Social Media Marketing Through Messaging App Chatbots

Picture of Aliza ShermanAliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

Social Media Marketing Through Messaging App Chatbots

For years, the goal of social media marketing has been to reach exponentially more people through the interconnected nature of social networks. The goal has been to compel people to share your marketing message widely to their friends and followers by posting the right kind of content at the right time.

A newer form of social media communications that has grown in popularity is to reach customers through messaging apps like SnapChat, WhatsApp, and more importantly, Facebook Messenger. Facebook Messenger boasts over 1 billion active users, clearly making it a leader in messaging apps.

Messaging apps aren’t the one to many sharing model of typical social media marketing but instead is one to one or one to a few. Communicating to just one customer or prospect at a time seems counter-intuitive to social media marketing, but it adds a useful layer to your online marketing mix to build relationships and handle customer service issues at a faster pace.

Facebook now prompts you to add Facebook Messenger to your Facebook Page to offer a more immediate way for people to connect with your company. For small businesses, this immediacy can feel overwhelming, but these days, people expect rapid response so you need to be prepared.

One way to manage the onslaught of messages is to install a “chatbot” to initiate or carry out some part of the interactions between your company and the public. A chatbot is a software program that incorporates some artificial intelligence features in order to create a human-like response system. Translation: It’s a smart but automated application that can provide some basic responses to people’s questions and comments when they message you through a messaging app like Facebook Messenger.

Incorporating Facebook Messenger into your Facebook Page provides visitors to your Page with the ability to:

Chat with your customer service reps. Even if you have a team of one, Messenger gives people a direct line to you and a way for you to respond quickly and easily.

Request and receive customer support. People aren’t calling customer service numbers as often as they are using social media to ask for help from companies. Your customer service process may need to change to include Facebook Messenger.

Ask questions and get answers. A chatbot could take care of their initial questions by providing responses to frequently asked questions.

Get personalized recommendations. Say you are a wine shop. Your chatbot could recommend wines for particular dishes or occasions based on pre-programmed content that you’d otherwise share on a web page or in a Facebook post.

Access product information and reviews. Chatbots can provide links to product videos, manuals, reviews and other content that can help provide customers service or close a sale.

Click to purchase. You can embed links to your online catalog leading people to purchase your products. Chatbots can become a supplement to sales.

So how do you get a chatbot?

There are software application companies that offer tools to build chatbots, even for people who aren’t programmers. A service called Chatfuel, for example, connects to your Facebook account and Page then lets you build a series of options and responses for anyone visiting your Page. You can answer basic questions such as “What are your hours” or “Where are you located?” and also lead people to web pages for more information or even initiate a call during normal business hours.

The free version of Chatfuel contains a message in the chatbot stating that you’re using the free version as an incentive to upgrade. Upgrading to the paid version eliminates this message, and subscription fees start at $15 per month.

There are many other chatbot tools available for different levels of programming skills to help you turn Facebook Messenger into an integral part of your social media marketing and customer service process. The key thing to remember is that automated responses can only go so far, and some people will eventually want to connect with a human on the other end of the messaging app.