What Are Facebook Messenger Bots
Don’t let the word “bot” throw you off. I can understand why people have all sorts of misgivings regarding this word. After all, when we hear of this word, we instantly think of unpleasant things.
We think about spyware being sent by zombie computers all over the world and people’s computers being hijacked by malicious software.
We also think about hackers installing bot software on sensitive computers to perpetrate crimes or denials of service attacks.
Also, when we think about bots, we think about malicious and seemingly autonomous pieces of code that create all sorts of havoc.
Finally, people looking for a date online are very familiar with bots and they don’t have a very favorable view of them. In dating apps like Tinder and Grindr are often susceptible to fake dating profiles.
When people try to connect with seemingly attractive users, they get lead on a wild goose chase thanks to some sort of automated script.
After they’ve wasted quite a bit of time “talking” to these accounts do they realize that they’re actually talking to a bot. The bot simply just reacts to whatever keywords they type in with some pre-canned script or dialogue.
The key is to get the other person to continue talking until they’ve “softened up” to want to click a link. That link can go to an online strip show or a paid dating service. In other words, dating bots are just simply fancy schemes in spamming people.
As you can well imagine, given all these descriptions, a lot of online consumers don’t exactly have a very favorable view of automated communication software aka “bots”. But the good news is that bots aren’t all bad. Facebook Messenger bots are proof of this.
Facebook Messenger Bots Take Advantage of the Messenger Automation Features
Facebook made quite a stir when it announced that it has re-designed its messenger service. You can install it separately or you can install it as part of your Facebook app on your mobile device or computer.
Whatever your installation is, Facebook Messenger is designed in such a way that it can be automated. By using scripts, you can program your Facebook Messenger app to send pre-determined text to people contacting it.
It’s like calling customer service number and being asked to press different buttons depending on the nature of your inquiry. But instead of voice prompts, you do this with keyword or phrase “prompts”.
For example, if you run an online shoe store and people are interested in Nike Air shoes with certain attributes, they can type in the brand name and the model or any other identifying information.
Then you can set up Facebook Messenger bot to give your perspective customer key information like availability, price and variations that may be in stock.
Facebook Messenger Bot Common Features
There are many different types of Facebook Messenger bots currently in existence, but regardless of their seeming differences, they do have common features.
• Purely inbound – Messenger bots will only send you a message if you message them first.
If somebody goes to your Facebook page and clicks on the messenger icon because they’re interested in your online catalogue or your service description, they can click the messenger button and leave a message.
In other words, they initiate the relationship. You don’t use your bot to message people who have no prior relationship with you. It’s all inbound, not outbound.
• Trigger specific – Since Facebook Messenger bots are inbound, they filter inquiries based on certain key phrases.
In many cases, Facebook page operators would give a short menu of trigger words to potential customers engaging with their Facebook Messenger bot.
For example, to use the online shoe store scenario, I can put on my Facebook page “contact us today. Type “availability” or type “shoe type/brand” to get more information.”
Basically, I’m giving a “cheat sheet” to prospective buyers on how to use my Facebook Messenger bot. When they type in that information, they’d get information back.
If they type the wrong information and it doesn’t prompt the right feedback, I can put a generic “catch all message” that notifies them that I
read all engagements and once regular business hours resume, I will get in touch with them through Facebook Messenger.
• Facebook Messenger is rule driven
Another great thing about Facebook Messenger bots is that you can automate them based on rules. So, depending on how the customer responds to the information you send them, you can create a decision tree that sends different messages depending on the prompt.
This is not much different from calling a call center in India or the Philippines. When you call a call center, you are routed by an initial screening system and depending on your question or inquiry, you are sent to other specialists.
This is especially true if you are looking to resolve credit card issues, billing statements or financial transactions. There is some sort of decision tree involved and you can use a similar approach with your Facebook Messenger bot.
Facebook Messenger Bot Limitations
As awesome as the common features of most Facebook Messenger bots may be, bots do have quite a number of limitations. It’s a good idea to be as realistic as possible because as amazing as chat bots are, they do have serious limitations.
They cannot read minds – Please understand that chat bot technology is still a work in progress. We haven’t reached a point yet
where you can post an ambiguous word and automatically expect the bot to know what you’re talking about.
You basically have to train your customers to use certain keywords and phrases to either start the conversation properly so as to trigger the right information, or step them through the decision tree process.
This way you are feeding the bot the right bits and pieces of information so as to trigger the right response. This can be quite clunky and awkward depending on how long the decision tree is and how many pieces of information are possible with each branch of the logic tree.
They can require fancy coding – If you want a really professional Facebook Messenger bot, you need somebody who can code it using
Facebook’s commands in a robust way.
While you don’t necessarily have to have coding skills to come up with a fairly straightforward bot, if you want it to be deep, nuanced, robust and scalable, you would need professional help.
This might set you back quite a bit of money because people who know their way around the Facebook Messenger bot automation aren’t exactly cheap.
But above and beyond these fairly familiar issues, Facebook’s automation process is a very touch area. This is why Facebook is clear. You can use Facebook Messenger purely as an inbound system.
You can not turn it into some sort of spam machine that basically messages people who haven’t even been to your page. There has to be some sort of pre-existing engagement or point of contact between your business’ presence on Facebook and your prospect.
Maybe they visited your page. Maybe they are part of a group that you control. Maybe they left a comment on your page. There has to be some sort of initial trigger that was purely initiated by your customer. You can not initiate it yourself because Facebook will view that as spam.
Another related limitation Facebook imposes as part of its terms of service involves timing. When a person interacts with your brand on Facebook, you have 24 hours to send that person the initial message and then a follow up message. That’s all you’re allowed.
Anything you do past this point would be a violation. The only way to get around this, of course, is if your prospect contacts you again through messenger and then you have another opportunity to send an automated message and then follow up.
Keep this rule in mind. They have to make the first move and then you get the right to reply. And then after 24 hours, you get to send another reply, but that’s it. At this point, they have to keep contacting you for you to keep sending them messages.
This might seem pretty straightforward, but if you’re looking for a more robust or aggressive way of engaging with your customers, this term of service limitation is quite a hefty one.
What Are Facebook Messenger Bots – Conclusion
I hope this post has given you a better understanding of what Facebook messenger bots are and how to apply them to your business.
Also, I hope this has shown you the limitations of messenger bots and the costs to set up effective messenger bots for your brand. If you have any questions about setting up your own just leave a comment below.
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