Facebook Messenger claims to have recently hit the much coveted ‘billion’ with 1.2 billion users on the platform. Last year, at Facebook’s Developer Conference, F8, the support for bots on Messenger platform was unveiled. And since then, developers from around the world have been working to leverage the next-gen technology. There are more than 100,000 bots available on Messenger today. David Marcus, Messenger’s CEO, states that the number of messages sent between businesses and customers has reached to 2 billion a month.
Efforts by servers hosting websites to counteract bots vary. Servers may choose to outline rules on the behaviour of internet bots by implementing a robots.txt file: this file is simply text stating the rules governing a bot's behaviour on that server. Any bot that does not follow these rules when interacting with (or 'spidering') any server should, in theory, be denied access to, or removed from, the affected website. If the only rule implementation by a server is a posted text file with no associated program/software/app, then adhering to those rules is entirely voluntary – in reality there is no way to enforce those rules, or even to ensure that a bot's creator or implementer acknowledges, or even reads, the robots.txt file contents. Some bots are "good" – e.g. search engine spiders – while others can be used to launch malicious and harsh attacks, most notably, in political campaigns.
The “web-based” solution, which runs on a remote server, is generally able to be reached by the general public through a web page. It constitutes a web page with a chatbot embedded in it, and a text form is the sole interface between the user (you) and the chatbot. Any “upgrades” or improvements to the interface are solely the option and responsibility of the botmaster.
^ "From Russia With Love" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-12-09. Psychologist and Scientific American: Mind contributing editor Robert Epstein reports how he was initially fooled by a chatterbot posing as an attractive girl in a personal ad he answered on a dating website. In the ad, the girl portrayed herself as being in Southern California and then soon revealed, in poor English, that she was actually in Russia. He became suspicious after a couple of months of email exchanges, sent her an email test of gibberish, and she still replied in general terms. The dating website is not named. Scientific American: Mind, October–November 2007, page 16–17, "From Russia With Love: How I got fooled (and somewhat humiliated) by a computer". Also available online.
Marketer’s Take: This is a good demonstration of how you can add a gaming dimension to your bots. If you’re a marketer that likes to tell stories, then you can design a choose-your-own adventure bot that educates and sells prospective customers that are following along. There are many twists and turns that can be built into a bot like this, so creative marketers will readily take advantage.
Used by marketers to script sequnces of messages, very similar to an Autoresponder sequence. Such sequences can be triggered by user opt-in or the use of keywords within user interactions. After a trigger occurs a sequnce of messages is delivered until the next anticipated user response. Each user response is used in the decision tree to help the chat bot navigate the response sequnces to deliver the correct response message.
Talking to a chatbot can be a lot of fun, and if you have the desire, dedication and skills to create, maintain and manage your own chatbot, you can do it. Whether you choose a fully stand-alone “virtual companion”, or take on the challenge of creating your own web-based chatbot, there are several options available to you, the prospective new botmaster, for creating a new chatbot. Nevertheless, first of all you have to choose between a stand-alone chatbot application, and a web-based chatbot.
Earlier, I made a rather lazy joke with a reference to the Terminator movie franchise, in which an artificial intelligence system known as Skynet becomes self-aware and identifies the human race as the greatest threat to its own survival, triggering a global nuclear war by preemptively launching the missiles under its command at cities around the world. (If by some miracle you haven’t seen any of the Terminator movies, the first two are excellent but I’d strongly advise steering clear of later entries in the franchise.)
Not only is this bot a saviour when it comes to knowing weather updates in a jiffy, it is very quirky with its replies sometimes. If you love having conversations with a bot, Poncho will entertain you pretty well with his witty and personalised replies for some queries. On my query, see how I was informed that the mighty cat-bot herself had DJ’ed in Bengaluru and loved the crowd!
Marketer’s Take: While I didn’t like being directed to a website to finalize my purchase, I understand why Spring decided on this approach given how the Messenger platform was just released. Yet, this may be a sound strategy if you’re looking to augment upselling and cross-selling opportunities or looking for deeper analytics than what Facebook Messenger is providing.
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This is an enterprise-level, fully-managed bot provider, meaning you tell them what you want and they’ll build it for you. Their clients include top brands in range of industries, but especially in retail and CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies. This is probably because their chatbots can catalog and host a view of products within the chat itself, making it a favorite of beauty companies like Vichy, Covergirl and L’Oreal. Automat also integrates with Hootsuite Inbox using the Facebook Messenger handover protocol.