26 June

Are Facebook Messenger Bots the Next Big Marketing Channel?

Does your online business need a bot? The first image that comes into my head is a robot that will make me coffee, bring me lunch, and clean my house when I’m too busy working. But, no, in this case we’re not talking about Rosie the Robot Maid from The Jetsons cartoon.

We’re talking about Facebook Messenger Bots. In a recent report by Facebook IQ titled “Why Messaging Businesses is the New Normal,” statistics show that people and businesses exchange 8 billion messages each month, a growth of 4X, year over year. The report also states, “While convenience and reliability are both important elements of a positive experience, response time may be the key that unlocks meaningful connections.”

When surveying people across 4 markets, Facebook found that 70% in Brazil, 66% in India, 54% in the UK, and 61% in the US expected a faster response when messaging businesses than if they had used another more traditional communication channel.

The report goes on to say, “The expectation of an immediate response may even help explain people’s rising in interest in bots: US conversation on Facebook around chatbots grew 5.6x in a year.”

So, given these statistics, bots could provide real benefits to your business and your clients:

Virtual Assistants and online business owners often serve an international audience. This means living in different time zones where we might be sleeping when a message comes in. If faster responses are expected, the 24/7 availability of a bot could help maintain a vital connection with your audience when it’s physically impossible to answer.

We might be busy working when messages come in. To manage time effectively, we usually recommend batching email and other messages instead of answering them as soon as they arrive. In this case, setting up a bot to take care of some of your immediate messaging needs can keep your audience engaged throughout the day.

Bots can be used to reach out to your audience. In addition to answering support questions, Facebook Messenger bots can market your business or your clients’ businesses through content marketing or sales funnels. We’ll talk more about that below.

Understanding What a Bot Is

Rob Mathison provides a good definition of a bot in his article, “Facebook Messenger Bots for Business: A Guide for Marketers.” He says,

“A messenger bot is a piece of software that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and converse with you. The more you chat with a bot, the more it will learn and the more useful [its] responses should get.”

He further explains that “Bots use AI technology to understand your question, find the right response, and deliver it in as conversational and ‘human’ a way as possible.”

Essentially, if you have a Facebook business page, you can set up a bot to send and receive messages on your client’s or your behalf, either through the Facebook Messenger platform, or with third party software. As in all cases when it comes to marketing, a bot is best used where it will add value to your target audience, and you should be prepared to step in and provide a live human touch when needed.

How Bots Can Effectively Target Your Audience on Facebook

In your business or your clients’ businesses, think about how people connect with your brand. Do they message the Facebook business page frequently? Do they often ask duplicate questions? Do they want a rapid response? Or do they infrequently message, and you’d like to increase their engagement through Facebook Messenger?

With those questions in mind, here are some examples of how bots can effectively target and engage with your audience on Facebook.

Customer Support

If you’ve been working in an online business for a while, you may find that you’re receiving the same types of messages with the same types of questions. When providing email support, you may create a series of canned responses to save you time, or a FAQ page to help people find answers quickly on their own. In Facebook Messenger, a bot can be programmed to automatically answer common questions in a friendly, personable way.

Alexandra Hayes has some great advice in her article “3 Uses of Facebook Messenger Bots to Improve Your Business.” She recommends using Facebook Messenger chatbots to provide automated customer service that’s available instantly 24/7:

“Generally, people ask the same questions again and again. Using a chatbot, you can write down all of the most frequently asked questions and program a personalized response for each. This way, every time customers ask a question that has been already asked, you won’t have to waste any more time or effort.”

She warns, however, that you should let people know they’re talking to a bot and offer them the opportunity to contact a real customer service representative. And she says, “You should create a customer service bot only if you believe it’s truly necessary.”

Content Marketing

According to Alfred Lua in his article, “7 Facebook Messenger Marketing Strategies You Can Try Today,” HubSpot decided to find out whether Facebook Messenger might be a better way than email to deliver content to readers. For four weeks, they tested giving people the option of receiving content through Facebook Messenger rather than filling out a form to receive it by email. Lua says that at the end of the test period, HubSpot discovered that using Messenger to deliver content resulted in a 242% higher open rate and a remarkable 619% higher click rate.

Although email is still a strong marketing channel, it makes sense that Facebook Messenger would be an effective way to deliver content. After all, how many times have you sat with your smartphone and chatted with people on your messaging app, or clicked on a video or article to pass the time. It’s a handy way to digest content during your coffee break or while you’re waiting for an appointment. And even better if you can enjoy the personality of the bot who’s delivering the content.

To provide value and encourage increased engagement from your audience, John Hall gives the following advice in his article, “How Chatbots Are Influencing the Future of Content Marketing”:

“You shouldn’t view bots as robot servants, blindly delivering content to users. Instead, treat chatbots as extensions of your brand — because a customer who has an experience with a bot, positive or negative, will remember that as an experience with the company. If your bot does what it’s designed to, then you’re better poised to stay top of mind with your audience and engage them with content over time.”

Options for Creating Facebook Messenger Bots

Although it’s possible to create a bot within the Facebook Messenger platform itself, a simpler way is to use free or paid software like the ones below:

ManyChat – https://manychat.com/

This tool has a visual builder that lets you drag and drop elements to set up your Facebook Messenger bot quickly and easily. You can set up an automated sequences that will be sent based on time delays or user actions.

Screenshot via ManyChat.com

And an important feature is the ability to be notified when you need to step in and answer a question yourself through live chat.

Screenshot via ManyChat.com

Chatfuel – https://chatfuel.com/

In the article above, Alfred Lua recommends Chatfuel as a great free option for creating a Facebook Messenger Bot.

Screenshot via Chatfuel.com

The Chatfuel site shows an illustration of how you can easily set up conversational rules to train your bot to recognize phrases and respond with answers predefined by you.

Screenshot via Chatfuel.com

Hope you enjoyed this overview of the growing popularity of bots and how they can be used to effectively target your audience and engage with them on Facebook. It’s an amazing technology that could end up being the next big marketing channel for virtual professionals.

One example of how realistic bots can be (or maybe how gullible I can be) 🙂 is when I mistook a bot for a human. I was on a website, and a chat box with a friendly-looking avatar popped up and displayed the text, “Hi there! Can I help you with anything?” Because it looked like a real person texting me, I thought it was a live chat.

Indignant that someone was suddenly interrupting me, I rudely clicked the chat box off to silence it. It wasn’t until later that I discovered these types of chat boxes are bots.

My apologies to that poor bot – but a good lesson that it’s important to let your audience know when they’re being messaged by a bot and when it’s a real human like you, your client, or a person on your team.

Now we’d love to hear from you! What do you think of Facebook Messenger bots? Do you use them in your business or your clients’ businesses? And if not, do you see yourself using them in the future? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Are Facebook Messenger Bots the Next Big Marketing Channel?

    1. Jena Kroeker Post author

      Thanks, Pam! We’re definitely planning to offer a workshop in the future, possibly next semester. In the meantime, I’d recommend checking out the tools we mention in this blog post. And as a member of the University, feel free to ask any questions about them in the VAClassroom University Facebook group too.


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