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Aug

15

2017

How to Build a Chatbot from Pitch to Promotion

Published by in category Bots, Daily | Leave a Comment

In April 2016, something happened at Facebook that would quickly result in a revolutionary paradigm shift on the horizon of online communication — from mobile to desktop, marketing to services, personal to corporate — everything, really.

Messenger opened its doors to developers with an invitation to create chatbots — something of which roughly 78% of online adults were unaware. 

Within six months, developers had created about 30,000 active Messenger bots. Today, less than a year later, that number is up 233%, with 100,000 active bots on the platform. 

But it’s not just a popular, funky thing to do. Businesses using chatbots are seeing results, like Sephora, which reportedly earns “an average spend of over $50 from clients who have booked an in-store service via its Messenger assistant,” according to VentureBeat.

In case you’re wondering what the heck a chatbot actually is, though, here’s the condensed definition: A bot is nothing more than a computer program that automates certain tasks, typically by chatting with a user through a conversational interface.

There’s a vast range of chatbots. They can be rule-based, or powered by artificial intelligence (AI), both of which will drastically change the process of developing one. And if you’re looking to formulate your own chatbot strategy — from building the bot from scratch to promoting it and getting customers to use it — we’ve developed a basic framework for just that.

Read on, and let’s start building.

How to Build a Chatbot from Pitch to Promotion

1) Decide your bot’s purpose.

Ultimately, the purpose of a bot is to provide a service people actually want to use — time and time again. No bot is meant to do everything, so when you set out to create your own, think of an existing problem that it can fix in a more efficient way.

While there are many types of chatbots, if you’re building one for the first time, you’ll likely want to choose from the following two options:

Informational bots

As the name suggests, these bots provide users with a new format of information consumption. For example, breaking news bots send developing stories as the information becomes available. TechCrunch has a bot of that nature — check it out below:

Utility bots

These bots are automated to complete tasks and answer questions. In other words, they solve a user’s problem or inquiry via a chat transaction. Customer service bots might immediately come to mind here, but a growing number of utility bots are being built for purposes like booking appointments or shopping online. One of our personal favorites is TacoBot: Taco Bell’s still-in-development bot that allows people to order food via Slack. Join the waitlist here, and check out the preview:

tacobot_preview.gif

Source: Taco Bell

2) Decide what messaging app your bot will live on.

Earlier, we provided examples of bots that live on Messenger and Slack, respectively. And while those are two very popular options, there are many more available — for example, Kik and Viber.

Your chatbot’s “home” will largely depend on who’s using what. You’ll want to aim for the apps with an audience that matches the one you’re trying to reach. Slack, for example, tends to be more business-focused, so productivity bots are particularly helpful there.

Sephora is a great example. While the brand has bots on both Messenger and Kik, each one functions differently. The Messenger version is used for customer service, feedback, and booking makeovers:

The Kik version, on the other hand, is designed to help users find products and makeup tips:

3) Decide which platform you’ll use to build the chatbot.

Most messenger apps have tools and documents to help developers build bots — for example, Messenger has an entire library of resources here.

However, there are numerous platforms that can also help you build your bot — in some cases, without a lot of coding required. Here are a few that we recommend:

  1. Motion AI
  2. Chatfuel
  3. Botsify
  4. Beep Boop
  5. Bot Kit
  6. Octane.ai

4) Create your bot’s personality.

Remember when we mentioned the importance of matching your bot’s home with the audience you’re trying to reach? Well, we have a similar guiding principle for your bot’s personality: It should match your brand.

One of our favorite examples here is Pegg, a financial assistant designed for startups and small businesses — but speaking as someone who recently returned from vacation, it’s helpful for anyone trying to track their spending. And while finance isn’t something that’s usually associated with a fun, playful voice, Pegg’s bot, HelloPegg, flips that connotation on its head with a cute logo and friendly voice.

5) Build your bot’s flow.

When you begin creating your chatbot, the platform you’re using should provide options on how to build out conversations. Usually, this is by way of providing the user with drag-and-drop or multiple choice responses, or frontloading the bot with if/then statements. For example, with the HelloPegg app above, the if/then flow might look like this:

If the user begins the sentence with, “Spent” — then respond with, “Who did you pay?”

It’s a way of building a series of questions that are dependent on certain input criteria from the user to reach a given response or solution. Remember, a bot is supposed to be able to understand intent and deliver a solution in the most efficient way possible — that’s the main point of building a conversational strategy. Unlike a type form, for example, not every user can receive the same questions, and each answer the user gives should alter the following question to make the conversation as productive as possible.

Chatbots don’t necessarily need to be loquacious — they serve the purpose solving real problems from real people with the same (or better) ability as a human.

Things like buttons, cards, or other UI elements can be helpful here. For example, when chatting with a friend on Messenger, you might notice that the app prompts you to do certain things, depending on what you’ve typed in — like when I used it to wish my colleague, Eric Peters, a happy birthday.

EPMessenger.png

To help you build out these various pieces, we created the conversational framework below.

Finally, you’ll need to set up your chatbot’s ability to process the natural language that most users will input — meaning, the conversational vernacular that we use day-to-day. For example, “People don’t typically chat using words like ‘affirmative’ and ‘negative’,” explains HubSpot Senior Manager of Web Development Dmitry Shamis. “They say things like ‘yup’ and ‘nah, playa’ so natural language processing allows your bot to understand the underlying message and sentiment of those words.”

The way to do this varies with each platform, so depending on what you’re using to create the bot, going about this step will vary.

6) Connect the bot to the messaging app.

Once you’ve reached this step, you’ve likely finished building your bot. Now, it’s time to connect it to the app where you want it to live.

Many of the resources we listed in section 3 will allow you to do this within the same platform you used to build the bot. Both Motion AI and Chatfuel, for instance, have buttons in the interface that allow you to simply attach your bot directly to your Messenger page. But before you commit to those options, make sure you do thorough research to make sure you won’t be expected to pay any fees to the platform in the case that your bot sees a high level of success.

There are a few tools available to help you do this, one of which is the Recast.ai Bot Connector. It’s integrated with a number of apps, including Kik, Messenger, and Slack. It’s open source and free — check out the instructions for getting started here.

7) Test and train with a beta group.

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve finished a project of which I’m particularly proud, I’m impatient to share it with the world. But as much as we want to get our work out into the hands of the adoring masses, it’s imperative to make sure it works — especially with something as highly customer-facing and interacting as a chatbot.

That’s why we recommend forming a beta group to test the bot before it’s launched for public consumption. That can be internal or external — here at HubSpot, for example, we often test new products and features by sharing them with our colleagues and asking them to check for functionality, quality, and bugs.

But whoever you choose to test your chatbot, make sure they’re not afraid to give you their honest feedback. In order to fix a mistake, it needs to be unabashedly pointed out to you first.

8) Promote your chatbot.

Once your chatbot has been thoroughly QA’d and de-bugged, it’s time to release it to the public — and, of course, promote it.

There are several ways to go about the latter, but for the sake of keeping your strategy focused, we recommend the following steps to get started.

Add it to chatbot directories and catalogs.

Not every app will have a listing like this, but if you’re using one that does, make sure your app is included. (For example, here’s Slack’s.) Otherwise, look to third-party directories like BotList or Bot Finder for such listings.

Create a dedicated, SEO-friendly landing page.

For us, there’s often nothing more frustrating than catching wind of a great chatbot and being unable to find a dedicated website for it. That’s why we encourage you to create a dedicated, central page to explain the purpose, features, and where to find/install your chatbot to avoid any difficulty finding it, or other confusion.

TOPBOTS marketing and strategy specialist Adelyn Zhou emphasizes the importance of such a page. “A dedicated landing page for your bot gives users the option to first read and understand your distinct value add,” she writes on Medium. “Without the introduction, you’re leaving them to deduce your functionality by themselves.”

Include a messaging option in your emails.

Many emails include CTAs and icons for the reader to follow the sender on social media. Now, you can also add an option for your audience to engage with you via chatbot, by including icons for Messenger and Slack, for example.

Continuing the Conversation

Before you begin, remember: The hardest part of this process is not building your chatbot.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but if you re-read the steps above, you’ll see that while the actual bot buildout isn’t without its challenges, it doesn’t present the most difficulty. Rather, the hardest part is improving your conversational strategy over time — based on how actual humans are interacting with it.

Even after you’ve completed the steps we’ve outlined, your work won’t be completely done. You’ll want to see how users are engaging with your chatbot, and if they’re not, what might be the cause of it. Is it truly addressing the problem it was built to solve? Has it turned out that your audience has other issues it wishes to resolve with a bot?

Think about these different factors once your chatbot goes live, and the various ways you can continue to make it even better.

HubSp

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Aug

11

2017

The 5 Best Messaging Apps for Marketing in 2017

Published by in category Bots, Daily | Leave a Comment

Remember only being able to send 1,000 texts each month?

My mom definitely remembers our phone bills when I doubled that amount every week in middle school.

Thankfully, companies created messaging apps to provide free and unlimited messaging, which was a refreshing solution for rigid text message limits and their lofty costs.

Click here to download a free, 5-part kit to help you grow your mobile  audience.

But messaging apps refused to be just another form of text messaging. They kept innovating and evolved into apps for almost every digital interaction possible.

Now, within a single app, you can chat with your friends, communicate with brands, make calls, play games, consume content, buy products, and even call a cab.

These added functionalities make messaging apps sticky. They draw users to the app more often and keep them there for a longer time. Today, messaging apps have over 5 billion monthly active users worldwide.

Most messaging apps also let businesses market to their massive, engaged user bases. Marketers can now use chatbots to provide customer service, send content to users, sell products, and advertise.

Naturally, different countries and age groups prefer some apps to others. Read on to learn how you can tailor your messaging app marketing for five different global messaging apps.

5 Best Messaging Apps for Marketing in 2017

1) WhatsApp

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 5.20.08 PM.png

Monthly active users:1.3 billion

Most Popular Regions: Latin America, Europe, The Middle East, Southeast Asia, India, Russia, and Africa

Age Group: 25-44

Marketing Features:

WhatsApp doesn’t sell ads, prohibits third-party bots, and limits its broadcast message feature and group chats to 256 people. How are marketers supposed to leverage the most popular messaging app in the world then?

Since WhatsApp isn’t conducive to large-scale content distribution, marketers must take advantage of its one-to-one messaging capabilities. And by interacting with WhatsApp users like a normal user would, marketers can execute hyper-targeted and personalized campaigns.

In 2014, Hellman’s Brazil created WhatsCook, a live recipe service that connected people to real chefs. This wasn’t a service that just recommended recipes, though. It created recipes with the ingredients users already had.

After signing up for the service on their website, users would send a picture of their refrigerator’s contents to WhatsCook. Then a chef would whip up a unique recipe using the person’s available ingredients and teach them how to cook it using pictures, videos, and other WhatsApp features.

Over 13,000 people people signed up for WhatsCook and each user spent an average of 65 minutes interacting with Hellman’s chefs. The service also received a 99.5% approval rating.

WhatsCook is a prime example of creative WhatsApp marketing. By attracting users with a helpful service, they engaged thousands of more people than they could by blasting content through a broadcast or group chat.

To start a service like WhatsCook, you just need users’ phone numbers or they can add your number to their contact list.

Fortunately, WhatsApp offers a click-to-chat link that you can embed in your website, email signature, or social profiles, allowing you to effectively promote your service.

2) Facebook Messenger

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 5.25.36 PM.png

Monthly active users: 1.2 billion

Most Popular Regions: North America, Europe, Australia, The Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa

Age group: 16-44

Marketing Features:

Facebook messenger offers brands a stockpile of marketing features.

For instance, you can serve destination ads in people’s newsfeed to drive them to your messenger and spark a conversation, send sponsored messages to people who’ve messaged you in the past, integrate messenger bots like Chatfuel and ManyChat to interact with customers, and more.

At HubSpot, we use chatbots to automate Facebook conversations with people. Whenever someone messages our Facebook account, our chatbot will message back with a menu of options.

People can then search and subscribe to our content, check out our software, look at job openings, ask for customer support, and manage their Facebook messenger blog subscription.

FB-Messenger.gif

 

3) WeChat

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 5.29.22 PM.png

Monthly active users: 938 million

Most popular regions: China

Age Group: 18-50

Marketing Features:

WeChat isn’t just a popular Chinese messaging app. Most Chinese citizens use it to run their entire lives.

In one app, they can:

  • Message friends
  • Post social updates in WeChat Moments
  • Read the news
  • Make in-store payments
  • Pay for bills
  • Transfer money
  • Shop online
  • Play games
  • Make voice and video calls
  • Book a taxi
  • And manage their personal finances

WeChat is China’s most popular messaging app for a reason. And it also provides marketers a lot of opportunity to engage and delight users.

But if you want to market to users in China, or 90% of the user base, your business must be registered in Mainland China.

Businesses based in the United States, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, South Africa, Taiwan, and Thailand can only market to around 100 million of WeChat’s international users.

To establish a strong presence on WeChat, you should set up an official account for your business. This will allow you to create a company micro-site, publish content, and provide customer services all within the WeChat app.

There are two types of official accounts. Content publishers usually sign up for subscription accounts that let you broadcast one message per day to your subscribers in their subscription accounts folder.

Big retail chains usually sign up for service accounts that let you broadcast four messages per month to your subscribers in their friend session list.

Verified service accounts have access to 9 advanced APIs and WeChat payment. With access to these APIs, marketers can:

  • Leverage personalized content marketing, location-based marketing, influencer marketing, and QR code marketing
  • Open micro-stores
  • And run lotteries

All accounts also offer bots that can interact with users and deliver keyword-triggered content.

BuzzFeed uses these bots to send WeChat users instant, personalized content whenever they message them a certain keyword like “dogs”, “lol”, or “fail”.

BuzzFeed WeChat.png

 

4) Line

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 5.32.02 PM.png

Monthly active users: 217 million

Most popular regions: Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, and Indonesia

Age group: 10-49

Marketing Features:

Line is a free messaging app that offers a profile page, stickers, games, video calling, music streaming, ride-sharing, and about 30 other features. It dominates Japan’s messaging app market, where 94% of messaging app users use the app.

Line is chock full of opportunity for marketers. In its four most popular countries, 73% of monthly active users use the app every day. This abundance of user engagement allows brands to build huge followings and boost engagement rates.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal acquired 2 million Line followers in only 15 months, which is the fastest social channel growth they’ve ever seen. They also claim that 30% of its followers like, comment, and share all their posts.

When brands sign up for Line official accounts, they can:

  • Set up a profile page
  • Send chat messages to each of their subscribers
  • Post content on their subscribers’ timelines
  • Activate chatbots that deliver keyword-triggered responses and content
  • Optimize Line advertisements based on user demographics and interests
  • Distribute free branded stickers
  • And reward customers with stickers after they buy a product

For Paul McCartney, Line is actually the best way to reach fans. His 12.5 million Line followers are more than all his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram followers combined.

And since he can send private messages to each of his 12.5 million Line followers, he also engages with them a lot more than he can with his traditional social media following.

Paul McCartney.png

Photo Credit: TechCrunch

5) Slack

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 5.38.30 PM.png

Daily active users: 5 million

Most popular regions: United States

Age group: 25-54

Marketing Features:

Slack is the main internal communications platform for many businesses. In fact, 77% of Fortune 100 companies use it. If you work in B2B, Slack could be your most targeted marketing channel.

At HubSpot, we knew Slack could be an effective content delivery channel, so we decided to offer a Slack blog subscription. When users sign up for it, they add the HubSpot Blog app to their Slack profile, where they receive a weekly broadcast of content. They can also search for content in the app.

slack.gif

What messaging apps do you use for your marketing? Let us know on Twitter!

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Aug

8

2017

7 Brands Already Using Chatbots in Their Marketing

Published by in category Bots, Daily | Comments are closed

By now, you’ve probably realized that the bots have us surrounded. If recent success stories like Arby’s hilarious pizza slider bot are any indication, the future of brand awareness as we know it just might rest in the little digital paws of chatbots.

They might seem like “the simpletons of the artificial intelligence world,” but chatbots offer marketers from any industry the opportunity to engage with consumers on a personal, direct level — as long as they can capture (and hold) users’ attention with an engaging narrative.

The emergence of accessible artificial intelligence gives us unprecedented access to consumers, but the tech needs to be fed by compelling creative work to be used successfully as a marketing tool.

As AOL’s David Shingy writes in Adweek, “The challenge [with chatbots] will be thinking about creative from a whole different view: Can we have creative that scales? That customizes itself? We find ourselves hurtling toward another handoff from man to machine — what larger system of creative or complex storytelling structure can I design such that a machine can use it appropriately and effectively?”

Some brands already seem to be getting the balance right. A bot needs to capture a user’s attention quickly and display a healthy curiosity about their new acquaintance, but too much curiosity can easily push them into creepy territory and turn people off. They have to display more than a basic knowledge of human conversational patterns, but they can’t claim to be an actual human — again, let’s keep things from getting too creepy here.

To inspire your first (or next) foray into the weird and wonderful world of chatbots, we’ve compiled a list of seven brands whose bot-based campaigns were fueled by an astute knowledge of their target audiences and solid copywriting. Check them out below, and start considering if a chatbot is the right move for your own company’s next big marketing campaign.

7 Brands Already Using Chatbots for Marketing

1) National Geographic’s Genius


Image Credit: Top Bots

Who wouldn’t want a little Albert Einstein at their disposal to answer pressing questions about space, time, and the meaning of life?

Back in April, National Geographic launched a Facebook Messenger bot to promote their new show about the theoretical physicist’s work and personal life. Developed by 360i, the charismatic Einstein bot reintroduced audiences to the scientific figure in a more intimate setting, inviting them to learn about the lesser-known aspects of his life through a friendly, natural conversation with the man himself.

“Rather than having the campaign speak for Einstein, we wanted Einstein to speak for himself,” Layne Harris, 360i’s VP, Head of Innovation Technology, said to GeoMarketing. “We decided to pursue a conversational chatbot that would feel natural and speak as Einstein would. This provides a more intimate and immersive experience for users to really connect with him one on one and organically discover more content from the show.”

Unfortunately the Genius bot is no longer active, but apparently he had a pretty good sense of humor — persistent existential dread aside.

2) Whole Foods

Tonight’s dinner plans could be just a single emoji send away.

Whole Foods’ Facebook Messenger bot — launched in 2016 at MobileBeat — lets users search for recipes, products, and food inspiration without leaving Messenger.

The friendly foodie bot was developed by Conversable, and the team plans to expand its capabilities in the near future to include coupons, a saved recipe library, and direct shopping. 

If you aren’t sure what you’re looking for, you can give the bot some details about your dietary restrictions and flavor preferences, and it will serve up some options. And if you’re in the mood to embrace every millennial stereotype, you can just send an emoji of a food item for instant recommendations. The future is truly now.

3) Aerie

Image Credit: VB

With a predominantly millennial and Gen Z target audience, it makes sense that lingerie and apparel retailer Aerie was quick to adopt bot technology in their marketing approach.

Available on Kik, the bot helps users select products with an engaging game of this or that: you’re presented with two product images, and you select the one that most suits your body type and preferences. After a few rounds, the bot is able to make personalized product recommendations based on your selections.

“We worked closely with the Aerie team, including copywriters, designers, and brand voice to create a chatbot with a distinct persona that celebrates body positivity and promotes confidence in young women,” said Lauren Kunze, the CEO of Pandorabots, the company behind Aerie’s bot.

4) Harper Collins

Having trouble finding your next read? Harper Collins’ Epic Reads chatbot is here to help. With a few simple questions about your past favorites and genre preferences, this powerful little Facebook Messenger bot can find a book that matches your unique literary tastes.

The Epic Reads bot caters specifically to teens, but Harper Collins hasn’t forgotten adult readers — in early 2017, they launched a second book recommendation bot, Book Genie, which offers up a broader range of book suggestions for all ages. 

5) Marvel’s Spiderman

You might not ever be able to fight like a superhero, but now you can at least chat like one.

Marvel released a choose-your-own-adventure style Facebook Messenger bot to build hype for the summer blockbuster’s theatrical release.

The good news is that the bot will give you a cool nickname. The bad news is that the nickname it gave me was “The Wobbler.”

Through some urgent back-and-forth with the users, the bot eventually reveals panels of a secret comic. If you share your location, the bot will instruct you to “report for duty” by purchasing the full comic book in stores.

6) Starbucks

Image Credit: GeekWire

Perfect proof that simplicity can be the best route, the Starbucks Barista bot for Facebook Messenger serves a very specific, very important purpose: it orders you coffee.

When you have a desperate need for a java fix with minimal human interaction and effort, this bot has you covered. According to a demo led by Gerri Martin-Flickinger, the coffee chain’s chief technology officer, the bot even understands complex orders with special requests, like “double upside down macchiato half decaf with room and a splash of cream in a grande cup.”

That’s pretty impressive. I, an adult human and problematically frequent Starbucks customer, barely understood that. 

7) Duolingo

Image Credit: Duolingo

Learning a new language takes a lot of practice, and if you’re doing it on your own, you might miss out on gaining valuable conversational knowledge. Enter online language-learning platform Duolingo’s chatbot service.

Available in a wide variety of foreign languages within the Duolingo app, the bot helps language students overcome the fear of embarrassment that often comes with speaking a new language in a conversational setting by providing them with virtual, judgment-free option.

“A very common request that we get is people want to practice conversation,” said Duolingo’s co-founder and CEO, Luis von Ahn. The company originally tried pairing up non-native speakers with native speakers for practice sessions, but according to von Ahn, “about three-quarters of the people we try it with are very embarrassed to speak in a foreign language with another person.”

The chatbot offers the perfect solution: a friendly bot companion to practice with, any time of the day, with no fear of embarrassment. “As far as we can tell,” von Ahn told The Guardian, “computers can’t judge us.”

Which branded bots are you engaging with these days? Let us know on Twitter.

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