7 Steps for Marketers to Prepare for 2017's Chatbot Trend

Nicole Spears, Social Media Strategist

Originally featured in PR Daily

It’s taken a long time for companies to master customer service via social media.

Those that have done so are probably in the minority. As social media and marketing technology platforms have enhanced their customer service offerings—such as Twitter’s stripping away direct message restrictions and Facebook’s “Very Responsive to Messages” badge of honor—companies have shifted resources from to call centers to social media staffing.

The next monetary shift indicates a new opportunity for the social media marketer to shine: the investment in chatbots.

You’d be hard pressed to find a role in social media marketing today where some hybrid of community management and customer service wouldn’t cross your desk.

Though this means you might already play a role in putting a brand’s customer service budget to work, there’s an important tradeoff to consider. Consumer dependency on chatbots means decreasing investment in mobile apps. That indicates a shift in marketing allocations, for your brand or for your agency’s clients.

How will this affect social media marketing in 2017? With 1 billion daily active users and counting, Facebook is where consumer segments with the most purchasing power are active. That tells me that Facebook is about to emerge as the leading outlet for branded chatbots in 2017, meaning:

Best-case scenario: Increased time and money will be allocated to your customer service and community management efforts this year.

Worst-case scenario: Heightened consumer expectations for customer service accessibility via Facebook messenger will increase before your capabilities are up to the challenge.

[Calling all executive communications directors and VPs: Join us at Facebook HQ for the Facebook Leadership CommunicationsSummit!]

What can you do now to prepare for the 2017 chatbot surge?

1. Determine your current metrics tracking customer service success on social media. What’s your average time to respond? Are you gauging quality or sentiment of the interactions taking place? When it comes time to experiment with automated responses, or even to A/B test your chatbot with your current status quo, you’ll want reliable and relevant benchmarks to lean on. Once a bot is made available, users will be able to leave ratings and reviews for the service they receive.

2. Differentiate consumer use cases for your app versus social media. If you’ve invested in an app, you’re probably tracking user behavior within it. Take an interest in your consumers’ expectation within your app, and compare that against their expectation of your social media presence. Are you seeing consistency in the questions your brand is asked online? Prepare to answer these using a chatbot. Do they contrast from the most popular app feature? If, so, consider a way to redirect to the app from your chatbot.

3. Factor in a heightened demand of timeliness. Whether or not you automate Messenger responses in 2017, the trend toward chatbot customer care will only heighten consumers’ expectations. According to Facebook, “Bots make it possible for you to be more personal, more proactive, and more streamlined in the way that you interact with people.” Brands delivering upon these priorities will win savvy consumers’ loyalty.

4. Tune in to the conversation surrounding ethical dilemmas of artificial intelligence. The Obama administration is making it a priority as the administration winds down. In 2016, it seemed that trending algorithms and fake news were more of a problem for publishers than for brands. As marketers become more comfortable with the application of artificial intelligence for consumer interactions, the ethical conversation is sure to carry over into our industry.

5. Integrate customer service and community management teams. This is easier said than done, but if you haven’t started the process, now is the time. Nearly any third-party platform you’re using to manage your social media will allow you to assign tasks, tag messages or even contact your colleagues within the platform. Chatbots will further strain the relationship between community manager and customer service, because the consumer at the keyboard expects one person (or one bot) to fill both roles.

6. Revisit your approved responses. Intuitive conversation will encourage users to return to your chatbot with each new demand. With luck, you’ve invested serious time into crafting approved responses for your brand’s customer service on social media. Taking the same approach to determining your chatbot’s semantics will be even more essential. The development guidelines Smashing Magazine created for crafting conversation flow offer a great starting point to help your chatbot distinguish different types of questions.

7. Prepare for a new call to action. Once your chatbot is tested, you’ll want to maximize your investment. Decide whether this means changing your Facebook page’s call to action. If chatbot interaction isn’t your primary focus but is still important to your organization, get familiar with Facebook ads optimized to launch a conversation in messenger.

For more on these social trends, connect with me on #SecondGuessSocial Flash Briefing, available on Alexa devices or follow me on Twitter: @_NicoleESpears.




Nicole Spears

Nicole Spears Social Media Strategist