What is a chatbot?

Live chat (human to human) has been around for a long time and is an undeniably powerful tool for converting website visitors into leads and sales.

The problem with live chat is that it requires the presence of a human being. It’s also less predictable because conversations vary with every lead.

That’s where chatbots come in.

A chatbot is a form of AI (artificial intelligence) that’s designed to have conversations with your website visitors or visitors to your social channel.

A chatbot doesn’t require the presence of a human being. Instead, the chatbot is programmed to ask questions, engage the lead, and provide recommended actions.

There’s also the ability to use a pseudo chatbot. For example, a chatbot can be programmed to start conversations with visitors and then hand them off to a real person.

The real power of chatbots, though, is being realized through the Facebook Messenger platform…

Why is Facebook Messenger marketing with chatbots so popular?

Like I said, launching a chatbot on your website is old news. What’s new is pairing the chatbot concept with Facebook’s Messenger platform.

With apps like Chatfuel and ManyChat, which are designed specifically to work with Facebook, anyone has the ability to design fairly complex chatbots that have a laundry list of additional superpowers.

Because Facebook Messenger is a communication channel, almost every technique and strategy that applies to email marketing also applies to Facebook chatbot marketing.

You’re not just engaging visitors on your website anymore, you’re capturing them on a list.

And this list works just like an email list. You can message people in bulk whenever you’d like (with broadcasts), tag people, segment people, and place them in automated sequences.

The key difference is that everything you send shows up in your prospects’ Facebook Messenger, either on their desktop or on their mobile device.

Where email marketing is seeing open rates between 20 and 25 percent, Facebook chatbots are seeing open rates in the 80s and 90s.

It’s also easier to get people on your list. Facebook already has all of your prospect’s information, so they can get on your list with a single click. They never have to enter their name or anything else.

When you consider the ease of list-building, the power of chatbot marketing, and the reach and engagement of Facebook Messenger, it’s easy to see why Facebook Messenger marketing is so popular right now.

But, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns in Facebook Messenger marketing land…

What happens when Facebook shuffles the playing field…again?

I see two real problems with Facebook Messenger marketing…

  1. Most people don’t like interacting with AI.
  2. What the Facebook Gods provide, the Facebook Gods may taketh away.

How many people do you know that would say they enjoy interacting with chatbot-like AI on customer service phone systems?

Most people I know just want to press “0” and talk to a representative as fast as possible.

The same is true for me when I realize I’m talking to a chatbot on a website or on social. I instantly close the window.

One of the reasons open rates and engagement are so high right now with Facebook Messenger chatbots is because I think a lot of people still don’t realize they’re interacting with AI.

If you design your bot well, you can make the experience really feel like – at least in the beginning – that a real person is sending the messages.

You can program the bot to pause for a certain length of time and pretend that you’re typing before sending a reply or a follow-up. It’s very sophisticated.

But once the mainstream is “in the know,” my fear is that open rates and engagement are going to decline dramatically.

Also, as more and more marketers flood the Facebook Messenger scene, Messenger will get overwhelmed with marketing garbage. This is another reason why reach will decline.

Remember, email marketing used to have open rates in the 80s and 90s as well and it didn’t take long for that ship to sail.

What’s currently the hottest thing in marketing is likely going to feel rather chintzy in a few years (or less).

That’s the first problem.

The second problem is that Facebook is known to shuffle the playing field constantly.

Countless people built massive audiences on Facebook, accounting for a large chunk of their leads and sales, only to have Facebook pull the rug out from under them with a single algorithm change.

Facebook did this for two reasons. First, they wanted to make more money selling ads. Second, they wanted to protect people’s news feeds from becoming fully commercialized.

I can see them doing exactly the same thing with Messenger.

Remember, the only way to build these sophisticated chatbots is through apps that use Facebook’s API.

Facebook can shut that down anytime they want.

Hell, Facebook can design their own bot-building software and instantly monopolize that space.

That would be fine if you were wary of that and could predict it and protect yourself. But, here’s the problem…

Your Facebook Messenger marketing efforts directly compete with your email marketing efforts.

In other words, when building your list, you’re forced to choose whether you want to capture the visitor via a chatbot or capture them with your email list.

If you shift all your efforts to building your chatbot list because that’s where you think engagement is, you’ll sacrifice your email list building in the process.

When Facebook changed the algorithm and killed organic Page reach, most of the people affected (who were mildly intelligent) still had their email list to fall back on.

That won’t be the case if Facebook cluster-fucks Messenger marketing.

You could potentially lose your entire Messenger reach and be left with a stale email list because all your efforts were shifted away from email.

That’s the kind of disaster that bankrupts a business.

Pithy Parting Advice…

Yes, Facebook Messenger marketing is very powerful.

Yes, you should experiment with Facebook Messenger marketing.

No, you should not shift all your efforts away from email list building and over to Messenger list building.

No, you should not believe for a second that Facebook will let marketers ruin their Messenger App with unrestricted access to consumers.

Yes, you should be prepared for Messenger marketing to die a quick and ugly death (like Page reach did). I’m not saying that will happen, I’m just saying you should be prepared for it to happen.

What are your thoughts on Facebook Messenger marketing? Agree or disagree? 

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