Are you a good bot or a bad bot? There are two types of bots in the world. Businesses, of course, want to take advantage of good bots while avoiding the bad. Since 2017 seems like the year of the chatbot – a semi-automated way to talk to visitors on your website – we’ll take a closer look at how your business can use chatbots in your own digital marketing efforts. But first, let’s take a look at what bots are and how they got to where we are today.
Most Web Traffic Is From Bots
In 2016, humans were just under 50% of web traffic, and the rest of the traffic was from bots. This isn’t necessarily a problem; in fact, that’s how the web has been designed, quite intentionally. For decades, useful site crawlers or spider bots for search have helped us categorize the web. They make sites and their content searchable down to the most minute detail. They also alert us to price changes on our favorite ecommerce or airline sites.
Other types of good bots are transactional bots, informational bots, and entertainment bots. These categories of bots help automate business processes, publish news and information, and play games or become gaming personas. They take on repetitive, time-consuming tasks that either humans don’t want to do or could not do in the same amount of time as a bot.
The web wouldn’t be what it is today without good bots. Nor would it be the way it is without the bad ones.
The Bad, and the Ugly
Bad bots are rarely useful or productive. Bad bots are built for nefarious purposes, almost always to the advantage of the bot controller and the disadvantage of the website affected. These bots include impersonators (the cause of most DDoS attacks on websites), scrapers, spammers, and hackers.
Recently, as we’ve all come to learn, bad bots have been highly engaged in worldwide political processes. This is especially evident on social media including Facebook and Twitter. Armies of bots, created to look like everyday people, infiltrated the social networks and promoted various political viewpoints. Russia has been proven to be behind not just U.S. bot attacks, but those in other countries and electoral systems as well. However, there are undoubtedly plenty of other players in this game, given the high stakes involved.
By 2021, cybercrime damage is estimated to be at $6 trillion, with the cybersercurity products and services industry growing to $1 trillion in revenue. Large businesses have entire departments devoted to preventing, detecting, and recovering from cyber and bot attacks.
Small businesses should do what they can to prevent their sites from becoming compromised. This includes keeping website software up-to-date, using two-factor authentication where possible for logins and passwords, and by blocking common bots from accessing your website.
Now, On to the Good
But wait, you say: are all bots bad? Definitely not! Many are currently being used for good, and many more are under development and will change the world over the next decades.
Good bots fall along a continuum of bot intelligence and usefulness.
In the center of the scale, smart bots are mostly voice and messaging bots. You may already have one or more of these in your home, office, pocket, or wrist. These include AI bots like Alexa or Siri. They use machine learning and artificial intelligence to answer questions and provide information. At the top of the scale are bots that are much more autonomous; they’re often called intelligent agents. These are the bots that control cars (like Tesla) or provide extreme data analysis (like IBM’s Watson).
For our purposes today, we’re going to talk about the bottom of the scale, script bots. These are the bots that you’re likely seeing pop up everywhere from Facebook to your favorite airline website to every software startup you’ve ever visited. The good news is that you can have one (or more), too!
Script Bots = Chatbots = Good Business
Chatbots are services powered by rules and/or artificial intelligence. They are built to live in major chat platforms (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Kik, Slack) or on your own website. Chatbots usually have a distinct purpose and capability. This includes bots that can tell you the weather (and related implications), bots to help schedule meetings among multiple people, bots to assist with shopping online, bots to encourage good personal finance habits, and bots for customer service and sales.
Machine learning-based bots are much more sophisticated. They rely on artificial intelligence, and many of them can learn and grow over time by expanding the information they understand and can process.
Chatbots are on the rise because our preferences as consumers are changing. More than half of consumers expect answers from companies 24/7. Additionally, nearly half prefer contact through messaging versus email or the phone. Competition for chatbot platforms is growing; of course Facebook currently dominates, and would like to remain the leader. However, as the industry is still rather new, it remains to be seen if they can hold on to their lead. Nevertheless, 1.2 billion people use Facebook Messenger monthly, so that’s a pretty good start for the social media giant.
Businesses can create bots within Facebook or other common social messaging apps. Or they can build bots for use on a corporate website or within an app.
Creating a Chatbot
When considering a chatbot, businesses should consider their audience. Millennials love them, but not all audiences will respond to or want to interact with bots. Chatbots will also shift traffic and customer use from a company’s branded mobile app to the bot platform, assuming it’s elsewhere (such as on Facebook Messenger). Therefore, development resources might get stretched or need to change.
When creating your first business bot, don’t overcomplicate it. Instead,use the bot to solve for one key task or set of questions. Additionally, make it part of your overall marketing strategy. For customer service, for example, it should be easy to jump from bot to human chat, voice, or email (and vice-versa), instead of the bot standing alone.
Murray Newlands, a bot guru, suggests that you treat your bot like any other marketing project or tool. Create a strategy to market it, communicate its value to your customers, and devote the right amount of resources to it. He also suggests that you give your bot a unique name and personality, and that it shouldn’t be overly pushy or sales-oriented. Lastly, as with any other tech project, be sure to test your bot extensively.
Are you ready to get started with your first chatbot? Implementing some types of bots is so easy, you can do it in an afternoon.
I recommend you start with a Facebook Messenger bot. The following are free tools that enable quick and easy creation of a Messenger bot:
And if you’re primarily interested in customer service and sales, two bots you should investigate are Intercom and Drift. These ready-made bots integrate smoothly into your website and provide 24/7 communication with your company. You can see how Drift looks on our agency website. These bots are somewhat pricey, though for large companies they’ll likely reap savings versus customer service staff.
Are you using chatbots in your business now, or do you plan to? Reach out to me on Twitter and tell me about it, I’d love to know more. I really think we’ll see a lot more bot marketing in the near future!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie Schwab is the founder and CEO of Crackerjack Marketing, a fast-growing social media and content marketing agency focused on lifestyle consumer and early stage tech companies. She is also on the marketing faculty of Loyola University Chicago, Parsons | The New School, and Harbour.Space University. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.
In 2016 Facebook confessed to something that sent shock waves throughout the PPC advertising world.
They admitted to having too many ads in the News Feed 😱 .
The number of Facebook ads served to users is also known as ad load.
The platform monitors ad load to make sure it does not affect their experience on the social media site.
When Facebook feels like ad overload is impending, they limit the number that can appear.
And their announcement made it clear that the News Feed Facebook ad load is set to max out in mid-2017.
Well, folks, we are well within that mid-2017 date range; in fact, we’re well past it.
Before you shut down all of your Facebook marketing campaigns and try to find out if MySpace is still a thing, take a breath and relax because all is not lost.
You can explore the other Facebook ad placements the platform offers, from Messenger ads to Instagram Stories.
Take it from Dane Kragness, Senior Account Manager for Paid Media here at Taktical:
“Facebook is attempting to rapidly expand its placement offerings as currently the influx of advertisers to the platform seems to be outpacing the growth of the actual user base, which forces them to reach people on different placements rather than reaching more people. We’ll start to see that Facebook’s new offerings (Watch, Marketplace, etc) will begin to offer more options to advertisers, whether it’s video content, or advertisers creating their own curated “stores” within Facebook Marketplace.”
In this post, we’ll discuss your other options for Facebook ad placement and how to succeed at advertising on them.
The max out on News Feed ad load is far from being the demise of Facebook advertising.
Instead, it will provide additional sources of revenue and reinvigorate the marketing strategies of brands.
Facebook Ad Breaks in Longform Video Content
Mid-roll Facebook ads let you put your ad in front of users who are watching a video on the platform for 20 seconds or longer.
Think of it like a traditional commercial break you used to see on TV. The program cuts away for the duration of the ad.
The benefits of a mid-roll Facebook ad in a third-party video include:
Greater dwell time, as the ad requires the user to sit through the entire ad in order to return to their program
Social media marketers have capitalized on this audience by launching Instagram Story ad campaigns.
Taktical’s Haley Preininger gives her insight into this Facebook ad option:
“This placement is definitely something to consider when avoiding ad overload in the holiday season. According the Instagram Advertiser statistics, 75% of Instagram users take action after looking at an advertisement post. With a [daily] audience of more than 500 million users, it is a good option to explore if your target audiences matches that of instagram users (18 to 29 year olds).”
In the email mention the 3 other colleagues you emailed. This increases the chances of an employee, their boss and the boss of their boss talking about you.
The rate of positive replies increases especially if you target people in multiple layers of an organization.
Growth Hack #2 – 7 Steps to Scrape Your Competitors’ Customers:
If you’re involved in SaaS you know Capterra, GetApp, G2Crowd and their gazillion cousins.
These sites are a great way to get to know your target audience and their needs. But how do you reach all those target customers at scale?
It’s a 7-step process:
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Growth Hack #2 – 3 Words Increased Mobile Conversions By 36%:
Adbasis ran the same A/B test for different ads. 42 times it yielded a positive change to the conversion rate. The average conversion rate increase, based on the positive examples, was +36.6%. 12 out of 48 times this test more than doubled the conversion rate (100%+ lifts).
These 3 magic words were “from your phone”. Worth trying to use them in your mobile ad.