WTF Is Your Bot Strategy? 5 Messenger Bots To Kickstart Your Thought Process

By: Caleb Kramer

“The bots are coming!”

If you’re reading this post, no doubt you’ve heard this drum being beat unrelentingly by every tech, marketing and design blog out there. In just one year, the pro-bot movement has grown from a soft, gentle buzz to an overwhelming drone — and evidently it’s not all just talk. Since Facebook revealed Bots for Messenger, over 11,000 have been developed. That’s a lot of bots!

At the time I read that statistic, I had yet to use one; 11,000 bots and I had not used a single one.

I asked my peers if they had used a Facebook bot before. Nope. We were all aware of them, but none of us had hands-on experience. Is 11,000 bots simply the sign of one big Silicon bubble of bots? Or is there something promising actually at play here? It was time to do some homework.

Diving right in, you immediately find that discovering bots is an issue. For Facebook specifically, there is no easy-to-browse “bot store” — there is only a search bar. In other words, if you want to find a bot, you have to be aware of it to begin with. Spontaneity, like you’re able to experience with Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button or typical App Store leaderboard, is nonexistent. Well, it’s pretty much nonexistent. There are 10 bots listed in Messenger, which is less than 0.0009% of the total available.

What I did find, however, were two very helpful websites that are curating the emerging world of bots. The sites include: Botlist and Product Hunt. If you want to do your own digging, these two websites are excellent places to start.

So, I scanned these sites. I also did some googling… and here is my “quick take” top-line summary about the state of bots. Overall, I am reminded of the early Chrome Web Store or iPhone App Store. How so? A large percentage of bots simply translate a common utility to a new channel (eg. content discovery). This can certainly be useful, especially if you prefer messenger apps. However, it’s not all that exciting conceptually. I personally don’t feel it delivers on the hype. Another common finding were bots that feel like gimmicks and toys, Yahoo’s @MonkeyPet being one example. This is definitely par for the course on any new platform as developers want to experiment and discover what’s possible. Remember Koi Pond on the original iPhone? Fun, but I wouldn’t call it disruptive.

All of this aside, there were a few bots that did pique my interest. None of them were necessarily “game-changing” per say, but they do show a glimmer of possibility. Whether through entertainment value or pure utility, they do something new with Messenger’s platform. Here are five of them.

1. Courier

What it is: This bot takes your photos and turns them into physical postcards, delivered to friends and family wherever they live.

Why it’s compelling: The pure simplicity of this makes it. Living in Messenger also makes a very intimate and personal experience feel even more so.

2. Shopify Kit

What it is: For $10 a month, small businesses can create a bot to help them better serve their customers.

Why it’s compelling: Until recently, this type of customer service has been reserved for large corporations. Not only does this make a small business owner’s life easier, it creates more seamless access for customers.

3. Joy

What it is: A digital friend that checks in periodically to track and improve your mental health.

Why it’s compelling: It’s friendly and simple, the latter being important for tracking anything on a consistent basis. I can’t think of a better input for this type of information.

4. PokemonGo Bot

What it is: An app that allows Pokemon Go players to share the location of Pokemon with a larger community, making them easier to find.

Why it’s compelling: The idea of leveraging user-generated content to expand and grow a Messenger bot is quite interesting. In this case, it’s enhancing Pokemon Go gameplay with community collaboration.

5. Zootopia Bot

What it is: A conversational bot that immerses Zootopia fans into the story’s universe, by helping Judy solve a mystery.

Why it’s compelling: For fans of transmedia storytelling, this is an exciting proposition. Programming bots to bring a narrative to life in an interactive way opens up all sorts of creative opportunities.

All of these examples have two things in common. First, they deliver on an actual consumer need, whether it be emotional or rational. Secondly, they leverage the medium to deliver value more effectively than on another platform. A couple key attributes of compelling Messenger bots are Intimate (or personal) and Simple.

To wrap all of this up, my overall two cents coming out of this exercise is: the space is still extremely nascent, but I believe it’s the stepping stone to something bigger. Companies are banking on adjacent technologies (eg. true artificial intelligence, natural language processing) and relevant user behaviors (conversational user interaction) to mature before the full potential of bots reveals itself. But in the meantime, these five examples present tangible thought-starters for what’s possible in the present. Of course, everything boils down to your organization’s business and marketing goals. However, if nothing else, it is a trend worth tracking. As they say, success comes when preparation meets opportunity.

Interested? Let’s talk a-bot it. Contact hello(at)carrotcreative(dot)com