The Next Great Newsletters are Going to be Bots

In November, I joined Octane AI to help build the future of bots. Four months have sped by and I believe now more than ever that bots are an incredibly powerful way to reach your audience. There are more people on Facebook Messenger than Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram combined, yet it’s amazing how few businesses are engaging them.

A good open rate (i.e. how many people read your email) in an email newsletter is 30%. A good click rate (i.e. how many people clicked to see the thing you wanted them to see) is 5%. In Octane AI bots we’re seeing click rates of 40–70%. We’re seeing engagement rates (clicks or replies) of 50–90%. The numbers do the talking for us. Good content in bots is more engaging than good content in other one to many formats.

These numbers alone should provide an enormous incentive to look into bots and, when you do, here are some best practices I want to share:

1. Start to build your distribution list now when there is less competition.

Facebook Messenger bots allow for subscribers much like an email newsletter and the sooner you start, the easier it will be to build up your subscribe. In five years I believe 90% of businesses who have a Facebook Page will also have a bot.

2. Native sharing in Messenger is incredibly powerful.

Facebook Messenger allows users to easily share a message, link, video or image to another friend in Messenger in one click. It’s much easier than getting someone to share from a newsletter or even from a website because the user is already in Messenger and already using it as a way to talk to their friends. They get mobile push notifications whenever a friend writes a new message to them and this makes a share in Messenger incredibly valuable. When you send out updates to subscribers, it’s very easy to ask them to share and very effective when they do.

3. Content is still king (and queen).

People keep getting excited about the idea that new AI technology is going to create the killer bot. After diving into the space I can tell you that right now creating engaging, fun content is still hard for humans, let alone AI. Instead AI and Natural Language Processing should be used selectively to augment a human-guided experience. Maybe the singularity is still coming, but I wouldn’t bet your bot experience on AI right now.

4. Customer service bots will exist but they will be no one’s favorite bots.

A bot that can take a user through a logic tree to try to solve their problems makes sense and will be a constant in the bot space. That being said, they will not be the bots that delight users, they will not be bots that anyone chooses to subscribe to. They will be functional bots that serve a certain business role but only make up a small percentage of the bot market.

5. Telling stories still works. Now, they’re just conversational stories.

Marketers already know that storytelling is a great way to connect with customers. What do you do on Facebook Messenger with a friend? You share the story of your terrible date from last night, you hear about their crazy meeting or the flight they almost missed. Text, especially text that can be supplemented with images, GIFs, emojis and videos, is a wonderful method for storytelling. Even more so when you can pause for the user to respond. In bots it’s easy to let the user go down different paths based on their choices, so you can alter your story based on your user’s reaction. I.e. if you’re telling a story about a specific breed of dog you can let someone ask for basic information about the dog and let someone else who’s an expert breeze past that part.

6. Guided experiences work better than free-form experiences for now.

It’s a joke, but also a good lesson in the danger of bots gone wrong

As technology changes this may evolve, but for now a guided experience where a user can choose from a set of (fun!) options is going to lead to a way more interesting bot than one where the bot tries and too often fails to understand a user’s intent.

7. We have so much more to learn.

This is the most fun part for me. This industry is so new; we are still in the wild west of bots.

Do you ever wish you’d hopped on Instagram or Youtube in the early days? Here is your chance to join early and reap the benefits of being a first-mover.

If I’ve inspired you to create a bot, I would love it if you gave Octane AI a try and let me know what you think. Right now, we’re in public beta so the product is free, because feedback from bot creators like you is how we will continue to improve. Even if you use another bot product or your own development team, I’d still love to keep in touch about best practices and learn together.

You can always reach me on Twitter as @meganberry. In my spare time when not thinking about our customers’ bots, I also play around with my own bot about dining in NYC.