There’s a big hype going on about chatbots. If you’ve heard of them but aren’t quite sure what exactly they are or how they work, you’re in the right place.
This article will explain what chatbots are and how they can help you take your digital marketing to the next level. I’m not using “to the next level” as an idiom, because chatbot marketing might just be the next big thing. It has the potential to revolutionize the marketing world!
Chatbots can improve and benefit your marketing and sales in many ways. They apply to support requests, e-commerce and even personal or informational websites. You can find some of the best techniques in this article.
In a nutshell, Chatbot Marketing is about promoting products and services using chatbots.
Stick with me and below I’ll show you exactly how you can set up your own chatbot, and how you can put it to good work plus many more.
- What Is a Chatbot and How Does It Work ?
- Why Chatbots Are the Future of Digital Marketing
- Best Uses of Chatbots
- How to Set up Your Own ChatBot
- Possible Concerns and Problems
- Can ChatBot Marketing Improve SEO?
1. What Is a Chatbot and How Does It Work ?
Chatbots are complex computer software designed to chat with persons and perform different actions, from simple conversation to customer support and e-commerce.
A chatbot is short for “chat robot”. We think of robots as machines, but ‘robot’ actually means ‘forced labor’.
Chatbots can even talk between them, but most of the time they chat with humans and try to imitate real persons. Designers focus on passing the Turing Test with their bots. A bot passes the Turing Test when humans think they’re actually talking to another human.
The most popular online chatbots developed so far are mostly for fun. You can have basic conversations with them, but you will get bored pretty fast. Some will even perform a few basic tasks, such as searching the web for you and displaying images.
If you talk long enough to CleverBot, you will figure out that sometimes it’s not as clever as you’d expect. It’s rather arrogant, acting like that guy who thinks he knows everything. Don’t get me wrong, though. CleverBot is an incredible piece of software, and it’s one of the top in its niche.
The basis for each chatbot program is the database. The database can be filled upfront with information. The larger and more detailed the database, the greater the knowledge base. When you ask a question, you basically send a request to the database. The bot then pulls out an answer and displays it.
Doesn’t sound too fancy, does it?
Well, hear this out:
Developers keep creating more sophisticated software, equipped with algorithms called recognition patterns. These programs first store new questions and answers into the database. Then, they make connections between them and develop new answers.
Mitsuku and CleverBot learn from new questions and answers. They keep improving as they chat.
Here’s a short conversation with Mitsuku:
Now it’s CleverBot’s turn:
Well, it doesn’t seem very CleverBot, does it?
CleverBot then started asking me random questions, in its selfish journey to absolute knowledge and world dominance.
If you keep talking to the bots for little while, you realize pretty quickly that they’re not real persons. Nowadays, chatbots have gotten really advanced, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
Some have claimed that their AI chatbots have passed the Turing Test, but that’s not actually true. Chatbots are still far away from becoming true artificial intelligence.
A chatbot can pass the Turing Test by fooling people that it’s a real person. But that’s not very helpful.
Rollo Carpenter (the developer of CleverBot) stated that Turing tests only prove a machine can “imitate” human intelligence rather than actually show it.
Or, how Hamza puts it…
— Hamza Harkous (@hamzaharkous) April 16, 2016
In the next section, you’ll discover why chatbots are becoming more popular and why companies started investing in them.
2. Why Chatbots Are the Future of Digital Marketing
In case you don’t believe me that chatbots are a big trend now in 2017, here is what Google Trends has to say:
The term had a big but very short trend somewhere between 2006 and 2007. This happened when the first chatbots appeared on the web. Although cool at first, since they were not helpful in any way, people lost interest fast.
But the bots built today come in many ways and forms, and are useful for a very wide range of purposes.
In 2015, Baidu, China’s biggest search engine, introduced an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot to solve the healthcare crisis. Melody, the medical assistant, can chat with people at home to help diagnose possible illnesses.
Another helpful chatbot is Poncho. Poncho is a cute bot, designed as a cat. It sends daily weather forecasts in a friendly and funny way.
As you can see above, Poncho does a great job at being fun and useful at the same time.
Abhimanyu Godara, founder of Bottr.me said that chatbots will fix the app clutter, as many apps can be replaced. He also said that soon, everyone will have their own chatbot.
|Marketing is shifting from logos to faces, from brands to people. The chatbot talks to you, and the process becomes a lot more interactive, creating engagement.|
|CEO at Bottr.me / @abh1manyu|
Abhimanyu is definitely right:
You can see the personal brand business model become more and more popular (especially in the digital marketing industry). People like Gary Vaynerchuk, Neil Patel and Brian Dean and many others promote and use this model. Even Richard Branson is using his personal brand to promote his businesses.
Big brands will still be in the game, though. But every business will also have its own chatbot.
Messaging apps are growing really fast. Faster than social media itself!
If they become the #1 way people talk to each other, businesses will have to find a way to engage with their customers there.
Mobile search is growing, and Google is testing the mobile first indexing. This tells us that people will use the messenger apps even more. Chatbots apply best to people using mobile devices.
One way would be setting up customer support departments. That is not cost effective, and many businesses won’t do it.
The other way, is having a chatbot.
This will make small businesses a lot more competitive, especially in the digital industry. With the help of well set up bots, small teams will be able to manage a significantly higher amount of clients.
Even if it sounds crazy, chatbots might even challenge apps and websites! An app requires space, it has to be downloaded. Websites take time to load and most of them are pretty slow. A bot works instantly. You type something, it replies. Another great thing about them is that they bypass user interface and completely change how customers interact with your business. People will navigate your content by using their natural language.
But don’t get too hyped yet! Chatbots are still far from becoming a standard.
Ilan Kasan, CEO at Exceed.ai said in January 2017 that the chatbot technology is going through the Gartner’ Hype Cycle. Back then, it was standing on the Peak of Inflated Expectations. Right now, it started to fall in the Trough of Disillusionment.
The Gartner Hype Cycle is a timeline of how new technologies appear on the market. This applies to most things in the IT field.
As Ilan said it…
|Get ready for the Trough of Disillusion … it’s coming soon. With it, many chatbot companies will vanish. Eventually, as the technology improves and the market understand the best use cases for chatbots, winners will emerge.|
|CEO @ilankasan / exceed.ai|
My research kind of proves Ilan’s theory.
I’ve contacted some people who use chatbots directly on their website. So far, their results were either mixed or missing altogether.
|The experience is still confusing so even if people are trying it, it’s telling from their messages that they aren’t sure what the chatbot does or how it works.|
|Blogger at seobrien.com / @seobrien|
Here’s another response:
I couldn’t get any real value so I stopped using it.
— Harsh Agrawal (@denharsh) June 14, 2017
Now that was… Harsh.
On the other hand, on platforms like Facebook Messenger, the read rates can get extremely high. Matthew Barby, Head of SEO at Hubspot tells us about his experience:
|It’s still early days and I have a lot more experiments ongoing within Messenger in particular, but I’ve seen read rates of my push messages of over 90% – which is insane!|
|Blogger at matthewbarby.com / @matthewbarby|
Still, even with all the current problems, setting up a bot can kickstart your site’s growth.
Sujan Patel, a renowned expert in growth hacking and co-founder of Voila Norbert, has been talking about chatbot marketing as a growth technique for a while..
|Chatbots can definitely be a growth tactic as it could help increase leads, start conversions/engage with potential customers and get feedback.|
|Blogger at sujanpatel.com / @sujanpatel|
Although people are barely scratching the surface of chatbots potential, it’s still a good idea to get started with them. Learning the technology now can gain you an advantage over the competition in the future. These types of software are prone to becoming popular in the days to come.
Let’s take a look at some of the best use cases for chatbot marketing.
3. Best Uses of Chatbots for Marketing
Chatbots can pretty much apply to anything, depending on how advanced they are. I already gave a few examples above, and you might have already figured out new ones by yourself. Here are some areas where they could best perform.
3.1 Personal Virtual Assistant
A virtual personal assistant can help you save a lot of time. Whenever you’re away, the bot will reply in your place. The better you set it up, the better it can give replies.
Nathan Hague, an awesome Australian marketer, uses one on his personal website. After a few seconds and scrolls on the website, the invitation to chat with it will pop up. The bot is an essential aspect of Nathan’s social strategy.
Clicking on the “Send to messenger” button will take you to Facebook messenger, where the bot takes action.
His bot is very well built and has an awesome vibe. You can see that Nathan did his best to showcase his personality through his bot.
On his page, Nathan uses the bot to let people know he will respond. And he does! (Thanks, man!)
Paul O’Brien took a more complicated approach. He tries to replicate himself altogether, using a bot on his website.
|I’m seeking a virtual assistant clone of myself. Have looked into a good number of bots and have yet to find anything that works. Bottr plus Replika might come close.|
|Blogger at seobrien.com / @seobrien|
On Paul’s blog, in the bottom right corner, you can notice what looks like a live chat icon. What catches your attention is Paul’s face in the icon.
The bot still has a very long wait until it will be able to replace Paul completely. Still, you can pick from a set of questions and find more about Paul and his work. The answers are usually articles he has written on his blog or other websites. If the bot can’t answer something, it will put you in contact with Paul directly.
Having a personal virtual assistant can help you save time and get people engaged with your content.
3.2 Get Traffic to Your Site and Grow Your Audience
Chatbots can help you send fans from social media directly to your website. You can definitely include them in your content marketing strategy.
Here’s an example from the WholeFoods Market, the company Amazon is planning on buying:
On their Facebook bot, they engage with their audience by showing them interesting recipes. Before that, they narrow the posts down by the user’s preference.
Subscribing users to your bot can help you bypass the reach algorithms and all the other clutters on social media. While others will deliver posts in the news feed, you can send them directly into the users inbox. That’s where they chat with their friends, so you know they will see your message.
Remember, by engaging with your fans directly through their inboxes, you can get read rates of up to 90% of your subscribed users.
News publishers have been using this method in their content marketing strategy for a while:
3.3 Build an E-mail List
The Facebook bot subscription works like an e-mail list. You can actually build an e-mail list with chatbots.
Nathan Hague recommends setting up a bot to record any contact information the user may provide. This is a more complex action and requires a custom bot to be build by a team of developers.
My very strong suggestion though, is to use the Facebook bot more and more instead of email marketing! Remember, you’re renting your presence on Facebook and it can be taken away from you at any time! Keep building your email list in case something ever goes wrong.
|Blogger at nathanhague.com / @australiawow|
Still, he says that the upgrade from e-mail open rates of 10%-20% to Facebook messenger open rates of 90% is invaluable.
Try to use Messenger instead of E-mails, but keep building your e-mail list as a backup in case your Facebook profile/page ever gets banned.
3.4 E-commerce & Conversational Commerce
Buying products online can be really frustrating sometimes. You have to click a lot, look through many pages, compare and decide.
On a messaging platform, e-commerce becomes conversational commerce. Think of this like shopping in a small physical store, where you ask the owner what you’re looking for and he shows you the products.
Many companies are doing this. Here’s an example from Kayak, the travel search engine:
Some travel bots can even book your flight or your hotel room. Pizza Hut also uses a similar technique for their orders.
With a bot you can also classify prospects. It’s very easy to sort out consumer preferences. This also applies to all fields, from age, gender and location to interests and hobbies.
Fashion brands use this strategy to study new trends and learn about what their clients want.
Here’s an example from American Eagle:
Here’s another one from H&M, on Kik.
After you tell the bot your style, it sends you different outfits you might like. You can save them to favorites, skip them or select a specific product and buy it.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t purchase directly through the messaging app. Every time, the bot sent me to a website to make the final purchase. This is probably happening because I don’t live in the USA. Facebook Messenger payments are available in the USA since 2015, so we know it’s possible.
After a purchase is made, you can even set up the bot to follow-up and ask the user for feedback.
3.5 Customer Support
Customer support is the area where chatbots apply best. That’s because people today expect instant responses, and companies fail to deliver.
Just think about it:
When you shop online and have a question, or use a service and have some issues, don’t you prefer live chat over e-mail? E-mail takes time, live chat can solve the problem on the spot.
Chatbots can reply instantly to any questions. The waiting time is ‘virtually’ 0 (see what I did there?). Even if a real person eventually shows up to fix the issues, the customer gets engaged in the conversation, which can help you build trust. The problem could be better diagnosed, and the chatbot could perform some routine checks with the user. This saves up time for both the customer and the support agent. That’s a lot better than just recklessly waiting for a representative to arrive.
So far, support bots can’t actually fix problems seamlessly.
1-800-Flowers uses a mix of bot and human interaction. First, the chatbot is used to enable users in the conversation, then the real representative solves the issue.
Twitter also has a support bot up and running. It’s a great way to learn about Twitter if you’re just starting out.
You can only talk to it by tapping the buttons, so you aren’t really chatting with it. Playing with it, I can say it’s more like a FAQ database and knowledge base.
Big brands and businesses are already using this technology to reduce waiting time, and are even taking it to the next level. Enterprise chatbots for support might be expensive, but the investment is minimal compared to a whole support staff.
A friend of mine told me about an experience he had when calling a bank to solve an issue. He said that only by the time he ended the call did he realize he was actually talking to a robot.
There are many other ways you can use chatbots to improve your online marketing campaigns, but the ones listed above are the most popular and feasible. You can find many other ideas out there, from consumer analysis to personalized ads.
Let’s get to the golden part: setting up your own bot.
4. How to Set up Your Own ChatBot
One of the most popular and easy ways to set up chatbots out there is ManyChat. On their homepage you can get started for free.
You have to login with Facebook and the app will also ask you to assign a Facebook Page to it.
To create automated conversations, use the left menu in the Dashboard. Go to Automation -> Keywords, then simply click + New Rule:
Then, you can set up a keyword. If the user types that keyword to the bot, it will respond with the answer you set up. To set up an answer click on Create New Reply.
You can either set up a simple text message, or add Buttons from which the user can select.
Using Buttons is cool because you can select the type of content/action you want the bot to answer with (text, website or phone number).
Tapping an answer is also a lot faster, yet typing the answer instead of tapping won’t work.
You can keep adding buttons to new answers to create patterns. You can also insert galleries, audio files, images and other interesting things.
To add the chatbot to your website, go to Growth Tools:
You will then have to Authorize the site and Install the ManyChat Snippet by going to the Setup section:
First, add your site’s URL here:
Then, copy and paste this code into the Head section of your website.
Another great tool to use, which works directly on your website, is Bottr.me.
Unlike ManyChat, Bottr is not a Facebook messenger chatbot. It works directly on your website, so people won’t have to leave. Users interact with it similarly as with a live chat. It features easy access by placing an icon with your profile picture at the bottom of your site, just like on Paul O’Brien’s website mentioned above. Here’s a cool list of live chat plugins that can be useful for you.
Setting it up is really easy.
First you have to register your account. Then, your bot will be prepared.
Once it’s ready, you can chat with it yourself, to see how it works.
The team at Bottr is developing artificial intelligence technology. By connecting more social media accounts to it, the bot learns about you.
It then uses the information to create new question suggestions and answers. For example, only from my Facebook and Twitter, the bot already knows I like Japanese cars. It also added an artist that was featured in a song I frequently listen to.
From the chat dashboard, you can very easily add or remove questions. Then, to change them, simply trigger them in the chat, and click to edit. Select the type of content you want to be displayed and click Save. You can add text, images, links and create carousels.
If the chatbot doesn’t know how to answer a question, it will ask the user to contact you.
If you are online, you will be able to answer him right away. If not, Bottr will notify you by e-mail. You can easily type the answer. It will be recorded into the database for further questions.
Direct/Unanswered messages can also be viewed and edited in the Bottr Dashboard:
To add the bot to your website, click the share button top right. You also have a chatbot analytics button near it. You can view stats about your bot’s performance.
And that’s about it. The more time you spend on building the chatbot, the better the customer experience will be.
For enterprise chatbots with custom features you will need a team of developers. You can also build it yourself, but the work volume required is bigger. Here’s a list of chatbot building platforms.
5. Possible Concerns and Problems
Don’t worry, that scenario is highly improbable. Or is it ?
5.1 Trolls and Consumer Interest
Microsoft and Twitter launched an A.I. powered bot on Twitter, called Tay. It’s a very good example of a highly advanced chatbot. However, things escalated quickly. After only the first day, it was shut down.
Tay’s answers were based on a mix of reactions from all the people tweeting it. Some people started trolling, sending racist messages. Tay eventually reused some of those answers in its tweets.
The adult industry also stimulated a lot of demand in this field. Most of the online searches about chatbots revolve around … Yep! You’ve guessed it: sex. As Matthew Barby said in his article: “This is why we can’t have nice things.”
5.2 Spam & Malicious Intent
Spam is similar to cancer, as it expands in every marketing channel possible, as soon as it’s popular.
50 years ago, you would wait weeks for a letter. Now your mailbox is full of commercial stickers. 10 years ago, receiving an e-mail was celebrated. Today, your inbox is full of spam.
Soon, brands will start using mobile messages or messenger as a marketing channel.
Some of them already do!
I quit smoking almost 4 years ago and still receive the promotional messages from the brands I gave my information to in different campaigns.
What’s really bad about SMS is that sometimes it’s hard to unsubscribe. There’s no number to call, only a random 4 digit number. There’s no option on their website. It’s really hard to get in touch with them regarding this issue.
Remember not to abuse the trust of your audience by sending daily messages, but reserve if for messages that are almost GUARANTEED to be opened. Delight them. Surprise them. BRIBE them! Just don’t bugger things up by essentially, spamming them!
|Blogger at nathanhague.com / @australiawow|
Of course, there are exceptions. If you own a restaurant or have daily offers that change regularly, you can create a subscription plan like that.
Chatbots still fall short in making the conversation seamless. They often treat conversations like a game of Tennis or Ping-Pong: talk, reply, talk, reply and so on.
An article on Entrepreneur.com says the following: “An important point here is that while chatbots can be a great backup for real employees, as an alternative to call waiting, they have to appear real. If the chatbot is low quality and the customer can tell it’s not human, the result may be damaging customer feelings toward the brand”.
In my opinion, that’s bad brand positioning. People will eventually distinguish a bot from a real person, at least for now.
If you think people don’t like talking to robots, don’t fall into the trap of tricking them. If they figure out they have been lied to and are not actually talking to a real person, you will lose their trust. Customers will understand and accept the bots as part of their purchasing process in the end.
Don’t try to trick your audience. Today’s people bullshit detector is so high, you won’t last for 2 minutes. You will lose more trust if the customers find you are lying. They might think you’re also lying with the product and its quality. It’s very hard to build trust, so don’t put it at risk.
5.3 Employers vs. Employees
If you work in any of the domains mentioned above, you have probably already figured out your job might be stolen by robots.
This is one of the future’s biggest problems, and it should be addressed. It’s no secret. Automatization creates less work places for humans. Unfortunately, evolution and adaptation are the only ways to progress.
A single bot has the potential to replace an entire team of people in different marketing channels. This is a no-brainer for employers all around the world.
If you’re interested in how high the chances are robots will steal your job, go to https://willrobotstakemyjob.com. Then, if you found out that robots are very likely to take your job… inspoirobot.me can make you feel even worse!
6. Can ChatBot Marketing Improve SEO ?
Having a chatbot only website sounds cool. But one of the problem with chatbots is that the content stored in the database is not indexable.
Sujan Patel advises us to stick to conventional SEO. So if you have important pieces of content, make sure you also post them on your website.
|Chatbots & SEO are two very different things. Make your content indexable and crawlable and stick to conventional SEO wisdom.|
|Blogger at sujanpatel.com / @sujanpatel|
But chatbots directly on your website can bring some SEO advantages. Dwell time and bounce rate are linked to rankings. Improving them can also grow your position in Google.
If a bot can retain users on your website, then it is definitely a plus. You could even make them trigger at different intervals while the user reads an article, to point out key elements. The possibilities are infinite.
|SEO has far less to do with content and words than people think. Google ranks sites based on the experience people have with brands. If a bot can enhance that experience in such a way that people are more enthusiastic about a site – they share it, return to it, talk about it, and spend more time there, it will affect positively how the site appears in Google.|
|Blogger at seobrien.com / @seobrien|
On the other hand, Paul also tells us that if the bot negatively impacts the website, then the rankings can also drop.
Chatbots can also help you get links, likes and shares.
Here’s a simple process outline: User asks for subject => Bot replies with link to website => User clicks and reads => After a few minutes, bot asks: Did you like it? => Yes/No => Leave comment and share/How can we improve it?
As with anything else, when using bot marketing you have to be creative and original to stand out.
The marketing world is constantly evolving and we have to adapt. Marketing to millennials, for example, is very demanding. New generation clients have very different ways of going through the buying process. Chatbot marketing is a great innovative way to enable users like these to buy your products and share your brand.
If you liked this article, have any questions or feel I missed some points, please feel free to drop off a comment in the section below. Let’s get the conversation started!