Chatbots are making it easier for brands to reach consumers on social media. With the help of bot technology, brands are engaging directly with customers and potential clients on social media messaging platforms. These bots can entertain, assist and inform social media users in the format they prefer: chatting.
The chatbot explosion on social media
Chatbots are computer programs designed to simulate conversation with human users, Oxford Dictionaries explains. Their focus on conversations is perhaps why they are becoming so popular on social media, and especially messaging platforms.
More than 11 000 bots were built on Facebook’s Messenger app within 12 weeks after the functionality’s launch in April 2016. VentureBeat reported that the number went up to 34 000 by November 2016.
Brands can also use chatbots on Twitter. The social network enables businesses to send Twitter users automated welcome messages in Direct Messages and offers a quick reply function. Other platforms that allow users to chat with bots include Skype, the messaging platform Kik, and team collaboration tool Slack.
Intelligent marketing tools
Chatbots can help brands achieve various marketing goals. Some bots merely create awareness of your brand, while others can help to make your brand’s social media page a go-to destination for assistance or advice.
Bot technology on messaging platforms is now going as far as promoting products to consumers and directing them to e-commerce websites. Some brands even allow customers to order and pay for products – all in a conversation with a chatbot.
Five types of social media chatbots for brands:
1. The entertainer
A simple way brands are using chatbots is as “entertainers”. Entertainment and media companies have, for instance, started to use these bots to promote new films to social media users.
In 2016, the entertainment company Lionsgate launched a chatbot game on Messenger and Kik to promote the movie, Now You See Me 2. Its creators call it “a magically intriguing interactive story game”.
The marketing-focused publication [a]listdaily reviewed the chatbot game, explaining that it helps to immerse fans in the film’s story. The publication notes that the “bot gaming experience” lets users solve puzzles and interact with characters from the Now You See Me universe.
Disney also used a chatbot on Messenger to promote its film Zootopia and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment brought to life the Doc Brown character from its Back To The Future Trilogy on Messenger.
These bots invite social media users to feel part of the story, which helps to create interest in the films – and, ideally, sell more movie tickets.
2. The customer service agent
This type of bot answer customers’ service-related questions and, because they are permanently active, customers can receive answers immediately, no matter the time of day.
One of the latest companies to launch a customer service chatbot on a national scale is Vodafone Italy. The company launched its “Vodafone Bot” in January 2017, which is available through Messenger or the company’s private chat option.
The bot can answer basic questions and puts customers in touch with a human operator when they need one. A report by a research and publishing company, Fast Mode, also explains that almost 90% of Vodafone Italy’s monthly total interactions happen digitally. This makes the chatbot an efficient solution that helps customers when they need it – without the hassle of waiting for a response.
Want to know more about using social media for customer service? Read our article on Customer Support on Social Media is a Must.
3. The assistant
These chatbots build on the abilities of customer service bots to provide their users with valuable information. Assistant chatbots can make recommendations based on consumers’ preferences, for example. While these bots are connected to brands, they don’t exist solely to sell the brand’s products.
British Airways’ emoji-bot can recommend a holiday destination to suit people’s personality and mood. Even though the company created it to generate interest in its ‘Unforgettable Sale’, people could also simply use it for holiday advice or to find inspiration for their next holiday destination.
Assistant chatbots are a marketing tool that can help brands play a larger role in consumers’ lives, without coming across as a ‘hard sell’ technique.
4. The branded chatbot
Branded bots are like ‘modern concierges’, helping consumers find new products that suit their preferences. They’re different from assistant chatbots in that they steer consumers more directly to a brand’s products.
Tommy Hilfiger’s Messenger chatbot, TMY.GRL, helps consumers find a Tommy Hilfiger outfit to suit their personal fashion style. When users choose the option, “Find Your New Look”, on the chat, the bot asks a series of questions about your style. It then displays three Tommy Hilfiger outfits that match your preferences.
Consumers in selected countries can add the items they want to buy to a virtual shopping cart while they are still in the chat. When they are ready to pay, the bot provides a link to the checkout page on the company’s website.
Rachel Arthur wrote in an article for Forbes that the bot is a playful tool that, with some “campaign work… could prove relevant for the brand and its aim to target the younger millennial audience”.
5. The e-commerce channel
E-commerce on social media is still in development. Facebook launched its Marketplace platform in October 2016. Instagram has also been testing an icon that displays on photos of products and allows users to click on a “Shop Now” link.
With the use of bots, messaging apps like Facebook Messenger are proving to be ideal platforms for e-commerce. Based on this, Domino’s Pizza in the US launched Messenger Ordering in September 2016, bringing together bot technology and e-commerce in a chat app.
The chatbot allows customers to order food in Messenger. It’s a step up from branded bots like TMY.GRL, as users don’t have to leave the chat to pay for their order. Customers have to, however, create a profile on the company’s website and enter their credit card details before using the bot.
Domino’s Pizza explains in a press release that, after setting up a profile, it’s as simple as starting a chat with the bot and requesting either a pre-set order or the most recent order the customer made. Custom orders are also possible.
As one of the more advanced applications of bot technology on social media platforms, the Domino’s Pizza example shows how the use of bot technology for e-commerce is growing.
The evolution of these different types of bots is good news for marketers. With chatbots, businesses can come closer to having a presence in the everyday lives of prospective and current customers – no matter the time of day. Bot technology also allows these brands to reach consumers in the language that comes naturally to them.