5 Free Design Apps to Step Up Your Social Media Game

5 Ways a Small Business Can Use Messenger Chatbots

With the tap of a few buttons on my phone I’ve made dinner reservations, booked my cab ride, ordered flowers to be delivered to the dinner table and even bought tickets for the show we’ll attend.

Doesn’t sound all that impossible, does it? What if I told you all of those things are now possible, not through custom built apps for each of the businesses, but instead through Facebook Messenger…the app that most of us have on our phones already and use on a daily basis?

Messenger marketing is the new wave in social media and it’s about to have it’s “hockey stick moment“–that point in time when the growth is exponential and so fast it seems nobody can keep up.

At the forefront of messenger marketing (all the myriad ways one can market in and through a messenger app), are Facebook Messenger chatbots. Gartner Research predicts by 2020, over 50% of medium to large enterprises will have deployed product chatbots! That’s a little over a year away and yet many small businesses are just now hearing about chatbots for the first time. If this is the first time you’re hearing about them, get ready to notice them more and more…and once you know what to look for, you may realize you’ve been communicating with Messenger chatbots for a while already!

What is a Facebook Messenger chatbot?

For those who like more formal definitions, here’s a great definition from Sprout Social: “Chatbots are programs built to automatically engage with received messages. Chatbots can be programmed to respond the same way each time, to respond differently to messages containing certain keywords and even to use machine learning to adapt their responses to fit the situation.”

The key words here are “automatically” and “programmed”.

If you’re more visual, I liken Messenger chatbots to the dreaded automated phone tree we’re all used to dealing with: Press 1 for Anita, Press 2 for Kim. Except chatbots can be much faster and more efficient.

When you’re building your own chatbot it actually looks a lot like a flow chart. From action A there are three responses. Each response takes you to another action, and so on. This is a snippet of what one of my recent builds looks like in graphic form.

facebook messenger chatbot flow boxes and arrows

How long have chatbots been around?

You’ve heard the quote “an overnight success is 10 years in the making”, right? Well, chatbots have been around and in the works for a long time. The first chatbot was named Eliza and created in 1966 to prove AI could not be intelligent (or something like that…we’ll save that for another day) In 1994 we saw the beginning of commercial chatbots with Julia, which was built for the Windows platform, and now you see things like Alexa and Siri, which are highly complex versions of chatbots. Google trends tells us that things started to really heat up just over two years ago, which is just about the time I first learned about chatbots at SMMW17.

Why are Messenger chatbots becoming a popular marketing tool?

After years of everyone putting everything online and airing all their dirty dishes, we’re starting to see a trend towards more private communication. Think about what you post on Facebook and  Twitter…are you calling out your family and neighbours on their bad habits? Or are you being more careful about what you post, knowing it can have an effect on your reputation? Collectively people are posting less on newsfeeds and migrating more towards private conversations in apps like Messenger, SnapChat, Instgram Direct, HouseParty, etc.

As people spend more time in these private communication forums, marketers have to find ways to get in there, too. Yeah, I know, marketers ruin everything 🙂 This move toward more private conversation is the impetus, but the benefits of Facebook Messenger chatbots are huge:

  • It’s all explicit consent. There is no way to upload users to a Messenger chatbot, they must choose to subscribe. #PermissionMarketing anyone?
  • YES, that means you must collect subscribers, similar to encouraging email signups. Additional work, but potentially more benefit.
  • Open rates for good Messenger bots are often in the 75 – 100% range, compared to an industry standard 23% for an email.
  • Click through rates are upwards of 40 and 50%, compared to 2% for email.

Yes, this is still new and it will become a crowded marketplace eventually, just like email. All the more reason to jump on board now and learn how to do it while everyone else is still twiddling their thumbs.

How can Facebook Messenger chatbots help a small business?

By 2020 consumers will handle 85% of their engagement with businesses without ever interacting with another human being, according to predictions from Gartner Research. Instead of engaging with people, customers will use self-service options and chatbots. This is largely due to the fact that millennials prefer to deal with customer service issues themselves and to NOT have to talk to a person (I don’t think that’s just a millennial thing!)

Chatbots offer the instant gratification we seek when dealing with a company. It’s often

  • Faster / more efficient
  • Results in fewer errors
  • Convenient – it’s always open, on your schedule.
  • Can be hyper-personalized with tags and segmentation.
  • Creates the feeling of a conversation with a brand you love

And from a business perspective, build it once and it can answer the same frequently asked questions over and over, without getting exasperated at your clients, and freeing up your staff from answering the easy stuff.

Is this just a millennial thing?

You will do your business a great disservice by making that assumption. Chatbots are viewed positively by all generations, when explained properly (not for every situation of course). “Baby Boomers are 24% more likely to expect benefits from chatbots in 5/9 categories”, according to this chatbot study. Chatbots are not only for the younger crowd. Everyone loves something that will save them time and get them the information/results they want in a timely fashion. Built properly, that’s what Messenger bots can do!

Facebook Messenger chatbot ideas for small businesses

Let’s get real here. YOU are a small businesses without the budget of Coca-cola or National Geographic behind you, so how can a small business deploy a Facebook Messenger chatbot?

Here are the top FIVE things a small business can do with a Facebook Messenger chatbot with very little technical knowledge

  1. Track Purchases from a Shopify site, and communicate on delivery, returns, etc. Shopify makes this so easy for their members.
  2. Create a lead generating funnel, including qualifying leads and scheduling appointments. It’s very easy to rework an existing funnel to work in a chatbot.
  3. Create subscription messages: i.e. newsletter, blog, tips, events listing.
  4. Distribute a document automagically when people comment on a post on your Facebook page. Have you seen those? Comment below and I’ll send you this cheat sheet? Check it out here on my video about choosing whether to DIY or outsource your social media.
  5. Let people know when you’re going on live! Sending a quick message to your fans in Messenger to remind them of your Live broadcast, webinar, tv appearance, or anything time-sensitive, can boost viewership! Click here to sign up for Twirp’s chatbot and get notified when we go Live!

Which Facebook Messenger chatbot program should you use?

That’s a tough question. It will depend on your budget and the type of things you want the bot to be able to do. Each platform has different features and there are literally hundreds of programming platforms out there for the do-it-yourselfer.

Manychat – by far the most popular chatbot platform out there for small businesses. Easy to use. $10 a month for the first upgrade. Manychat has a free video course to teach you how to build a bot using their platform. A close second to this one would be Chatfuel, but I have no experience with that platform.

Jumper.ai – specializing in event marketing. I haven’t worked with this one too much, but it has some nice features for event marketing specifically and I will probably use it for Social Media Day Halifax 2019.

MobileMonkey – I’m going to be completely honest here. I found this one difficult to navigate after using the other two. I’ve not built anything on it and probably haven’t given it a fair trial. I tried to give it a try because of the big names in social media who are backing it.

Are you intrigued? How will you use your first Messenger chatbot?



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