By Dana Tran |Updated: July 15 2017
New to Facebook Messenger Bot? Want to learn more about Bots? What they are? How they work? Then you’re in the right place! Here are answers to the 10 most frequently asked questions about Messenger Bots!
Feel free to skip to a specific question!
- What is Facebook Messenger Bot?
- How does a Messenger Bots work?
- Who’s using Messenger Bots? Is it just a fad?
- Are Messenger Bots effective?
- Messenger Bots vs Email Marketing?
- Messenger Bots vs Website and Apps?
- Where can I find Messenger Bots? Is there a “Bot Store”?
- How can I use Bots for my business?
- How much does a Messenger Bot cost?
- How do I build a Bot? I don’t know how to code!
What is Facebook Messenger Bot?
A “Bot” is generally used to describe a software that automates a task.
In the case of a Messenger bot, it can be used to automatically reply to visitors who messaged your Facebook Page.
A bot can also ask questions to provide users with customized information in the form of text, images, videos, and galleries.
Similar to email, a Messenger bot can help you send out updates, reminders and automated (interactive) messages or campaign sequences!
Here’s a simple example:
Suppose you run a hair salon and during December, one of the most commonly asked questions you get on Messenger is “Are you open on New Years Eve?”.
Not only can you can setup a bot to automatically reply with correct answer, but the bot can also followup with the question “Do you want to make an appointment?” or “Yes, we are open, but we are fully booked!”
Your customers are happy with the speedy reply and you no longer need to spend time answering repetitive questions.
What else can a Messenger Bots do?
- Send messages, text, images, videos, and attachments to your subscribers (similar to email marketing…more on this later)
- Create automated campaigns and segment your subscribers (with tags or custom fields)
- Accept payments from users directly within Messenger
- Notify you (by email or Messenger) when a visitor or client needs your attention on Messenger
- You can interrupt and take over a chat conversation from the bot (Bots don’t mind, I promise!)
Note: A Bot can only be setup on a Facebook Page. It cannot be created on a Group Page or Personal Profile.
A few important note about Messenger Bots…
The majority of Messenger Bots are not AI-based and do not have natural language processing (NLP). Meaning, they can’t understand you like Siri or Alexa.
You can’t type in words and expect a bot to understand. So no…you can’t have a full conversation with a Messenger bot.
Messenger Bots are also not “chatbots”. In fact, Facebook does not refer to them as Messenger “Chatbots”.
“We never called them chatbots. We called them bots.”
~ David Marcus, VP of Messaging Product at Facebook
So if Bots aren’t smart and can’t understand words or sentences, how do they work?
Messenger Bots – how do they work?
essenger Bots are built on a set of rules and keywords. They depend on these rules to know how to reply when a user interacts with your bot!
Users have 2 ways to interact with a Messenger bot:
Option 1 – Using the Keyboard
In this case, the bot will automatically reply when it “sees” a trigger keyword. For example, when a user types in the word “hello”, it’ll follow the rule to reply back with “hi there!”
The problem with keyboard entry is the multiple variations and synonyms of a word. For example, a user can type in hi, hey, or helllloooo!!! Bots can’t tell the difference between those words and will just get confused…which will annoy your users.
Option 2 – Tapping a button
Instead of relying on keywords, you can provide users with buttons – a quicker and easier way for them to interact with your bot.
For example, after you ask a question, you show the users 2 buttons – a “yes” button and a “no” button. Users can just tap on one of these buttons instead of using the keyboard to type in their answer.
If you “get how bots work”, just click here to skip to the next section “Are Messenger Bots just a fad?”
Still confused? In this next section, I go through a specific example in detail with Poncho Bot…
Meet Poncho – one of the first Messenger Bots
Poncho can send you the weather forecasts, horoscopes and tell you jokes.
If you want to follow along, click here to access Poncho or search for “Poncho” in your Messenger App. (FYI – I’m not affiliated with Poncho Bot in any way).
If this is your first time accessing Poncho, just click “Get Started” button at the bottom of the screen.
1. Poncho says Hello!
In this screenshot, Poncho says “Oh hello again Dana” because I’ve “met” Poncho before.
Below the greeting, you’ll see 3 quick reply buttons:
- Current Weather
- 5-Day Forecast
- A Joke
If you click on “Current weather” button…
2. Poncho tells you the current weather
He remembers that I’m in San Diego and gives me the current weather.
He also warns me about bad weather…or in this case, high wind.
Let’s try something else now…
3. Let’s ask Poncho a question!
Instead of tapping a button, let’s use the keyboard and type in a question for Poncho.
Let’s ask him “What’s the weather in New York?”
4. Poncho answers your question
Poncho replies back with the weather in New York!
Kinda neat, right?
Now, let’s try to confuse Poncho…
Let’s type in another question, something not as common to see how smart he is…
1. Let’s ask Poncho another question
Suppose we are not in New York.
If you type in “I’m not in New York”
You would expect Poncho to ask for your current location.
4. Poncho replies with the weather in New York
Not so great, right?
You see, Poncho was built to look for city keywords.
When a city is mentioned, he replies back with the weather for that specific city.
3. Let’s try another question
Instead of asking….”Is it going to rain?”
Let’s ask Poncho “Do I need an umbrella?”
4. Poncho answers your question
Poncho replies back “Nah, you won’t need your umbrella”.
You’d think that Poncho understood that entire sentence, but don’t let him fool you.
If you typed in *just* the word “umbrella”
Poncho will have the exact same response.
Why Use Poncho? Couldn’t you get the weather from Google?
Great point! If you want the weather forecast, you could just quickly type it into google.
An even quicker alternative is to simply ask Siri, Google Home or Alexa “what’s the weather?”
Why go through the trouble of opening Messenger, searching for Poncho, and then physically typing in “what’s the weather”?
What’s so great about the Messenger Bot Poncho?
Comparing Poncho to Google, weather websites, and apps…
A Messenger Bot is not a mini-search engine to find answers to your questions. In fact, I don’t think that Messenger Bots will replace websites, apps, or email marketing. They all have their pros and cons.
To ask whether Messenger bots are better than websites or apps is like asking the question – what’s the best device to watch Netflix? Big screen TV? Desktop? Laptop? Tablet? Or Phone?
You can definitely watch Netflix on any of those devices, but your answer will change depending on your location. Are you at home? Maybe you’re traveling? Waiting at the airport? Or standing in a crowded bus? Or maybe you’re watching a horror movie and prefer to watch it on a phone where it’s smaller and less scary! 🙂
You see…they each have their unique pros and cons.
Here’s why I like and use Poncho…
Suppose you only want to know when there’s REALLY bad weather coming your way. Your options:
- Check using Google or the weather network website – I currently live in San Diego and the weather is pretty much the same all year round. To check the weather everyday…is just a waste of time
- Ask Alexa – a great option if I’m in my kitchen prepping for a weekend BBQ, but I’m not always at home or in my kitchen. And I probably won’t remember to ask Alexa each day.
- Download a weather app – having a dedicated app for something that I rarely use isn’t ideal. Besides, I like to keep my apps to a minimum.
- Sign up for email notifications – but it’ll probably get lost in my inbox…and I don’t check my email as often as my messages.
- Poncho notifications – Bots don’t require any downloads and they are very easy to use. To setup weather notifications, type in the word menu, tap on “Edit Notifications”, then on “Severe Weather”.
A Few More Examples of Messenger Bots
Poncho is just one example of a Messenger Bot.
Besides the weather and telling jokes, Messenger bot can do many things, and they are incredibly easy to build. (Towards the end of this article, I’ll show you 12 ways you can use bots for your business)
Looking for more examples? Here’s a short 1-minute video from CNET, quickly showing you the features of 8 other Messenger Bots.
Who’s using Facebook Bots? Is it just a fad?
To answer that question, let’s look at some facts:
Fact #1 – 1.2 Billion People are on Messenger
Fact #2 – People are actively using Messenger
Did you know?
- Each month, 400 million people use audio and calling on Messenger
- Each month, 17 billion photos are sent on Messenger
- Every day, 380 million stickers are sent on Messenger
- 22 million GIFs are sent each day
Fact #3 – Messaging is outgrowing Social Media
Based on a study by BI Intelligence, it shows that the monthly active users for the top 4 Messaging Apps have already surpassed the top 4 social media network.
As a business…shouldn’t you be on the platform preferred by your customers?
“Messaging is one of the few things that people do more than social networking.”
~ Mark Zuckerberg
Fact #4 – People like to use Messenger to message businesses
More than 2 billion messages are sent between people and businesses every month on Messenger!
Fact #5 – Large Companies are using Messenger and Bots
Here’s a small showcase from the Annual F8 Facebook Developer Conference in April 2017!
Fact #6 – As of April 2017, there are over 100,000 Messenger Bots
It took Facebook roughly one year to reach this milestone. (The Messenger Bot Platform was introduced in April 2016)
Fact #7 – Apple and Android took longer to reach 100,000 Apps
Did You Know:
- It took Apple 16 months to reach 100,000 iOS Apps
- It took Google 20 months to reach 100,000 Android Apps
- Amazon’s Alexa currently has over 15,000 Alexa skills (as of July 2017)
Messenger Bots are so much easier to build in comparison to websites or apps (probably the reason why it quickly reached the 100K milestone).
So…with those 7 facts, what do you think? Are bots still a fad?
If you’re convinced that they are not a fad, you’re probably wondering….are bots effective? Or just annoying?
Are Messenger Bots effective?
Do people open messages from businesses and entrepreneurs?
To answer this question, let’s compare open rates of Email vs Messenger.
What’s the average email open rate?
MailChimp sends billions of emails a month for more than 15 million users.
Every month or so, MailChimp scan the millions of emails delivered by their system to calculate the average unique open rates by industry.
On average, you’re looking at open rates of 17-28% for email.
What about Messenger open rates?
Bots are relatively new, but here’s what I found:
- Molly Pittman, the vice president of marketing at DigitalMarketer, shared the result of her sponsored Facebook messages which had open rates of more than 80%
- In a Mixergy interview, Chatfuel founder Dmitry Dumik, mentions that he’s seen open rate of 90%
- In another Mixergy interview, Ezra Firestone shared that he saw open rates of 80% – 97% on his latest marketing campaigns
- Mikael Yang, the founder of ManyChat, also reported an open rate of 80% (based on 3.5 million messages and 7000+ Messenger bots)
Of course, Messenger Bots can be annoying…but so can email marketing. Think about the last time your inbox was flooded with “reminders” that a sale or promotion is ending soon.
Any type of marketing can be annoying if you use it to”blast out” information, without making an effort to interact or understand your customers.
“When using chatbots, brands should focus on a ‘pull’ model where the chatbot is facilitating a conversation and client discovery…not pushing their marketing messages or agenda.”
~ Bindu Shah, Sephora’s VP of Digital Marketing
Messenger Bots vs Email Marketing
So why use Messenger Bots when you’re already using email marketing?
Here’s 5 Benefits and Reasons…
- Popular and Preferred – Messaging apps are very popular and growing rapidly faster in comparison to social media. In fact, 9 out of 10 consumers globally want to use messaging to talk to business
- Easily consumed – People use it every day, and 90 percent of all text messages are read within three minutes. Texting is also informal, short and simple, making it easy to reply quickly – for consumers and businesses
- Instant and Automatic – Bots can work as a 24/7 basic customer support to quickly provide customers with information and answer common questions
- Convenient – people don’t need to look for your business email address. As long as they can find your Facebook business page, they can message you and get an immediate response from your bot
- Interactive – Email is just static text…and the most you can add is a (funny) animated GIF images. Messenger bots are more interactive (and fun!), giving you the opportunity to learn more about your customers at scale.
“It offered interactivity. It offered scale. And it offered the chance for storytelling in a way that is truly unique and different from any other thing that the world has seen”
~Tim Ellis, Activision
Similar to email marketing, with Messenger, you can:
- Segment your users with tag or custom fields based on their action
- Send out broadcasts and campaigns to keep in touch with your subscriers
- Collect information and feedback from your subscribers
- Allow user to subscribe or unsubscribe from your bot
There are a few differences:
- You can easily import and export your email list from one email marketing platform to another, but this isn’t possible with Messenger Bot. (i.e., you’re stuck with that bot-buiding platform or you can start fresh on a new platform with zero subscribers)
- With email, you send out multiple emails, whenever you want. With Messenger, there are certain rules and limitations on how often you can message your subscribers
- There are also rules around the content you can send in Messenger (i.e. advertising, solicitations, marketing, promotional content)
- If you send too many spammy annoying messages, users can report your Messenger Bot, and you can end up in “Facebook Jail”!
Messenger Bots vs Websites and Apps
Bots, mobile apps, and websites can all provide your customers with information about your business. They also allow visitors to submit their questions and help you collect information.
So even though websites, apps and bots are all great, here’s are 5 differences:
1) One -Stop Shop with No Download Required
With a mobile app or a website, users need to specifically:
- download the app
- register for an account
- subscribe to email updates
- search for the business’ contact info
- wait for a reply from businesses when they ask a question
Besides, people don’t want to download an app for every single business they interact with. They take up valuable real estate on your phone AND it doesn’t make sense to download an app if you plan on using it once or twice!
With Messenger Bot, users can get information, communicate with businesses, subscribe to updates AND make a purchase all in one spot – Messenger! No need to create a separate account!
With Messenger Bot, you can easily automate the repetitive conversation, to free up time for more meaningful conversations with your visitors.
The primary purpose of Apps isn’t to communicate with customers. It’s mainly used to store or retrieve information….or to play fun games. 🙂
Of course, you can have a contact form on your website – but you are still relying on email to reply to your customers. Live chat only works if the user is on your website and if you’re available 24/7 to answer questions.
“This is one of the awesome things about Messenger platform experiences: you can make it super conversational while getting to know the customer.”
~ Anand Chandrasekaran
Director of Platforms and Product Partnerships for Messenger
3) Universal, Fast and Mobile Responsive
It doesn’t matter whether are on Android or iOS. Messenger can be accessed on any desktop, laptop, tablet or phone. You don’t even need to have a Facebook account.
Since Messenger Bots exists inside the Messenger app, it also loads very quickly, and they are naturally mobile responsive. After all, it is designed for the phone first, not the desktop.
4) Interactive and Personalized
While it is possible to design an interactive or dynamic website (where the text or image changes based on the visitor’s profile), it can be difficult and time-consuming.
With Messenger Bots, even a non-techie can create a “choose-your-own-adventure” experience for their visitors.
5) Easy to Build…but with limits
Even though it is quick and easy to build a Messenger Bot, bots are more limiting. You can get SUPER creative with mobile apps and websites but you can’t with Messenger Bots. You are, afterall, building on a Platform owned by Facebook.
That’s why Messenger Bots are not a replacement for websites or for apps. They are all uniquely different.
Take a look at this CNN Money interview clip of David Marcus (VP of Messaging at Facebook) explaining how Messenger Bots fits into the current space of mobile websites and apps. (It starts at the 35 second mark)
Where can I find Messenger Bots? Is there a Bot Store?
Looking for the “best facebook messenger bots” to test and learn how bots work?
Here are 3 places to help you with your search:
3) Discover Tab – from Facebook Messenger
Discover is a new section inside of Messenger where people can browse and find Messenger Bots by category, recent activity or featured experiences.
To access Discover, just click on the blue discover icon in the low right hand corner in Messenger.
How can I use Messenger bots for my business?
If you have a business, you can benefit from having a Messenger Bot. To give you some ideas, here 12 different types of bots you can build for your business:
- Publisher Bot – send out daily, weekly, monthly newsletter or digest for your latest blog post and updates
- Story Bot – create an engaging, interactive choose-your-own-adventure story (a great way to promote your next book)
- Marketing Bot – instead of sending lead magnets and content upgrades by email, send it by Messenger where the open rates are significantly higher
- Announcement Bot – keep your subscribers up-to-date let them know about the latest news and upcoming events
- Survey or Form Bot – gather information to learn more about your visitors, clients or subscribers
- Quiz Bot – to provide your customers with a customized solution or suggestion based on their answers
- Customer Support Bot – automatically provide (general) advice and answers to common questions. You can also use it as a “live chat” to talk directly to your visitors!
- Informational Bot – use the Bot’s menu, text and gallery to create a “mini-website” to provide your visitors with information about your business. For example, a description, image galleries or videos of your service or product
- Educational Bot – enroll users into a mini-course campaign and send out daily or weekly messages with images or videos
- Personality Bot – help your audience learn about who you are and what your business does
- Ecommerce/Payment Bot – you can now accept payments for your products and services directly in your Messenger Bot
- Reminder Bot – send out a quick reminder before an upcoming webinar or workshop
And of course, you can build/teach your bot to have any or all of the above “skills”. You are not limited to one. 🙂
Keep in mind…
You should think of your Messenger Bot as a 24/7 virtual assistant that works at your business’ information or help desk. It’s there to be helpful and answer questions about your business.
It should also interact with your visitors, ask questions and provide customized information about your product or service.
A Messenger Bot is NOT a full-time sales and marketing assistant. So don’t create an annoying “virtual telemarketer” bot with the main goal of sending out promos, deals and sale announcement!
Especially since Facebook has strict rules around sending promotion messages. So make sure you’re following Facebook’s Policy:
How much does it cost to build a Messenger Bot?
Cost #1 – Creating a Messenger Bot
Depending on the level of complexity and your budget, you have 3 options when it comes to building your bot:
- Hire a developer to custom code your Messenger Bot
- Hire someone to create a bot on Chatfuel, ManyChat or another visual bot-building platform
- Learn how to build a bot yourself using a visual bot-building platform (it’s really easy and no coding required)
Of course, hiring a developer is going to be the most expensive. If you’re interested in learning how to build a simple bot yourself, check out my free mini-course – Bots 101. If you’re looking for something a little more in-depth, check out my course, Bot Essentials.
Cost #2 – Maintain and Update the Bot
Once you have a Messenger Bot up and running, you’ll also need to:
- Add new answers or skills to your bot
- Review the analytics and performance of your bot
- Modify the bot’s conversation flow based on user’s feedback and experience
- Monitor chat, to answer any questions that the bot couldn’t answer
Cost #3 – Bot-Building Platform
Messenger Bot platforms are generally less expensive when you compare it to email marketing platforms.
To give you a rough idea, here’s the cost of my 2 favorite bot-building platform:
- Chatfuel – Free or starting from $30/month for the Pro Plan.
- ManyChat – Also has a free plan. However, I do recommend signing up for their pro plan which comes with more features. Their paid plan and starts from $15/month for 1000 subscribers.
How do I create a Bot? I don’t know how to code!
You do not need to know how to code or learn how to code to build a Messenger Bot. If you use a visual bot-building platform, creating a bot is very similar to using Zapier. If this happens, then do this.
Afterall, the majority of the Messenger Bot mainly operate based on a set of keywords and rules. Not artificial intelligence. (See Section 2 of this article – How does a Messenger Bots work?)
If you want to compare and learn about the differences between ManyChat and Chatfuel, to help you decide which one is the “right” platform for you, check out my in-depth comparison post.
- What is a Facebook Messenger Bot? A Messenger Bot is a software in Messenger, used to automate a conversation and provide your visitors with personalized information in an interactive way.
- Messenger Bots – how do they work? The majority of Messenger Bots are not smart AI-bots. Instead, they operate based on a set of rules and keywords. Users can interact with a bot by using the keyboard or by tapping buttons.
- Who’s using Messenger Bots? Is it just a fad? There are over 1.2 Billion people on Messenger and 56% people rather message vs call a business. In fact, Facebook was able to reach 100,000 Messenger Bots quicker than it took Apple and Google to reach 100,000 Apps. So no, I don’t believe Bots are a fad.
- Are Messenger Bots effective? If used correctly (in a non-spammy salesy way), Bots can be very effective. People have seen amazing open rates of 70-90% (email open rates are around 17-28%)
- Bots vs Email Marketing – Even though there are similarities (eg. you can segment subscribers, send campaigns), they are also very different (eg. bots are more interactive but Messenger subscribers can’t be migrated to another platform).
- Bots vs Websites and Apps – With Bots, no download is required, they naturally mobile responsive, interactive and easy to build. However, they are more limiting in comparison to websites and apps. Keep in mind that they each serve a different purpose and (in my opinion) one cannot replace the other.
- Where can I find Messenger Bots? Is there a Bot Store? To find Bots, you can check out botlist.co, thereisabotforthat.com or the Discover Tab inside of Messenger.
- How can I use Messenger Bot for my business? There are 12 ways you can use a bot for your business. View List
- How much does it cost to build a Messenger Bot? If want to you build it yourself, there are plenty of free visual bot building platform. For example, chatfuel.com and manychat.com. For a comparison and in-depth review of both platforms, read this blog post. For a free guide on how-to build a Messenger bot, check out my free mini-course – Bots 101.
- How do I build a Bot Messenger Bot? I don’t know how to code! With the help of visual bot-building platforms, you can build a bot without any coding. In Part 3 of this Guide, I’ll show you how to build a simple Messenger bot. If you looking for something more in-depth, check out my course, Bot Essentials.