Using Chat Bots on Social Media is cheating! Well, not always…

A tale of two bots - some are evil culprits of spamming, scamming, spreading fake news and even political propaganda, but some are simply amazing feats of technological advancement with a huge potential for brands to create a seamless user experience for their customers on a platform that is favourable to them.

So what are chat bots? They are essentially automated software that own social media accounts and emulates human behaviour. Great, when you are offering a helpful and informative near personal experience to customers, not so good when conning people into thinking they are real humans in order to influence behaviour or shift opinions. People don’t like to be duped so it’s best to tell them they are dealing with a bot rather than try to hoodwink them into believing they are actually talking to a person.

Twitter is on a mission to eliminate the bots running fake accounts, but they’re slippery suckers and near impossible to prevent given that anyone can build them from the comfort of their own home. They may never be obliterated completely, but that does not mean that we should condemn all bots to the scrapheap. There’s no sugar coating it, bots can be pretty destructive, particularly in the political sphere but in business, they can be magic! For example, in the US, customers can order their Hawaiian from Dominos through Twitter, their whopper from Burger King through Facebook messenger and their burrito from Taco Bell through Slack. Notwithstanding some technical teething problems, these bots, when functioning well, offer a quick and convenient service to customers.

The truth is, bots have moved on significantly from the clunky, unresponsive technology that they used to be. They have come a long way from simple scripted answering machines too. They are now deployed in several roles, from customer service to customer engagement, to lead generation. Today’s chatbots are intelligent enough to engage potential customers and ensure that human customer service and sales agents are not swamped with repetitive inquiries that waste time and resources. KLM uses Facebook for automated updates around checking in and flight delays and also gives users a copy of their boarding pass. When there’s a bigger task, a (human) KLM agent will take over. But that’s not all bots can do. British Airways' bot offers a personalised service advising on holidays according to the customer’s preferences. And H&M’s is helping customers shop, like a virtual personal shopper. And before the haters win the argument on this, many organisations are using bots for social good too. For example, Tarjimly is a bot that connects refugees and immigrants with translators in real time and Asks for a Raise helps women get the raises they deserve at work.

Indeed, businesses can enhance the power of the bot by using them for:

• Populating social media feeds to increase brand awareness. You can use social bots to populate your company’s social media pages. For instance, you can program your bots to share on Facebook or Twitter the latest posts on your company blog or other online articles mentioning your products.
• Providing a personalised service by tailoring offers to the consumer. Bots become more intelligent as they are exposed to more data. Once they understand the customer’s requirements, they can offer services/products that the customer is interested in.
• Automating aspects of customer service to improve efficiency. While bots can never completely replace humans in providing effective customer service, you can at least use them to automate its more tedious aspects.
• Encouraging feedback to collect valuable data. People are happy to tell you how they feel if it’s quick and easy. A bot allows them to quickly comment on your service/brand whilst they are on the move. Businesses can really harness this to improve their offering.

And if you are not convinced yet - well, nearly 60% of millennials have used chatbots and of those who haven’t, nearly half want to. With so many millennials saying they are happy to engage with bots –it would be silly to let the really bad stuff put you off. Like anything, used responsibly and cleverly, bots can do a great deal of good. So, if you want to use bots to buy fake followers, spread fake news or unfairly attack a competitor, we say “hell no”! But if you want to use bots to genuinely boost your brand’s engagement with customers, then hey, let’s talk bot!

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