Facebook Chat Bots: What Are They, How Do You Make One, And Why Should You?

Facebook Messenger presentation event, Mark Zuckerberg | Feedeo.io

We think that you should just be able to message a business in the same way you'd message a friend. You should get a quick response, and it shouldn't take your full attention -like a phone call would-, and you shouldn't have to install a new app. (Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook)

These are the words of Mark Zuckerberg to introduce the new Facebook Messenger Platform, which developers can use to build bots that can converse with users.

It arrives right after some uncomfortable changes that Facebook has made to its News Feed algorithm. Now, users will see more pictures and content shared by their friends than pages' updates.
As a consequence, the reach of your posts might be decreasing. Chat bots can be a promising opportunity to engage with your audience in a new and exciting way.

Messenger is becoming the next big promise in eCommerce to connect clients and services. Retailers and other businesses have already developed over 11,000 bots. You probably noticed all the new additions Facebook has been making to the 'Messages' dashboard of your pages. It is apparent that they want to make communication more direct and personal. Now you can add labels to keep track of conversations, see profile information about every customer at a glance, add private notes so other members of your team can understand the context of the conversation, respond to frequently asked questions using saved replies... This side of Facebook pages is growing increasingly powerful.

Important note! Next, we are going to view some great examples of what chat bots can do. As you will see, they are a powerful and flexible tool, and you should program yours according to the particular needs of your users. Don't make one just because it's trendy.
Conduct a brainstorming session with your development team, come up with some viable ideas and decide the best way your customers could use a chat bot. Maybe you don't need one at all, and that's alright!

Some examples of awesome chat bots

The basic functionalities of Facebook Messenger bots include sending subscribed users pictures, text and menus, display auto-responses based on specific keywords, and broadcast your RSS feed.
If a page has a chat bot, you will know by seeing a "Get Started" button at the bottom of the chat box.

CNN Messenger chat bot screencaps |Feedeo.io The CNN channel chat bot welcomes you with the following message: "Hi there, let's get started. I'll send you top stories every day. If you get lost, just type help. Or, use a few words to tell me what you want to know more about. For example, you could type "headlines", "Rio Olympics" or "politics".
Apart from this, the bot has some default functions presented as buttons. It will recommend you what to read based on what's popular and your personal preferences.

1-800 Flowers.com chat bot screencaps |Feedeo.io 1-800-Flowers.com is the very chat bot Zuckerberg used during the Messenger presentation. If you run an online eCommerce business, this might be the most interesting example for you: you can purchase flowers directly from the chat. The bot will ask you to choose a bouquet out of several categories, to enter the delivery address, the recipient's name, etc. And if you already entered your credit card information on Facebook at some point, paying is as easy as a click.

Monty Frugal chat bot screencaps |Feedeo.io HealthTap is a healthcare chat bot that answers to your medical concerns by recommending articles related to your queries.

Monty Frugal works like an app that keeps track of your expenses and can make predictions and display your expense information as pie charts with simple text commands. It also recognises bills and receipts.

Uber chat bot screencaps |Feedeo.io Uber has gone one step further. There is a feature on Facebook Messenger to order a car directly from any conversation. Or you can order it chatting directly with the Uber chat bot.

How can I make a chat bot?

There are several ways you can do this, and we're going to cover the topic broadly. You will find that chat bots have their own whole little world.
The first thing you will always need is a Facebook page. If you already have a business page up and running, you're ready to start.

1. Build your own chat bot from scratch

Facebook developers' platform | How to build your own Messenger chat bot | Feedeo.io

This is the expert-level option. If you want to have a chat bot that goes beyond the "Hello world" function, you will need a developer to build it. Keeping this in mind, these are the steps to follow and some tools to help you in the process:

  1. You must have a webhook ready. This is where your app will be hosted. You can host it on your own server, or use a service like Heroku or Google Cloud.

  2. If you have your Facebook page ready, enter Facebook's developers' platform, and select "Create a new app".

  3. Facebook has specific step-by-step documentation for the Messenger platform, to guide you through the setup and the first steps to customise your bot.

  4. If you want some further documentation, check this Github guide, repository included.

2. Use a service to build chat bots without coding

How to build a Messenger chat bot without coding | MayChat and Botsify | Feedeo.io

Your customization options will be more limited if you choose to do it this way, but depending on your needs this can be just enough.

I have been using ManyChat this week, and I can tell you it is super easy to use. Just sign in using Facebook and you will be able to automate a custom welcome message, custom responses based on keywords, and send messages and scheduled posts to your subscribers.

Botsify is another option to build a Messenger bot without programming. The interface might be a bit less intuitive to use than ManyChat at first, but it allows you to configure complex responses and it has some cool features, like the one-click WordPress integration.

If you want a more powerful solution, ask us about Ebba. She's our new personal shop assistant for Messenger, a very clever custom-made chatbot for retailers that can help both clients and employees. More details at Ebba.ai.

I hope this helped you solve your doubts about Messenger bots. If you decide to make one, please send us a message on Facebook. We would love to see how you are using them!
What do you think are the smartest ways of using bots? Have you found any remarkable examples?