of opportunities you probably missed in the last 3 years. Am I right, or am I right? 🙂

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