Can Facebook Make Money From Chat Stickers?

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Following in the footsteps of popular chat apps like Line, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has started adding beefed-up emoticons called stickers to its Facebook Messenger.

You can now download sticker packs from Facebook to use to spice up Facebook chatting. Two of the sticker packs available include one of the minions from the Universal Studios Inc. — which is a subsidiary of Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ:CMCSA) — film Despicable Me 2 and one of a cartoon version of Mark Zuckerberg’s sheepdog Beast.

While some people think that chat stickers are incredibly irrelevant, others believe they help extend chat communication beyond text alone. Facebook currently has about 15 sticker packs available for free within the smiley button in Facebook and the Messenger app in Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS or Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android devices.

Line sells sticker packs for its chat application, and earned $17.6 million in revenue during the first quarter alone from selling stickers. Facebook probably couldn’t get away with selling stickers the way Line does, but it could develop a way to allow businesses to create stickers to use for advertising. Even though Universal didn’t pay Facebook for them, the Despicable Me stickers are a perfect example of that possibility. The little yellow minions are cute, funny, and promote the Despicable Me sequel all at the same time.

The key to gaining a revenue stream from the stickers would be for Facebook to identify businesses and ad campaigns with identifiable characters that could add to chat conversations while still being linked to a product or brand, like the Despicable Me minions. If Facebook’s stickers grow in popularity, brands might be willing to pay either a lump sum or a per-use fee for their imagery to be available in one of the sticker packs. The strategy of giving stickers away, rather than charging for them like Line, also helps Facebook stay ahead of competition from other chatting options like Google Hangouts.

For now, Facebook is just testing the waters by giving away stickers, but the world’s biggest social network could soon get businesses to pay for their imagery to be a part of Facebook messaging.

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Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS