Should you choose Facebook Messenger as your chatbot platform?

Evaluating the pros & cons of the Facebook Messenger bot platform as part of your business’ chatbot strategy

One of the most popular chatbot platforms that we work with is the Facebook Messenger bot platform. As with other bot platforms, there are some great points about Messenger bots that you can take advantage of, and some that you may not like as much.

To help you decide on whether you would like to use choose Messenger as your chatbot platform to serve your customers, we’ve put together some points on its strengths and weaknesses.

The great reasons why you should build a Messenger bot

  • Messenger has massive adoption among your customers
    In an update in July 2016, Facebook released the information that users and businesses exchange 1 billion messages every month, on top of the fact that there are 1 billion monthly active users on Facebook. There is clearly massive adoption of Facebook as a platform, and you can expect to maximize your coverage and support of customers by selecting Messenger as your bot platform. And as evidenced by the 1 billion messages, there is an obvious need for some businesses to automate some of these messaging interactions.
  • Familiarity with the interface
    Related to the point above, since your customers are already Facebook users, they will be used to chatting on the Messenger interface. This makes it easier for them to understand the norms and interaction affordances of the Messenger platform, and helps your bot get more use than if it was on a more obscure or unfamiliar platform.
  • It’s on your Facebook Page
    Being on your Facebook Page means that customers can easily access the bot if they want to get in touch with you. If they see something on your Facebook Page that they want to ask you about, they can simply send you a message right there and then. There is also no need to use any unfamiliar software, or switch to a different program like email.
  • No hassle of downloading updates (like an app)
    You can roll out some basic features in your Messenger platform, and continually improve it with new functionalities or features as you observe what customers do. It’s different from having an app, which requires users to download the update; you can just update them on your side, without troubling the user.
  • Bot elements are well-defined
    In relation to the point about updating your bot above, Facebook Messenger also makes it more expedient to improve your bot over time with templates. When Messenger first started, there were less options in terms of using buttons and cards. With improvements such as quick replies, log in, call-to-action buttons, list cards, and so on, there are many ways to express your information in preset formats. It is also a well-documented platform with support from Facebook, so you can count on a clear development process (as far as development goes).
  • Customers can get updates directly in Messenger
    Instead of having to send mail to your customers, you can also update them within the Messenger platform. For example, when checking out, your customer can opt to receive updates on their order in Messenger. Hence, whenever there is an update in the shipping status, they will be able to check it directly in Messenger without having to navigate anywhere else.
  • You can leverage on Facebook’s native features
    If you are based in a country like the US, you can use some of the native features of Facebook, such as Facebook’s payments functionality. Hence, if users buy items from your bot, they can use their Facebook payments account to directly checkout and get a receipt in Messenger.
  • Other ancillary reasons
    There are probably a lot of other reasons you may like Facebook Messenger over others, such as your own familiarity with the platform, or your team’s preference for the UI. Another reason we personally like is the fact that with enough experience building for the platform, we’re able to work on even “sticker embeddings” (as compared to word embeddings in natural language processing) and respond with the right response based on what stickers users send us on Messenger.

Some reasons why you may not like Messenger as your bot platform

  • Users may not expect a chatbot responding to them
    This is a problem beyond the Messenger bot platform, but there are probably more users who do expect to interact with your business on Facebook. It is also compounded by the fact that Facebook lumps “Bots & Businesses” into the same category so users may not be able to know which it actually is. You’ll have to make it clear that your chatbot is indeed a bot and not a human, so users have the right expectations of performance and your service levels.
  • Organic discoverability is low
    It can be hard for users to discover the presence of your chatbot unless they actively message you on your Facebook Page. Currently, there is also an option to use “Message Us” as a call-to-action on your Facebook advertising, but that requires that you actually do run ads in the first place.
  • Automatically separating real users with questions and bot users can be tough on Messenger
    When users interact with the chatbot, you also see this interaction in your message inbox. This is great for monitoring and guiding the conversations if you’re online, but can make it difficult to see which are users who are using the bot and those who are trying to send you a message. In managing these chat interactions, you may have to specify a section for users to send you feedback, collect “form” responses in the bot, or have an automatic escalation protocol such as forwarding the chat to a human on your team when the bot answers wrongly twice.

Of course, Facebook Messenger isn’t the only bot platform out there — there’s your own website, live chat, Telegram, Slack, WeChat, Kik, and many others — so you should evaluate how these platforms fit into your business.

A word of caution: A poorly-built chatbot is worse than having no chatbot at all. When you put a chatbot out in the wild to supp0rt your customers, it’s extremely important to stress quality of the interactions and user interface elements. On top of what the user can see, dialog is also extremely important and constitutes a huge part of the bot’s impression on the user. See How should bots talk to humans?, an extensive study we’ve done on today’s bot dialog on Messenger.

Expertise, skill, and machine learning/natural language processing chops are some of the necessary ingredients in building a chatbot that your customers will love using consistently. Talk to us if you’d like to discuss how you think Facebook Messenger bots can fit in your business!