The rise of #chatbots and why it’s GREAT!

The rise of #chatbots and why it’s GREAT!

As you all know — if you follow my adventures. I do love to go on radio and on the TV. Especially talking about technology and the future. And especially on @BBCBreakfast. So it was lovely to do so again.

I got to talk about mobile technology, my fears around Christmas toys and online privacy. On new diets and healthcare findings and perhaps most interesting for me about the rise of ChatBots in marketing.


I was surprised to hear this question from the interviewer from the beeb. But it’s a good one if you have never knowingly come across one.

Chat bots come in two flavors, so to speak:

Virtual assistants:

Which help you find information, remember stuff, or buy things. Think Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google’s Assistant. These are powered by machine learning. Meaning they rely on artificial intelligence to learn and figure out what you want.

Messaging apps:

Which essentially allow businesses and brands to be online 24/7. Providing customer support (e.g., instant responses, quick answers, complaint resolution). Think Facebook Messenger, Kik, WeChat, and Slack. These types of chatbots are only capable of interacting with users by following pre-programmed rules.


All modern chat bots trace their family tree back to the experiments by Joseph Weizenbaum. He named his programme Eliza after Ms Dolittle in Pygmalion. For “her” ability to master received pronunciation.

As reported by Tim Adams in his great piece in the Guardian:

“In 1966, Weizenbaum, a German-American professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, created a prototype chatbot to mimic the tone and manner of an east coast psychotherapist. A dynamic that allowed its voice to “adopt the pose of knowing almost nothing of the real world”.

“The professor had assumed that his bit of trickery would be a useful way of teaching his students about the structures of language and dialogue. What he discovered however, was that several of them became hooked on conversing with Eliza. And telling her their troubles, opening up to the program as if it were a therapist.”

Which is amazing isn’t it? Fast forward to today and chat bots are now used as therapists the world over. The many progeny of Eliza have evolved into chatbots — much clever than her. But still bits of software designed to mimic human conversation. Lots of different social and therapy chat bots exist like WoeBot.

But chat bots are not just for social and health reasons but for business opportunities too. And so thousands of companies have started either creating their own chatbots for custom services. Or “hired” in chatbots made by others.

As Larry Kim — probably the KING of the Chatbot said in September’s INC magazine:

Chatbots are the next big thing.

But of course, he would — he runs a company that helps makes them for businesses. And in 2018 more and more businesses and brands are using chatbots in lots of exciting ways. You can order food, schedule flights, and get recommendations for pretty much anything you can think of.

As Larry Kim says:

“We’re still in the early days, but all the latest chatbot statistics all say the same thing: adoption is growing. Whether you like it or not, chatbots and virtual assistants are the future of marketing and customer support.”

And working in digital marketing — for years — I think he is right. The time of the chatbot is here to stay. It’s even moving into areas like financial services with British AI-based personal finance chatbot Cleo offering its own financial products after raising $10 million in a Series A funding.


According to a report (Humanity in the Machine) from media and marketing services company Mindshare. 63 percent of people would consider messaging an online chatbot to communicate with a business or brand. So we (humans) are using them.

But will we buy from them? One study has shown that 37% percent of Americans say they are willing to make a purchase through a chatbot. According to DigitasLBi. Whilst in the UK. If a chatbot were available. 33% of UK residents would buy basic items like clothes and food, according to myclever Agency.

Not only this but rather tellingly. On average, consumers would spend more than $55 per purchase! So we are not just trusting them with little things.


One company in Manchester, is using chat bot technology to help people use it’s HR software programme. FLOCK uses the chatbot to guide people through a process of choosing their personal values. To help business owners make better decisions around employee engagement. WHY?

Because as Michal the CEO points out:

“Value-driven organisations are 12 more valuable on the stock market than their peers. Whilst more engaged teams bring, on average, 22% more profit for every business.”

So can a chat bot help you create something better? Probably. As the chatbot technology simply helps people do the task ahead of them. To find out about the person’s value system.The most productive teams have a diverse group of individuals with various personalities. And skills who are all motivated by the same purpose.

Having a coherent set of core motivations “discovered” by a chat bot allows employees to put their differences aside. Find out more about each other and work together to achieve a common goal.

Without doing the exercise you would never know. Believe you me — I have done it — and it’s why I invested in the company.

As the FLOCK technology allows you to see how cultures within teams across your organisation fit together. Or in Great Marketing Works case — who not to hire or hire.For much larger creative agencies, being able to relate individual and team values. FLOCK provides a structured framework which facilitates further engagement and team-building process.

It can do even more… And it starts off the process by using ChatBot technology.


Chatting to the presenters on the BBC I got the feeling people are more worried about chatbots being used for harm. i.e. the reported 10–11% of bot chat that influences elections. And those bots that stir up trouble in social media. (You can check the level of bot activity around different elections here…)

Whilst according to new studies an overwhelming majority of consumers (75 percent) said they want to know whether they are chatting with a chatbot or a human. And… according to Mindshare

48 percent considered chatbots pretending to be human “creepy”.

I do too. But do remember computers with AI and trying to sound human is not a new idea. And so perhaps we need tools to combat “fake bots” online. Which is why I loved “BotOrNot?” That allowed you to determine the origin of a Twitter feed. And was it a BOT or NOT?

This clever piece of kit has now evolved into Botometer. It boasts a sophisticated algorithm based on all it has learned over the years. It’s very good. And it’s free so you can feed it your own — or anyone else’s — Twitter name and quickly establish how likely it is to be a bot.

Which has been surprisingly useful for me when getting trolled by my views on diet and reversing Type 2 Diabetes. You might be surprised how many social media accounts are BOTS.


As one thing the bots can’t do is have values and personalities. And work towards a shared purpose with a team of people they like and trust. And perhaps it’s that that will save us all.

On that note — if you would like the chat bot of FLOCK to help you re-discover your own vales than I have 10 FREE TESTS for people who read this post.

So on your marks, get your values and GO 😊

FLOCK. As birds of a feather….

About the Author:

Dan Sodergren is a professional trainer and speaker. He is a digital marketing trainer based in Manchester with Great Marketing Works.

He specialises in mobile and social marketing with ideas ranging from augmented reality, to RTB and back again. He trains companies and individuals in digital, social and mobile marketing. Mainly around #DigitalTransformation thinking for future facing organisations… He also sometimes gets to talk about it on radio and is on TV especially BBC Breakfast.



The chatbot