Believe it or not intelligent messaging bots aren't new. We've been experimenting with intelligent bots since the 1950s. What's the difference today?
Today you don't need a Ph.D. computer science to create a bot for Facebook Messenger. Simple as that. Bots are hot because it's easy to start using them for business (and personal) automation.
That's the good news.
The, "oh but wait" news is that because most people have never interacted with a messaging bot before. We're in uncharted waters for bot best practices. We're still figuring out how to build amazing bots, but in the meantime we're building some pretty great bots.
Messaging bots are a big deal
There is a lot of hype around chat bots right now. Chris Messina said 2016 would be the year of "conversational commerce". You could say last year was the beginning of the conversational commerce revolution, but we have a ways to go yet. And when asked if 2017 will be the year bots go mainstream Chris' answer was simply—no. It's too early to say bots will be mainstream, but they are certainly in the early adopter phase of tech maturity. Mainstream, even early majority adoption is a ways off.
That doesn't mean that bots aren't important now or that you should ignore them. Now is the time to experiment with messaging bots, figure out what works for your business and how people will interact with bots. Experimenting now is going to help you beat the competition in the long run.
TL;DR on best practices: we have to help people understand this new interface
There are some great posts on chat bot best practices (19 Best Practices for Building Chatbots,The Ultimate Guide to Chatbots: Why they’re disrupting UX and best practices for building, and Bots are awesome! Humans? Not so much.) and to sum them up for you: we're still figuring this out.
There are some great posts on chat bot best practices. Here are a few points that came up in all the posts:
Use clear language
Insert humor (but not too much)
Be consistent with language
Offer lots of hints and help to people what to do next
And the bottom line is this is a brand new way for most people to interact with computers, it's going to take time to figure things out.
For example, take the Wall Street Journal bot which gives you news and headlines in Facebook Messenger. If you don't use Facebook Messenger too often, maybe after a couple of weeks you'll get tired of it and want to stop getting the updates. It might take you a while, and it might take for you to read the 19 Best Practices post to learn the hamburger menu might have what you're looking for.
There you go. Simple, right? It's something you have to learn. You need to get used to looking for that menu to get help with chat. Just like right-clicking mouse buttons, tapping, double tapping, and all the other gestures that are second nature to us now, chat interfaces will take time to sink in. Remember teaching people how to single click, double click, and click-and-drag with mice back in the day?
It's going to take time for us to figure this out. There are going to be some dreadful, tear-my-hair-out bots and some I-can-hear-angels-sing bots in the meantime. We need to learn from both.
We’ve been down this road before
We both know that we’ve been down this road before. We’ve come through dotcom, Web 2.0, social media, and now post-social media eras just fine. Infobip’s founders were pioneers in A2P (application to person) SMS messaging and helped create the mobile messaging best practices we follow today. Messaging bots and chat are no different. We didn’t know what would work then. We went with our gut—how would I like to use this technology—and adapted along the way. Simple as that. Together we figure out the best practices as we go.
Should I build a bot for myself?
Oh, don't think it wasn't tempting to create one for this post. Don't think Esther's post wasn't an inspiration and a temptation. It was. But right now unless you have a clear reason why you want a bot (like Chris and Esther), it's not worth your time yet.
On the other hand, if you're thinking your business could use a bot and want to experiment a bit, go for it. In fact, go for it and send us the link to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to check it out.
Start now or wait?
Tough one. While planning this post we almost pinged our developers to see if they could make a bot for our sales development team. What if people could start talking to us about omni channel marketing, SMS delivery, and how we can help you over Facebook Messenger? What if?
What if we thought about the strategy and plan first, then pitched this idea.
Right, planning. Good idea.
Make it happen with a plan
And this is how we're ending this post. Not with a big call to action. Not with big next steps. If you're thinking about messaging bot and chat for business, start with a plan. Start with why you want to start using chat then build out from there.
And, yes, if you want to talk to us about your plans. Feel free to get in touch.
Infobip's API provides simple connections to Facebook Messenger, Viber, and other chat applications. When you're ready to deploy your bot, we're ready to help you connect it with all your other communications channels.