Meta’s Messenger is getting a bit more social, thanks to a new feature called Community Chats.
Community Chats allow Facebook Groups to hold more than one conversation at once, similar to other online communities found on successful platforms like Discord. By allowing people to congregate in these digital forums, Meta is finding a new way to build fans and users on its platforms.
Loredana Crisan, head of Meta’s Messenger, talked to Cheddar News about its latest feature and how it fits into the the future of the messaging platform.
How does Community Chats expand what you can do on Messenger
Community Chats are a new type of chat in Messenger. They're connected to a Facebook Group, and they allow you to have multiple chats within the group. For example, I'm in this community called “Women who Serve.” They have a general chat for everyone, and also specific chats for different locations in California and also around the world.
What's cool about community chats is that you could have chats that are connected to events, and announcement chats that only allow admins to send messages and reach everyone, and also audio chats for when you want to connect live.
This seems like it's competing with Discord. Is that really the aim to kind of create that community feeling?
The reality is that it's augmenting a very thriving groups ecosystem on Facebook. I believe that all of us are part of a meaningful group on Facebook today. For example, I'm the parent of a non-binary child, and I needed connection with parents that had the same questions and needed the same answers as me. I love biking, but my husband does jujitsu and would not go on a bike ride with me. I'm connected with Bay Area bikers, and we plan our events. I realized that chat is a really important tool for groups to be able to connect in real time, get fast answers to the questions that they have, and also being able to plan and coordinate.
You recently took over as head of messenger in March. What are your main priorities for the app?
Our superpower with Messenger is it’s grounded in social. In addition to the standalone app, Messenger also powers DMs on Instagram and Facebook. We're excited to continue building private experiences for your connections in the short term. We're working on default encryption for your messages and bringing communities together.
Speaking of safety, why should people feel safe using Messenger that their private conversations are really staying between them?
It’s really important to understand that encryption protects your privacy. Nobody can see or access your messages at that point, not even Meta. You can use this today as an opt-in. But we're working to make this the default for Messenger.
In terms of safety protections, there are strategies to prevent harmful interactions in the first place, and make it incredibly easy to control your experience, including who can reach you. We also will give you all of the tools that you need to protect yourself like reporting and blocking accounts when you need to.
Across the board, social platforms are looking to expand e-commerce, especially since people got used to shopping online during the pandemic. I know you guys already do a lot of work with small businesses. But how is this a growth opportunity for Messenger?
We already have a really thriving business ecosystem on Messenger from discovery through ads that can point you directly to chats, and also to chat experiences that allow businesses to generate leads, like answer questions and help with customer support and also close the sale directly from Messenger. This is something we're going to continue to invest in.
Meta’s main business, at least for now, are ads. Do you see a day where Messenger will have a ton of advertising?
There are messaging ad types that are on Facebook, and they point to Messenger chats where businesses and people can connect. I expect this to continue to grow versus ads in the Messaging experience, in particular.
You yourself didn't come from an Ivy League background, and your major in college, as I understand, it wasn't in STEM. So what's your approach to try to increase diversity, especially in Silicon Valley?
I generally look at candidates that are passionate about what they're doing much more than have the credentials that you'd necessarily come to expect in Silicon Valley. People will surprise you, and what's really important is to see the passion and the learning and the capacity to grow and invest in that.
This is what happened for me with many people taking bets on who I was as a person and what I wanted to do, and I wanted to pay it forward to the community, of course.
There's so many different messaging apps out there. You mentioned that even Messenger powers, Instagram DMs, and also Facebook Messaging. What can you do to stand out?
For us, it's about leaning into our strengths. As I was saying before, we are truly grounded and social and all of the ecosystem that Facebook and Instagram represent for people. This includes connections with your friends and family, but also communities and creators. We're leaning into these audiences to build new experiences for people.