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Social Media Chatbots: How Companies are Using Them in 2019

Everything you need to know about using social media chatbots to grow your brand.

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By Ana Simova
content writer at Ranking Press

If we have to choose one keyword that made the biggest impact in 2018 when it comes to companies that use social media, it has to be automation.

Why, you may wonder?

Simply because automation maintains consistent content, saves time, and improves the customer experience among other things – and this is where social media chatbots come in.

In the social media era we live in, more and more customers prefer texting and chatting as opposed to using the phone. This is one of the many reasons why social media bots, otherwise known as social media chatbots or messenger bots, are beneficial both for businesses and customers.

Since artificial intelligence will only continue to change the way in which companies use social media and the internet in general, let’s see why social media chatbots are the future of digital marketing and how companies are using them in 2019.

What are Chatbots?

Chatbots are artificial intelligence or computer programs specially designed to automatically conduct conversations with customers online. Chatbots can be used in SMS texts, website chat windows, messaging apps, and of course, social media chats.

If we try to explain what chatbots are to a kid, we’d simply say that chatbots offer assistance like customer service does, only instead of a person assisting you have a computer program doing the job. In other words –chatbots are digital personal assistants.

Chatbots recognize what the customers are saying by identifying keywords, specific patterns, and recognizing data after which they answer accordingly.

A chatbot is like any other application, the main difference being that chatbots constantly improve. These are the AI chatbots that use machine learning and natural language processing, as opposed to limited chatbots that are only programmed to answer a limited number of questions. So, in order to provide relevant answers in the most human way possible, AI chatbots learn by analyzing past conversations and assuming what better answers to provide in the future.  A human is still needed to make these adjustments, but since chatbots learn pretty quickly, less and less maintenance is required over time.

Are Companies Using Chatbots on Social Media?

Chatbots are the future and are definitely here to stay.

More and more companies are using chatbots on social media nowadays, and the statistics only confirm this. More than 50% of businesses that use social media already use chatbots, and by 2020 it’s estimated that over 80% of companies will utilize the advantages chatbots can bring to their business.

Companies are using chatbots in various ways, the most common one being the 24-hour customer service, so chatbots on social media will only continue to grow in popularity. By doing this, companies not only save money, but provide a faster and more convenient customer service to their users.

Besides providing customer service, companies also use social media chatbots for subscriptions, making orders, entertaining users, and more.

Chatbots especially come in handy to companies that are present on multiple social media platforms. Facebook Messenger and Twitter are among the most popular ones that support chatbots, but other platforms and apps use them as well like Skype, Viber, SnapChat, Whatsapp, and others.

Are you on multiple social media platforms? Sign up to Amplifr to manage your accounts with a single dashboard and receive the best analytical insights and posting time suggestions.

Moreover, social media users feel comfortable chatting to chatbots and over %50 of consumers would even buy a product from a chatbot.

The overall reaction regarding chatbots by both consumers and companies in 2019 is very positive which is why chatbots are the future of social media communication between companies and users, and the number of companies using them will only continue to grow.

Chatbots and Customer Service – Why Are Chatbots so Popular as a Customer Service?

We mentioned various ways in which social media chatbots are used by companies. That being said, this constantly evolving AI technology is mostly being used as a customer service virtual agent. Why is this so?

Firstly, chatbots are transforming the customer experience. In this fast-paced world that we live in, we all want to get information as quickly as possible. This is one of the most important perks of chatbots – they give answers instantly, no matter the day and time. In fact, chatbots are available 24/7, so waiting and frustration when chatbots are around is a thing of the past.

Secondly, chatbots save companies both time and money. Instead of paying for manpower, companies can simply use chatbots and reduce their costs. What’s more, having employees means dealing with many other things apart from providing them paychecks, so companies save valuable time as well, time they can use to grow the company and focus on other important tasks.

Lastly, chatbots will only continue to improve. Since we’re dealing with AI technology that’s constantly evolving, social media chatbots will only become better over time. If you think chatbots are great customer service virtual agents now, in a couple of years they may become the best form of online customer service that has ever existed. The only thing we can do now, however, is to just wait and see.

Pros and Cons of Using Chatbots

The future for social media chatbots looks bright and they’ll only improve in time due to AI. However, in order for you to decide whether or not chatbots are right for your business, let’s take an unbiased look at these messenger bots. We’ll list every advantage and disadvantage of using social media chatbots so you can form your own opinion and come to your own conclusions.

Pros of Using Chatbots

These are the advantages of using social media chatbots both for companies and users.

Chatbots Provide Immediate 24/7 Customer Support and Other Services

Chatbots provide the fastest and most efficient 24/7 customer service. This is the biggest advantage of using social media chatbots since the majority of questions most customers have can be answered quickly, so there’s no need to communicate with a support team.

In fact, most people avoid calling customer service directly on the phone or waiting for an email, and chatbots eliminate all this fuss.

So, by providing rapid customer service companies increase the engagement with their customers and by doing that boost their sales, so it’s a win-win situation both for businesses and their customers.

Apart from providing immediate customer support, chatbots can do other services as well like take orders, book tickets, rooms, etc., entertain users, and more. All this is done in a fast and accurate way, so you don’t have to worry about mistakes and false information since, after all, you’re dealing with artificial intelligence.

Chatbots Save Companies Money

If a company is trying to keep their costs low, using social media chatbots can save them a lot of money. Since using chatbots costs less than paying for a customer support team alongside all the costs that go with that, it’s a very convenient way to save money.

What’s even better is that chatbots work 24/7 without getting tired, taking days off, or lunch breaks, making the use of chatbots the most cost-effective way of having a customer support service among the other ones we mentioned.

Chatbots Provide Personalized Experience

Since AI chatbots constantly improve by learning from past conversations, they can now provide a personalized experience to users.

Chatbots learn from every interaction with each user so if they have a conversation with a user that they already talked to, they’ll know how to make the second conversation even more personalized. Chatbots “remember” what each user wants and needs so they can even recommend products or suggestions specifically for each user.

Chatbots can also help with marketing since they can send surveys or questionnaires to users to acquire instant results and streamline your marketing process.

Chatbots Eliminate the Need for an App

Many companies nowadays prefer to use chatbots instead of apps for communicating with their customers. Why, you may wonder? Well, apps require constant updating and maintenance, but even more importantly, heavy promotion since this market is overcrowded already, so chatbots are a great substitution.

Even more importantly, customers also prefer chatbots instead of apps. Think about it, using an app means that you first need to download it, keep it in your phone, and open it every time you have a question or need some information regarding the company or the product/service. Chatbots make this process extremely simple – users simply go to the company’s social media account and ask the question directly on the platform. So, again, this is a win-win situation for both companies and users.

Cons of Using Chatbots

Since the massive use of chatbots is a relatively new thing, not everything is perfect yet, so let’s see some disadvantages to using social media chatbots both for companies and users.

Chatbots are Not Perfect for Every Business

Chatbots are most practical for businesses that provide a service. Some examples would be a food delivery service, a taxi company, a travel agency, and so on. These types of businesses provide more straightforward services so chatbots are very practical for taking orders, booking rides, and so on.

However, more complex businesses like B2B companies require a more qualitative customer support and consultations with users, so using chatbots may not be the smartest way to go. Since chatbots provide quick answers to template questions, a human customer service is the right way to go in these cases.

Not all Users Trust Chatbots Yet

As we mentioned, chatbots are still a relatively new thing. This is one of the reasons why some customers don’t yet feel comfortable communicating with them. Some users still prefer human-to-human interaction, no matter the reasons, so using only chatbots for customer support mainly depends on your audience.

Chatbots Can’t Improvise & Don’t Understand Sarcasm

The last important disadvantage to using chatbots is that, well, chatbots are not and will never be able to interact as a human would.

Since chatbots are programmed to answer already templated questions, they cannot improvise in situations when that’s necessary. So, if a chatbot faces an unpredictable question from a user, it may get confused and give a wrong or confusing answer. This can be frustrating to users, which is quite understandable, and they can leave your page without getting the information they were looking for.

Unfortunately, chatbots can’t recognize sarcasm, irony, or anything else that’s not a straightforward question or inquiry. That being said, since AI chatbots constantly learn and improve, maybe in the future they’ll be able to read between the lines and interact in a similar manner as a human would, but for now, all we can do is wait.

How to Get Started With Chatbots

If you think the pros of using social media chatbots outweigh the cons and your company can benefit from this AI technology – you too can use chatbots to grow your business.

So, what are the steps you need to take in order to get started with chatbots? How can you create your own social media chatbots? We’ll answer these questions and more in the following paragraphs so you know exactly what you’ll be getting yourself into if you decide to use chatbots for your company.

Make a Plan and Define Your Goals

First and foremost, you need to think about what exactly you expect from the chatbots you want to use for your company. Since chatbots can be used in a variety of ways, it’s beneficial to know what it is exactly that you want to achieve with them or more precisely to define their purpose.

If you have a social media team it’s best to discuss these questions directly with them and see what type of issues your company faces both on social media and beyond. Do you need to improve your customer service? Or maybe increase your sales?  

Whatever the goal, defining it when starting out with chatbots will make the next steps a lot easier.

Choose the Appropriate Platforms

Once you figure out the purpose of the chatbots you’ll be using, the next step is to decide on which platforms to use them. Since not all social media platforms support chatbots, your options are limited.

From the most popular ones that do, you can choose either Facebook Messenger or Twitter, or both if you need to. You can also use chatbots for your website and other platforms and apps like Skype, WhatsApp, and so on.

Another important aspect to focus on is your audience. If we take into consideration that each social media platform is visited by different demographics, it’s a good idea to analyze your audiences if you’re present on more than one platform which will help you in the next step.

Create a Content Strategy for Your Chatbots

When creating a chatbot, you need to have a content strategy. The most essential agents to focus on would be an FAQ agent, a customer support agent, and conversational agents. The more conversational agents you have – the more natural conversation your chatbots can achieve. Let’s start with the first agent.

FAQs Agent

Frequently asked questions are the questions your customers are most likely to ask. So, if you already have the FAQs on your website, make sure to include them all in your chatbots. If you think you should add some more popular questions your customers might have or you’re not exactly sure what the FAQs actually are, it’s best to talk to your current customer service and ask them to send you a list of all the questions they mostly get.

Moreover, if you have other employees in your company like salespeople or a person in charge of marketing, they too can help. Ask them why users convert or don’t convert into customers, what their biggest issues and concerns are, why they use your social media platforms, and so on. These are really important questions you need to answer in order to ensure the success of your chatbots.

Customer Support Agent

Customer support questions are also FAQs but also some more general ones like the location of your business or your contact information but more complex ones also like how to use your product for a specific thing. Include these questions with their appropriate answers on the list as well.

Conversational Agents

An example of a conversational agent would be the first or the introductory message a chatbot will send to a user, like: “Hi friend, what can I help you with today?”. Conversational agents keep the conversation natural and flowing, but also point each particular user in the right direction.

For example, if you have a product that can be used in different ways, it’s a great idea that your chatbot asks the user what he/she needs the product for. This way the chatbot can list all the benefits that user will experience when using the product, and by doing that encourage the user to go ahead and buy it.

Give Your Chatbot(s) a Personality

You don’t want to have a boring chatbot that resembles a robot, right? Well, you don’t have to. Many companies give their brand’s voice and personality to their chatbots, and you should do the same.

Even though users know that they’re basically chatting with a computer program, they still want to have a human conversation with it. After all, we give human characteristics to everything, from months of the year to cars, so why not chatbots as well?

If you want to give your users a great chatbot experience, use your brand’s voice and personality when creating the chatbots.

Start out by giving your chatbot a name. For example, the company Bloomerang Solutions named their chatbot Bloomy, so when it sends the first introductory message to users it starts out by saying: “Hi there, I’m Bloomy…” This creates a friendly tone and keeps the users relaxed.

Next is the introductory message. It’s important to have a compelling introduction in order for the users to engage in conversation with the chatbot from the start. It can be something like: “Hi there, friend. I’m “name of chatbot” and I’m happy you’re here. Is there anything I can help you with today?” The friendlier the tone, the better experience your users will have.

Learn how to establish a strong brand voice in our tone of voice guide.

Make sure to go over this with your copywriters so they have all the necessary information about your brand’s tone of voice and personality when writing your chatbots’ conversations and content.

Add Visuals

In order to create the best possible user experience, adding visuals to your chatbot conversations is a great idea. Who doesn’t like emojis or GIFs, right? This will only bring out your brand’s personality even more and make the conversation between the chatbots and users friendlier and easy-going.

Create Your Chatbot

The last step is to, obviously, create your chatbot. Don’t worry, you don’t need to know coding or programming to do this. There are many chatbot development platforms where you can create your chatbot by simply following the instructions.

If you have the time and think you’re up for the task, you can use Drift, Chatfuel, Botsify, or some other popular chatbot development platform out there and create a chatbot from scratch. However, if you think this is a complicated task for you or you want to create a more complex chatbot, you can always hire someone to develop the chatbot for you. If you decide for the latter, make sure to give the chatbot creator all the essential information that we mentioned in the previous steps and familiarize him/her with your company and brand.  

How to Increase Sales With Chatbots

The second biggest reason why companies use chatbots besides improving customer service experience is to increase sales. So, how can chatbots increase your sales?

Firstly, chatbots save your customers’ time. When buying a product online, users have to go over a few steps like choosing a product, creating a new user account, filling in security questions, paying, checking out, and so on. This is why many people don’t even buy the product in the end, especially if they need to create a new user account.

Good thing is that with chatbots, half of these steps are completely unnecessary.

For example, if you have an online store, you can use chatbots as personal shopping assistants. They can ask your customers what exactly it is they’re looking for, offer products accordingly, and help them with the buying process. By doing this you’ll have fewer customers who’ll abandon their cart due to the complicated buying process and consequently increase your sales.

Secondly, chatbots learn what your customers like and need. Besides helping and conversing with users, chatbots “remember” how each and every one of your customers behaves. So, next time a customer comes back to your site or social media platform, the chatbot can recommend a similar product to the one they got before, or a product that’ll most likely buy based on the buyer’s history.

Moreover, chatbots can remind customers about a product that arrived back in stock. So, if someone wants to buy something that’s currently not in stock, once they come back to your site or social media platform they’ll be reminded automatically.

Lastly, we come back to the customer service experience. By immediately answering any question your customers might have, chatbots dramatically improve the chances of them buying a product from your site.

Now, let’s see how this works in practice.

Chatbot Examples

Let’s see how companies use chatbots so you can get some inspiration when creating your own. According to our research, the following three companies have the best chatbots that we can all learn from, so let’s see why that is.

Chatbot Example #1: Whole Foods

Whole Foods has one of the most personalized chatbot out there. Their chatbot interacts with users who visit their official Facebook page via Facebook Messenger in an exciting and fun way.

The most interesting thing about their chatbot is that it gives their users cooking inspiration by suggesting recipes based on what they want.

It starts out by asking what they want. If the keyword “recipe” is in the answer, it then asks about the type of recipes the user is looking for based on the cuisine, type of dish, type of diet, and continues with the type of meal like breakfast, lunch, appetizer, snack, and so on.

Based on the responses, the Whole Foods chatbot will give the user-specific recipes based on what he/she wants.

It’s also interesting that they’ve incorporated the use of emojis in their chatbots. So, if you type a cake emoji, the chatbot will give you recipes for desserts, if you type a pizza emoji you’ll get different pizza recipes, and so on.

Chatbot Example #2: 1-800-Flowers

This is another company that successfully uses chatbots for two years, and their increased sales are all the proof we need that chatbots work.

Their chatbot which is, in fact, a virtual personal shopping assistant helps customers find the perfect gift for any occasion. It even has a name – Gwyn, which is short for gifts when you need them.

The Gwyn chatbot is programmed to answer both simple and more complex questions, from “What to buy for my wife” to “What are the best chocolates you have”.

So, if you ask Gwyn to recommend you some gifts for your wife, the chatbot will ask about the particular occasion, what your wife likes, the purpose of the gift, and so on. The purpose is to guide the user to find the perfect gift for any person and occasion, and so far it works perfectly.

Chatbot Example #3: Hipmunk

Hipmunk is a site where you can look for great travel deals but also book accommodation, flights, and more. They have a great chatbot that helps their customers find the best travel deals online.

So, when a user visits their Facebook page, based on the user’s location the chatbot will immediately recommend the best travel deals from that particular location. The Hipmunk chatbot can also be found on their other platforms like Skype and Slack.

This chatbot gives advice and recommendations for cheapest flights, particular accommodation, most romantic destination, best destinations to visit based on the time of year, and more! This way, users can plan their whole trips by interacting with the Hipmunk chatbot and save tons of time.

Facebook Messenger Chatbots

Did you know that currently over 100,000 chatbots are being used solely on Facebook Messenger for various purposes? Indeed, thousands of companies are already using Facebook chatbots, as the previously-mentioned examples, and the number is only increasing from day to day.

What are Facebook Messenger chatbots most used for?

Greeting users and asking if they need help with anything, answering FAQs, handling e-commerce transactions, engaging with customers, collecting information, and more.

So, do you need Facebook Messenger chatbot for your business? Well, that depends on a couple of things.

Firstly, you need to know if your customers are actually using Facebook Messenger. If you know your audience you’ll know whether or not they use Facebook, and if the answer is yes your business will benefit from a Facebook Messenger chatbot. However, if the answer is no, don’t waste your valuable time since the chatbot won’t be used.

Secondly, ask yourself if you actually need a chatbot. Will it serve a purpose? If yes, which one(s)?

And lastly, see if you have the time to create, maintain, and monitor your chatbot, or at least hire someone to do the job for you.

Is Facebook Messenger chatbot something your company needs? If the answer is affirmative, here’s how you can do it.

Facebook Chatbots Tutorial

Before actually creating the chatbot, you need to define its purpose, create a content strategy, and give it your brand’s voice and personality. Go back to the paragraph on how to get started with chatbots to see more details about these first essential steps.

Once that’s done, you can use a free tool that doesn’t require complicated programming.

Simply connect your account with your Facebook page, and follow the instructions.

You’ll be given different templates to choose from, and create answers to as many questions as you can think of. Each tool has slightly different instructions, so choose one and it’ll lead you through the process.

Once your chatbot is done, don’t forget to include a Facebook Messenger plugin on your website so your customers can easily message you.

Twitter Chatbots

Similarly to Facebook, Twitter chatbots are also mostly used for improving the user experience, among other things like greeting users, offering help, collecting valuable information, and more.

One year ago, Twitter introduced various CTA features to their chatbots, so with the simple click of a button, users can now follow the company’s Twitter account, tweet about the chatbot, go to their website, and more.

So, do you need a Twitter chatbot?

If your target audience is most active on this platform and visit your Twitter account if you need a Twitter chatbot for a particular reason, and if your company really needs it – go ahead and do it.

Twitter Chatbots Tutorial

Once again, you’ll need a free tool in order to create your own Twitter chatbot. But before you start, go back to the paragraph on how to get started with chatbots to learn more about how to define its purpose, create a content strategy, and give it your brand’s voice and personality.

The next step is to choose a tool that’ll help you to create the chatbot and follow the instructions. Once it’s done, include a plugin on your website so customers can easily message you on Twitter.

Final Words

The future of digital marketing lies in automation, and chatbots will only rise in popularity over the coming years, just like social media management tools do. Amplifr is one of the best social media management tools out there, especially when it comes to analytics and scheduling, so if you don’t have one we strongly recommend that you check it out and see if it’s the right fit for you.

Sign up to Amplifr to manage multiple social media profiles from one dashboard effectively and hassle-free.

Do you know that Amplifr has its own chatbots for Telegram and Facebook Messenger? You can easily connect your Amplifr account with our Telegram and Facebook Messenger chatbots and easily receive analytics, post, and schedule to your social media accounts, payment due dates, and more! So, what are you waiting for?

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