The good, the chatbot and the ugly
Bots have a bit of a bad reputation at the moment. From news of propaganda bots on Twitter, to the near-ubiquitous Captcha logins that make you prove that you aren’t one, we already have the sense that bots on the web are a nuisance at best and a danger at worst.
But not all bots are like that. Innovations on some of the most well-known platforms have led to the creation of chatbots: automated messaging tools that allow a new space for your audience to interact with your organisation. Imagine that you could speak to each and every member of your audience (or potential audience) directly to let them know what you have planned, and that they could ask you questions easily and efficiently in return. While chatbots don’t quite make this possible, they do offer the chance to make it appear so. Chatbots can be made to work in a range of messaging apps – like Facebook Messenger or Skype – and so allow you to promote your work while making it feel like you are talking directly to the one audience member.
Here are just four ways that building your own chatbot could benefit your organisation:
Time and location
A chatbot can identify the time that the user sends a message, and (if they give your bot permission) where they are sending that message from. So if you’re a touring company, and a user asks your chatbot “when is the next show near me?” the chatbot can reply with the exact date, time and location of your next show. For the user, this is much simpler than endless googling, trawling your website or leafing through your brochure. The time and location features, coupled with access to your timetable of upcoming shows, casual language and the user-friendly interface of messaging apps, allows your audience to ask important questions as if they were asking a friend.
Chatbots allow you to send mass messages to your entire audience. In the years to come, this could be a more effective way of sending news and promotional messages than a traditional e-newsletter. Open rates for mass communications via Facebook Messenger tend to be higher than open rates for mass emails (one company even claims that Messenger open rates are as high as 98%). While the initial pool of followers of your chatbot is likely to be lower than the tally of your e-newsletter subscribers, the amount of engagement with your organisation could be much greater.
Perhaps an even greater possibility for chatbots’ mass messages function is sending important alerts to audience members. For example, if you’re a festival and one of your acts cancels on the day they are due to perform, you can alert your attendees swiftly using a chatbot so they receive the message wherever they are – rather than wait and tell them the bad news when they get to the venue.
Inline images and videos
Chatbots also give you the chance to do something fun. You can ask individual audience members a question and see what their responses are within the quiet space of a messaging app, allowing you to instantly drown out the noise of an open social media platform like Twitter. The sense of fun that these chatbots offer is amplified by the way you can send your audience members images, videos or gifs.
With images and videos, you can inject your chatbot (and your organisation) with some personality by sharing videos of your cast in rehearsal, or by sharing an image of one of your museum’s exhibits each week with an accompanying fact about it. Again, using casual language partnered to the messaging app interface makes this sort of engagement feel less like a lecture or promotion and more like receiving something from a friend. American news site Quartz’s chatbot on Facebook Messenger even sends a gif every time the user responds to a question in a particular way, adding a sense of fun to the conversation between the user and the chatbot.
Instant calls and messages
Chatbots can also make it easier for your audience to contact a real human. Adding a “get in touch” option in your chatbot’s menu allows the user to message your Facebook page directly if they have a question that a bot can’t handle. Equally, you can also add a call button to your chatbot interface, which allows users to call your customer service team directly. Far from being a replacement for human contact, chatbots can in fact make it easier for your audience to get in touch with you, improving their overall experience.
That’s all well and good, but how to get started? Thankfully, there are lots of options open to you. Programmes like ChatFuel (amongst others), for example, allow you to create chatbots without any knowledge of coding required. There are also helpful guides on the Internet to help you get your organisation’s first chatbot off the ground. And remember, it doesn’t need to be too complicated – while some chatbots allow users to input text freely, others only give users a strict number of options to choose from at each point in the conversation, which can make it easier for you to plan and prepare for. If you need any further information, get in touch and we’ll be able to point you in the right direction.