Since early 2000, various brands have continued their experimentation with different social media platforms and networks in their attempt to communicate effectively with existing and prospective customers. First, there were weblogs and then came Facebook and Twitter. It is true that efficiency and sophistication of these processes have continued to evolve. However, at its core social media was and still is a platform that aims at facilitating human-to-human and brand-to-consumer communication.
And then bots came into the picture and opened up many possibilities as far as business communication is concerned.
What are chatbots?
Chatbots are basically automated software able to automatically converse with users. Powered by artificial intelligence or AI, these bots have significantly improved business-to-consumer communication.
The concept of chatbot isn’t exactly new; it has been around for decades. In 1966, Eliza – the bot mimicked human conversations by matching user prompts to specific scripted responses. For at least some time, it was able to pass the Turing artificial intelligence test.
Since then, chatbots have undergone many developments. In April 2016, Facebook launched a Messenger platform that allows chatbots to be developed which can interact with Facebook users.
It won’t be wrong to say that we have already entered the age of conversational apps (chatbots), or what techies call a “bot net”. Besides ‘chatting’, chatbots help users to shop, make purchases, know the weather, read news and much more. It is expected that very soon a single chatbot may replace a number of apps.
Brands have already started dabble in AI, Domino’s being one of the first ones to do so. Besides having its Facebook Messenger bot to cater to consumers, Domino’s now allows users to place order by tweeting a pizza emoji. Taco Bell’s TacoBot within the Slack messaging platform enables users to order a taco swiftly. Taco Bell states that you can even, “Start asking it questions about our menu, see how it’s feeling or find out what its favorite movie is.”. Hyatt, HealthTap, Disney and many other brands are already using Facebook Messenger bots to connect with their target audience.
Right now, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Skype, Kik, Telegram, and LINE all have their own chatbot APIs. Chatbots are now all set to serve billions of users.
That being said, how can you as, social media managers, convince your clients to embrace chatbots? Well, let’s start by showing them how chatbots revolutionise the social media marketing sector and what it means for their brand:
Reduced response time:
An organisation can have its employees working only at certain business hours and not beyond that. However, delay in providing service or at least a response can often irritate clients. A chatbot can effectively bridge that gap. It can be that point of contact, helping with general queries or direct data gatherings. It can also register a complaint a query or a complaint for manual perusal at a later time. This round-the-clock accessibility shows that the organisation is effortlessly available for clients every minute. And if social media marketing has taught us anything, it is that instant replies and help are always appreciated.
While it hasn’t been done yet, it may happen very soon. Chatbots may be used for lead generation very soon. They can convey detailed data about the topic that an user is searching for. For example – if you are searching for a new home, the chatbot can not only bring you a list of available properties in your preferred area, but also as the conversation proceeds, it can get you the details of down payment, insurance, installment options and much more. Such a bot can be really beneficial for a real estate organisation.
It is simpler to assemble a chatbot than developing an app. Most brands need organised chatbots which perform a specific set of undertakings. These are easy to develop and can be done with a short period of time. Thus, chatbot development is a cost effective process too.
Statista states, “As of the third quarter of 2016, Facebook had 1.79 billion monthly active users.” So, at any given time, with a Facebook Messenger bot, this is the number of people you can reach. That is definitely more than the number of people you can reach via other marketing channels. You must also consider that messenger is more widely used that other messaging platforms.
Facebook now enables brands to target discovery of experiences by using Messenger as a destination for their Facebook ads. They can use any call-to-action in their Facebook ads, including “Send Message”. The ad will then directly connect the user to brand’s bot on Messenger. For reference, a chat thread will be created with a copy of the ad or configurable structured message. This will make it easier for brands to select their target audiences before engaging in one-to-one communication with potential customers. With this technology, Burberry has already built a holiday shopping bot, “which combines brand storytelling with an automated gift recommendation engine, will also allow users to chat with a human on the other end of the conversation if they have questions.”
Now, brands target content on social media to specific audiences as well as locations. However, they do not have a way to personalise the content that are delivered to customers. Chatbots enable brands to understand the context of a user’s query. If you are using a Facebook messenger bot, you already have access to a data source to understand the user’s habits; for example – their preferred time to check their device, their interests, relationships, plans, schedules and so on. Based on that data bots can provide most relevant information, recommendations and updates. Ideally, these suggestions will also be location-based.
For years, brands have been striving to appear more ‘human’ on social media and with chatbots, now they can do exactly that. People like digital interactions that have elements of human speech. Unlike applications, chatbots can go beyond just ‘purpose’ and ‘utility’ with intuitive interfaces. Chatbots, with their constantly improving intelligence, can help brands to become more empathetic in their approach as far as customer service is concerned.
Will chatbots replace apps? Yes, they most likely will, in the next three to five years. The point is, artificial intelligence continues to learn and continues to become more and more efficient. The more experimentation there is — both on the parts of brands and consumers — the better chatbots will become.
They already are the best way to reach out to millennials who have grown accustomed to chatting. Thus, if a brand is planning to strengthen its social media presence and implement newer marketing strategies, scheduling a meeting with chatbot developers to understand the scopes and efficiency of bots will be a great idea.
Explaining the points, mentioned above, to your clients can ensure that they invest in chatbots right when it matters. Who knows, not embracing chatbots now, may result in a brand falling behind its competitors, in another couple of years?