Social Messaging and the Inevitable Rise of the Bots

April 5th, 2016 by | No Comments

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SXSW 2016 hailed social messaging apps as one of the industry’s next big marketing trends, but it’s likely they will evolve beyond being just another ad platform. In Asia, platforms like WeChat, Viber, and LINE have already shown how messaging apps can be effective channels for commerce, and all indicators point to the fact that the same could happen here in North America.

Microsoft recently announced an add-on to its Cortana Intelligence Suite called the Bot Framework, which lets developers build intelligent bots that customers can interact with on a wide variety of platforms, including SMS, Office 365, and Skype. It also launched a Skype Bot Platform that will soon allow companies to build bots that can interact with Skype users through text, voice, video, and interactive characters.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella expressed the company’s commitment to promoting “conversation as a platform”, emphasizing that they are not the only ones making it possible for consumers to interact with digital services using different types of digital conversations—many of which will have an actual human on only one side. Already, well-known brands like Air France KLM, Hyatt, Everlane, and Zendesk, are already using platforms like Facebook Messenger as a customer service channel.

Of course, interacting with customers through social messaging presents brands with a number of obstacles to deal with. For one, they won’t have full control of the user experience, so delivering high quality customer service will require more effort. There is also the likelihood that interactions with internet bots could result in major social media blunders, such as when Microsoft was forced to take down Tay, its AI Twitter bot, after it was manipulated by users into posting highly offensive tweets.

However, despite the fact that perfecting human-computer interactions will require some time and effort, brands should already start thinking about how automation can be used to improve customer engagement. It seems highly probable that a large number of consumers will not only be comfortable with this kind of arrangement, but may even find it better suited for their needs.

In fact, Slack, a widely-used collaboration platform for intra-office chat and organization, has bots as its most popular feature. As more and more consumers are exposed to the convenience and benefits that automation can provide, brands may soon find it necessary to consider a highly integrated strategy that will prepare them for the day when bots are ubiquitous.

About the author:
Jehan S. Ismael is a full-time writer and editor for a leading Internet Marketing firm. She has a love-hate relationship with food, likes to listen to rock and rap music, and enjoys reading books by self-absorbed writers like J.D. Salinger and Anthony Bourdain.

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