What are chatbots and what role should they play for your brand?

23/Jan/2017 · 3 MINS READ

One of the key predictions of Ogilvy’s ‘Key Digital Trends for 2017’ report is that artificial intelligence (AI) is set to manage and define relationships between consumers and brands.

In a time where Airbnb, Netflix and other streaming services provide immediate solutions to our needs, it only feels normal that customer queries should be addressed in a similar manner. And chatbots – particularly the 34,000 Facebook Messenger chatbots currently on the platform are already serving this purpose. And their number is set to grow exponentially, with 80% of marketing leaders saying they were planning on implementing chatbot and or AI solutions by 2020.

What does this mean for your social media marketing strategy? Let’s look at how exactly the ‘Chatbot Goldrush’ came to be and whether it’s the right time for your brand to embrace this exciting technology.

The rise of chatbots

Broadly defined, a ‘bot’ refers to any software that can be used to automate a task. What differentiates your standard bot from a chatbot is that the latter is able to automate conversation.

While they only came to prominence in recent years, the first chatbot, Eliza, was actually invented in 1966 by Joseph Weizenbaum. She was tasked to imitate the language of a therapist using only 200 lines of code.

Chatbot capabilities have come a long way since and have become of the most revolutionary advances in communication technology. Combined with the ever-growing popularity of messenger tools such as Facebook Messenger or What’s App, a growing number of brands and corporations such as Bank Of America, Uber, Sephora and The Wall Street Journal are now actively using them.

Why should my brand use Chatbots?

With 42% of social media users expecting brands to respond to online queries within an hour, providing a seamless customer experience online can be a daunting task for many businesses, especially those who lack sufficient resources to meet customer demands.

AI chatbots provide a cost effective solution to this challenge. In theory, if you configure them the right way and feed them a list of your FAQs, community management should start taking care of itself.

In addition to automating replies, chatbots have a number of benefits, including:

Gathering data

Most of us are reluctant to (knowingly) share our personal details with companies advertising their products, scrolling past forms and other methods asking us to input our information. This isn’t necessarily the case with chatbots, that can extract our details more easily, on the premise that the interaction feels real and genuine. You hardly ever give out your phone and e-mail address through an ad on your newsfeed, but if the right bot asks nicely, chances are you are more likely to volunteer information, particularly if it will assist you in some way.

Generating engagement

People don’t only interact with chatbots for utilitarian reasons. Disney’s Judy Hopps bot on Facebook Messenger is a good example of how chatbots can engage and delight users/audiences. By inviting Facebook users on an interactive detective hunt, Judy coaxed them to engage with her for an average of 10 minutes. An impressive achievement, especially at a time when our attention span is at an all-time low.


There’s no doubt that user demand for hyper-personalised interactions with brands will only keep increasing. And chatbots have the capability to take these experiences to the next level. Take Sephora’s chatbot on Kik for example. Prompting users to provide more information about themselves in the form of a quiz, Sephora’s chatbot was able to give bespoke advice on products, beauty tips and reviews that would benefit that particular user.

Should you get a chatbot?

While chatbots can be a good investment for many business and help you take your social media and customer service strategy to the next level, beware of the new shiny object syndrome. Will a bot help you maximise time and resources more efficiently, or is it just a nice-to-have?

Before you go a chatbot shopping spree, bear this in mind.

Manage expectations

Keep in mind that AI technology is still in its very infancy. A chatbot isn’t a magical solution and it won’t be able to solve all your customer service challenges overnight. At least not yet.

Don’t make them sound like a robot

People don’t mind interacting with a bot – as long as it doesn’t feel like they are. Ensure your chatbot chats like a human. Think casual, simple sentences, and don’t forget to add a touch a humour.

Optimise the customer experience

This all comes down to configuration and storyboarding. While most users are happy to embrace the technology, they’ll be somewhat skeptical of its outcome. If there are any signs that your bot doesn’t have a logical or cohesive narrative, your bot will soon run out of users to chat to.

Thinking of making chatbots are integral part of your social media strategy? We can help – get in touch with us today!