This Guest post was published on 20 October 2016 at Fanhub as How to make a chatbot.
Every weekend new bots are emerging, particularly in the entertainment arena. Built in a weekend and released to the world, they’re usually either purely meant to be funny or are solving a “problem” no one really has. After the initial influx of users from PR, retention drops off a cliff and they fade into obscurity. This has led to many arguing that bots are gimmicky and useless, just another fad that will be gone within six months.
But can you really deny that messaging has the potential to bring personal and relevant experiences to people? Messaging apps are now more popular than social media, yet no one is taking full advantage of this channel.
To truly take advantage of the opportunity, bots need to provide consistent value in a personalized way. I’d like to go through exactly how bots can evolve in the entertainment sector.
We need to break down a bot’s value into three elements:
- It needs to solve a real problem in a more effective way than the alternative.
- It needs to work.
- It needs to delight the user.
So what does each element require?
Solving problems better
When someone builds a bot that recommends gigs in NYC on a Friday night, it needs to understand what I mean when I say, “Show me gigs that have tickets available” and know what genre of music I like. Otherwise it could take hours to go through the hundreds of musicians playing in NYC every night. When Resident Advisor’s website is a far more effective alternative, your bot has failed.
As a music fan it’s frustrating having to check several apps every day just to find out if your favorite artists have put out any new material. We just want a push notification to tell us. In addition, artists want to be able to update fans personally when they release new material or tour dates, but until now that hasn’t been possible. Instead they need to spend thousands on social media ads, or try to get fans to download new apps. That’s a big opportunity for bot makers.
A bot also needs to work. This is the most irritating thing about bots — maybe some provide value, but it’s so bloody hard to find it. I believe this is because bots are a relatively new technology dominated by hobbyist developers who are attempting to master A.I. and trick people into believing they’re human.
This runs counter to the whole point of the bot, which is to provide value to the user. Why risk your sophisticated natural language processing (NLP) not understanding someone when a simple button would provide a clear, direct route to value?
I don’t want to have a chat. Don’t make me write words you don’t understand. Give me buttons.
Buttons keep the conversation clear and direct, so that fans know what they’re doing and can find the information they’re looking for quickly. The buttons also help keep the user engaged, providing the next potential direction after every action, from listening to watching to buying merchandise.
Delighting the user
Finally, a bot needs to delight the user. One of the bots I most enjoy is Hi Poncho. It delivers the weather forecast to me at 8 every morning, which is completely useless because I am very much already out in the weather by 8 a.m. But it gives my weather report in such an entertaining way, with a joke and a funny GIF, that I don’t mind.
Entertaining the fan needs to be one of the crucial goals for every artist’s bot, and it’s why we have editors on staff at FanHub to craft our messaging. Use text, images, videos, audio, and GIFs to keep fans delighted — and sharing the messages they receive.
Poor retention plagues entertainment bots today. This is the result of a lack of consistency. The bot is built as a one-off and makes no effort to bring users back after their first encounter to continue engaging with it.
We’ve written before about how habit-forming products incorporate a cycle that keeps bringing users back into the product and delivering value until using the product becomes habitual. Build your bots with this in mind, regularly providing new material, exclusives, links to live performances, and opportunities to engage directly with the artist. Keep the notifications surprising and entertaining — imagery, GIFs, and videos rather than always simply text.
Building a bot for an artist isn’t a one-time exchange. We know that the only way for our business to endure in the long term is for these bots to provide consistent value to fans, so we see our relationship with the artist as ongoing throughout the bot’s existence. We continue to consult with the artist, their management, and their label on how the bot is performing and what should be sent next.
By consistently delivering value, you develop a trusted relationship with a fan. They know they no longer need to visit any other apps or websites to find new information on the artist, and that if they consistently engage with the bot they’ll receive exclusives and in some cases even have the opportunity to shape the artist’s next release.
When building bots for artists, personalization takes two forms: personalized to the artist and personalized to the fan.
First, ensure the bot is speaking in the voice of the artist. This keeps the experience authentic and helps build the personal connection with the fan, rather than sounding corny or mechanical. Try hiding Easter eggs within the bot that are unique to the artist — ones that only the most loyal fans would think to type in — and delight with the response.
Next, personalize the fan’s experience. This means enabling a fan to send in their location so they can be updated when the artist is next performing in their town, or sending the fans who have interacted most with the bot rewards such as VIP tickets. When other fans hear what they could win by engaging more, news will spread and engagement will soar.
This is confirmed in a study by Blueshift, which concluded that sending a push notification to a mobile user based on events particular to that user, rather than a notification to every user at the same time, leads to a 2,770 percent increase in engagement.
The opportunities for bot personalization are endless, enabling each artist to engage with their fans in their own individual way.
Hopefully this post has gone a small way toward convincing you that bots aren’t just the gimmick of the day, soon to fade into obscurity. Instead, if done well, they can become a core part of your fan engagement strategy by providing value in a consistent and personalized way.