Understanding chatbot marketing in the ever-changing world of Facebook


When Mark Zuckerberg speaks, digital entrepreneurs and marketers listen very carefully. It’s no surprise, then, that when he announced a major change in the Facebook News Feed algorithm during the company’s January earnings presentation, the world of social media immediately reacted with extreme attention, some raised eyebrows, and a bit of anxiety. Continue reading “Understanding chatbot marketing in the ever-changing world of Facebook”

How to Easily Introduce Chatbots to Journalism Students

If I had a penny for every piece of technology fleetingly considered the “future of journalism,” then I suppose I’d have quite a lot of pennies by now, if not quite enough to retire on. Chatbots are one such technology, with CNN, the Wall Street Journal and the Guardian among those launching experimental versions within Facebook Messenger….

Read full post How to Easily Introduce Chatbots to Journalism Students on MediaShift.

Can Facebook Messenger help you build a deeper relationship with your audience?

Maybe, but it’s a lot of work. Here’s what Annenberg Media tried.

Chatbots seem to be popping up everywhere. You can find them on chat apps, on your SMS platform or in apps of their own. If you’ve used Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, you’ve used a chatbot.

Many news organization use chatbots to deliver the news, but few use it to have a conversation. The options for what a user can do beyond asking for the organizations’ top stories tends to be fairly limited.

Continue reading “Can Facebook Messenger help you build a deeper relationship with your audience?”

Facebook Messenger brings live chat and bots to websites

Facebook Messenger now has a plugin that lets visitors to a website engage in live chat with a human or bot without leaving that website. Called Customer Chat, the plugin is one in a series of major changes announced today as part of the release of version 2.2 of the Messenger Platform. The announcement was made by Messenger head of product Stan Chudnovsky on stage at Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. Continue reading “Facebook Messenger brings live chat and bots to websites”

Intelligent assistants vs. chatbots: Which is best for your biz? (VB Live)

Looking to implement an intelligent assistant or chatbot? Don’t miss our latest VB Live event, where we tap a panel of developers with long-term, hands-on experience in selecting the right digital engagement solution, planning a strategy, and seeing results. Register now!

Register for free right here.

The future is here; it’s just not evenly distributed – yet. As chatbots and intelligent assistants get more sophisticated and use cases start piling up, they’re finally moving out of the early adopter phase and into the need-to-have territory for businesses.

A recent study shows that consumers are ready for them, if they’re done right. It revealed that 40 percent of consumers would make a purchase from a chatbot interface, and nearly 60 percent of would engage with a chatbot especially if it meant receiving coupons or special offers.

But the buzz surrounding these tools has done a lot to obscure what they actually are, what they can do for your company, and how you can implement one successfully, and not egregiously.

The difference

Today’s chatbots and virtual assistants have evolved past basic logic with the integration of back-end artificial intelligence. It helps to create experiences that are more conversational while providing a lot more utility for the end user.

Chatbots are generally focused on on a single purpose, whether it’s in ecommerce as a shopping agent, first-level customer service, or customer engagement and entertainment. With less complicated machine learning algorithms and leaner architecture, they require less infrastructure and are far quicker to build, deploy, and implement than an AI-powered virtual assistant, letting you automate a single business function with a smaller investment.

Intelligent assistants can technically be chatbots if they interact with you through a conversational interface such as Slack or Facebook Messenger, but they’re powered by more advanced cognitive computing technologies such as advancements in natural language processing, complex machine learning, and AI. They can continuously learn from consumer interaction to become better at predicting end users’ needs, and can potentially understand and carry out multi-step requests and perform more complex tasks such as making a hotel or plane reservation.

The measure of success

The key measure of success of either is how much value the chatbot or assistant adds. No user is impressed by a shiny new feature that doesn’t do anything to add value to their experience — which makes your company breathlessly bandwagony, rather than technologically sophisticated.

A chatbot or virtual assistant should either be performing a task a person would find hard to do themselves, or saving your user time by performing tasks that would take them a long while to accomplish. Just think about the times you’ve been forced into a voice recognition maze with no “hit zero for an operator” option. And how very, very close you probably came to throwing your phone out the window.

Do you really need one?

You can actually hurt your business if you don’t think critically about if your brand really will benefit from the power of chatbots or virtual assistants — or if you’re just riding a trend. Plus, if it’s implemented without a plan, the execution is going to provide actual pain and frustration to your consumer (think about that endless voice tree).

So learn how to get those customers on board, plus which platform you need and how to launch, when you join our latest VB Live event!

Don’t miss out!

Register now.

In this webinar, you’ll:

  • Understand the messaging platforms of the future
  • Learn which platforms people are using — and why
  • Measure the success of your chatbot through best-practice KPIs
  • Create personalized interaction between your organization and your customers


  • Amir Shevat, Director of Developer Relations, Slack
  • Stewart Rogers, Director of Marketing Technology, VB
  • Rachael Brownell, Moderator, VB

Bots can train employees better than you can

Don’t tell your favorite grade school teacher, but bots are infinitely more patient instructors that are willing to offer assistance and information for as long and as often as they’re needed.

That’s one reason big-time education advocates such as Bill Gates are so excited by the possibilities of AI, but it has major implications in the workplace, too.

Talla, a Boston-area startup, has created a bot that can do many of the routine tasks normally performed by an HR department, such as distributing surveys, gathering data, and even training employees. Sound far-fetched? Such bots are actually more common than many people might realize: 80 percent of companies currently rely on bot-enabled communication tools like Slack and HipChat.

Sure, bots can assume busywork and enable better interoffice communication, but a bot’s true power lies in its educational capabilities.

For many, this vision of the future might seem like a nightmare in which reliable humans are replaced by annoying chatbots that cause more problems than they solve. However, this pessimism is caught up in antiquated notions of what a bot can be, which are not helped by the chatbots encountered in apps such as Facebook Messenger.

In reality, a well-designed, well-implemented bot won’t replace employees, but it can empower them. Last spring, Georgia Tech hired a teaching assistant named Jill Watson. Jill helped the professor by answering any questions students had outside of class, and the students loved her, even if she was only available online.

There was a reason for that: Jill was actually an advanced chatbot. When students found out at the end of the semester, they were blown away. While an ordinary chatbot won’t necessarily pass the Turing test, this example shows just how far chatbots have come and how useful they can be as teachers.

Here are three ways messaging bots can improve employee training and development.

1. Act like a favorite teacher

Good teachers do more than answer questions. They also know how to ask students the right questions, framing those questions in ways designed to pique curiosity about a subject and rewarding students when they excel. A good bot can do the same.

When employees enter online training sessions, use bots to pose intriguing questions and place conversations in a context that provokes real enthusiasm. At my company, for example, we use bots to tell riddles to our developers to present a stimulating challenge.

After lessons are completed, use bots to reward trainees with fun digital images that serve as virtual badges and hearty congratulations, much like the gold star stickers teachers place on students’ tests. To motivate employees to keep learning, use a bot to create a leaderboard, keep a personal tally for each student, and chart everyone’s progress.

Although the gamification of training might sound silly, it gives employees tangible reinforcement: acknowledgement of a job well done. Recognition has been shown to be an excellent way to drive individual performance, which is why so many personal endeavors — from physical fitness to email management — have already been gamified.

2. Pinpoint and fill knowledge gaps

Continued education is vital for any skilled position, and bots are well-equipped to help employees stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and methodologies in their fields.

Design your bots to help employees assess their own weak spots. Approach this from a no-pressure standpoint. It shouldn’t be about employees getting certain scores. Instead, design your bots so that when employees are asked a question, they can tell you whether they understand the concept. This way, they’re aware of what they need to work on and you know what concepts you need to reinforce as a company.

If employees don’t know where to start when prompted with a question, program the bot to immediately respond with additional resources. A digital network called OUR Walmart, which is composed of more than 100,000 employees, uses IBM’s Watson AI abilities to match employees’ questions with existing training materials. Then, have your bot ask the same question a week later to track progress.

3. Increase the retention of information

Employees won’t realistically remember every single thing they learned during their initial training; it’s how we work as humans. We learn something the first time; then, without repetition, we slowly begin to lose that knowledge. However, if we’re reminded within a particular cycle — and then reminded again within a longer cycle — we’re much more likely to retain it in the long term.

Why not use a bot to manage and automate this process? Design your bots to deploy refresher courses periodically during the initial training period and beyond.

Computer learning can be up to 50 percent more effective than in-person training because bots allow employees to revisit lessons as many times as they need to — at their convenience and on their own terms. For example, let’s say you want to focus on functional programming practices and JavaScript for 12 weeks. Program your bot to engage those teammates over that time period, working around their schedules and allowing them to repeat tutorials as needed.

Properly designed and implemented chatbots can empower employees to become more self-sufficient and skilled at what they do. It’s a win-win scenario for employees and management. Chatbots aren’t here to frustrate and annoy; they’re here to help — you just have to be willing to let them.

Kuty Shalev is the founder of Clevertech, a New York City-based firm that designs, develops, and deploys strategic software for businesses.

These are the bots powering Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post efforts to build a modern digital newspaper

Editor’s note: Last weekend was the latest edition of my favorite journalism conference, the International Symposium on Online Journalism in Austin. You can catch up on what you missed through these two epic YouTube videos of the two days’ livestreams.

But there were two talks in particular that I thought Nieman Lab readers might be interested in seeing, from America’s two top newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Both Andrew Phelps, an editor on the Times’ Story[X] newsroom R&D team, and Joey Marburger, the Post’s director of product, spoke about how they were using bots in their news operations.

Today, we’re publishing transcripts (lightly edited for clarity) of their two talks. Below is Joey’s talk; Andrew’s is over here.

I’m a huge sci-fi nerd — love Isaac Asimov. And if you’ve ever seen this actually not super great interpretation — I, Robot, with Will Smith — it’s all about the Three Laws of Robotics.

Where basically, like, robots aren’t supposed to kill you — until they try to kill you. Hopefully, a conversational journalism won’t ever try to kill you.

So I developed basically three quick laws. But they’re they’re pretty spot on to the Laws of Robotics, which is: We don’t want to spread false information. It should follow what a human journalist tells it to do, unless the human tells it to spread false information.

We’ve done a lot of experiments on bots. And we’re very excited about it, because it’s this great, simple experience, and the technology is getting so much better for it: AI’s getting better. big data’s more accessible. So we knew we wanted to try a bunch of things and see what’s out there, because it’s kind of hard to have a ton of successes when you’re on the bleeding edge.

I’m going to go over three bots, which are kind of our favorites, but we actually have almost 100 bots actually. Like 99 percent of them are internal, though.

So this is our most successful reader-facing bot: It’s called the Feels Bot. About 30 days prior to the U.S. presidential election, if you opted into it on our politics Facebook page, we would message you in the evening and ask you how you felt about the election. And it was just five emoji responses, from super angry to happy — and we would curate all that. Then in the morning, we would show you a graph of how people were feeling.

We knew that we had to have a cadence in alerting people but not annoying people, because we had already built a bot for that. It was just a general news bot which didn’t do very well — which we figured would happen. Even though there are a billion people on Facebook Messenger, I don’t think anyone’s built a bot that has that many users.

So this was really fun to work on — and it was curated by a human. It had a low user account — like less than 10,000 people. But the engagement — meaning people actually answered the question every day for 30 days — was greater than 65 percent, because it’s simple. It asks you a simple question; it was a very charged election. And, you know, if you ask people how they feel, turns out they’ll tell you, which is great.

So we’d generate these social cards from it and highlight a few. Some of the best responses we’d share on Twitter, put them up on our site. We generated these little graphics out of it were really fun, and we did this every day for 30 days, which is a great exercise. Empathy is a powerful driver in conversation.

Another thing we call our Virality Oracle is a Slack bot in a Slack channel — a public channel inside the Post — that is powered by a really amazing algorithm from our data science team. From the second that a story is published, it starts monitoring it and it knows within the first 30 minutes of publishing if it’s basically going to be viral. (It’s really “popular” — “viral” is kind of a loaded word.) And it notifies the channel, so we can maybe go in and add something of the story, or start writing off of it a little bit. We get about three to five stories like this in a day. And then it also models out a 24-hour traffic window, and then the bot also emails us to digest, so we can see like the lifecycle of stories. This is really a bot as a tool — so it’s like a service bot or utility bot. It’s very handy.

So this is actually the data behind the bot, which I’m not going to go into in super detail. Our prediction model is taking in all these data points — this bot is just eating and gobbling up. We ran it for a long time, almost a year, for the machine learning to get really accurate. And we ran it on every story published — about 300 stories a day.

And we found we’d add in a new metric and it would get a little better. And now we’re at about 80 percent competency.

This is everyone’s favorite — the MartyBot. So Marty Baron is our editor, and this is tied into our publishing scheduling system called WebSked.

Whenever a reporter starts a story, they actually put in when they plan to publish it. So what is the deadline — which can always be changed. So if you’re behind, it will tell you: Hey, you’re either really close to deadline or you missed your deadline. It personally messages you — it doesn’t, like, shame in a channel or anything. And it’s really funny when it messages Marty — which I think has maybe happened once.

So this is a pretty cool thing too, called Heliograf, which is another way to think of a bot. It’s not a conversational bot, but it takes in data points from a feed and can basically craft stories very simple short stories, based on templates. Anybody every play Mad Libs? You know, put in a noun, pick an adjective, whatever? This is kind of what that does.

So we used this for the Olympics and for elections. We published a story on every single Olympic event, because of Heliograf. And then for elections, we posted a story on every single race in the U.S. on Election Night, and generated newsletters, generated tweets. We did all sorts of fun stuff from it. So it was a bot that was helping us do better journalism.

Audio bots are super, super huge right now. Amazon doesn’t call Alexa a bot, even though pieces of it inside are a bot. They like to refer to it as like it’s an operating system, as audio AI.

Our politics Flash Briefing was one of our fastest-growing products last year. We caught the wave just right — there’s a reason that the Echo is out of stock on Amazon all the time. They’re actually outselling a lot of their other hardware. Jeff Bezos, our owner, is personally driving this road map, which also gives you an indicator of how successful it is. And it’s super fun.

But what we’re thinking about bots and how it plays into your day-to-day life and your habit is: Bots can do very simple tasks. It shouldn’t do everything, because then you’ve got a lot of cognitive overhead, it’s a lot of work. Sometimes you don’t know what to ask a bot, other than, like, “What’s the news?” So we’re thinking about — the future’s here. You can build these things — and actually now there are a lot of tools, you can build them pretty easily. Amazon has a tool called Lex, which — point-and-click, you can build a pretty robust bot without any code. So the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed — which is a quote from William Gibson, another science fiction writer. And I think this is super true for bots. Bots aren’t totally new — they’re just getting more accessible. It’s almost becoming a household name.

So we think bots can fill all these spaces between platforms — like, on different platforms, but also they fill in these gaps a little bit between things. A bot could notify you to catch you up on where you left off in a story while you were listening to it on the train into work. You sit down your desktop, and it’s like: “Hey buddy, here’s where you were in that story.” It like fills that space a little bit. This is what we’re starting to work on a lot right now; we’re calling it a handoff bot.

I remember bringing this up in the newsroom — nobody really understood it. “Why would we do this?” Especially when you do the first one and it gets like five people that use it — you’re like, “We got to keep doing it!” And it turns out that you learn a lot from experimenting. When things are really simple and really hard, it’s very attractive to a designer and a product person. So we’ll be we’ll be iterating on bots for a long time to come.

Photo illustration based on robot photo by Michael Dain used under a Creative Commons license.

Everything Facebook announced at F8 2017

Facebook has unveiled a host of new features centered around curating a global community. At the company’s 2017 F8 developer conference, attendees were introduced to not only Facebook’s push into augmented reality, but also the next phase of its Messenger platform, bot support within Workplace, a new virtual reality experience, and more.

If you missed the keynote, never fear because we have you covered at VentureBeat. Here’s everything Facebook announced at the conference, as of day 1:

Building around the camera

In his opening keynote, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced the closed beta of a new platform centered around augmented reality. Called the camera effects platform, it’ll enabled developers to build and create effects and masks around the Facebook camera, taking its competition against Snapchat to another level.

Read more

An augmented reality platform is born

Above: Facebook’s example of an augmented reality game.

Image Credit: Facebook

Doubling down on augmented reality, Facebook revealed that it was working on developing games around the technology later this year. Such games will help define whole new genres, Zuckerberg claimed. The tech depends on the ongoing revolution in computer vision, artificial intelligence, and a number of other technologies. Zuckerberg said that AR is a tech that can make both digital and physical reality better.

Read more

Building stronger developer communities with local support groups

As for Facebook’s traditional platform, the company introduced a program which establishes local support groups worldwide for developers to interact and learn from one another. Additionally, the company revealed updates to Facebook Analytics, Login, Account Kit, and launched its Place Graph API, giving developers access to location data for 140 million places.

Read more

Workplace by Facebook gets new productivity features and bots

Facebook’s Slack competitor is growing up, with new file-sharing and document management tools, third-party partnerships, and is now opening up its groups and work chat feature to curated bot developers.

Read more

Facebook Messenger shifts to discovery and chat-extensions

After giving developers the tools to build on top of the Messenger platform, Facebook turns its attention towards discovery, so users can find brands and bots more easily. It also launched chat extensions, which lets third-party apps more natively be integrated into conversations.

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What does integrating with Facebook M look like?

While Facebook’s M artificial assistant has become available to the masses through Suggested Responses in Messenger, the company revealed it has begun a pilot program to see what the experience would be like if third-party service was integrated. The first partner to trial this is Delivery.com.

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Facebook wants you to play more games

Above: Facebook Games

Image Credit: Facebook

Facebook has provided updates on its progress with its major gaming initiatives: Instant Games, Gameroom, and Gaming Video. That’s all part of its vision to become the place where people play, watch, and share games.

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More 800 million people play games on Facebook every month

Above: Facebook Games

Image Credit: Facebook

Facebook has hit a new milestone that indicates just how large its community of gamers has become: 800 million monthly active users. That number includes the people who play games on Facebook, but it also includes those who are merely logged in to Facebook while playing games on other platforms, such as smartphones.

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Facebook open sources deep learning framework Caffe2

Above: Facebook cofounder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg appears at the company’s F8 developer conference in San Jose on April 18, 2017.

Image Credit: Screenshot

Facebook has open sourced Caffe2, a framework for deep learning. Deep learning generally involves training artificial neural networks on lots of data, like photos, and then getting them to make inferences about new data.

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Facebook Messenger passes 100,000 bots

More than a year after beginning to support chatbots, Facebook Messenger has more than 100,000 on its platform, up from the 33,000 in September.

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Spotify launches on Facebook Messenger as a chat extension

Spotify IPO

With the bot, Spotify will now automatically offer playlist recommendations based on factors such as mood, activity, and genres directly in Facebook Messenger conversations.

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Apple Music is coming to Facebook Messenger

Above: Apple Music is coming to Messenger.

Image Credit: Screenshot

Apple will be introducing an Apple Music chat extension to Facebook Messenger, making it possible for people to bring the music streaming app into conversations with friends and family members and share music.

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The NBA’s Golden State Warriors has a Facebook Messenger bot

Above: Golden State Warriors Playoff Assistant bot on Facebook Messenger

Image Credit: Khari Johnson

The NBA’s Golden State Warriors launched a Facebook Messenger bot to act as a personal playoff assistant to fans. The bot helps you cheer on the team, trash talk to friends and coworkers, and follow along as the Warriors seek to reach the NBA Finals for the third consecutive year.

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Western Union launches Facebook Messenger bot

Money transfer company Western Union launched a Facebook Messenger bot today that allows people within the United States to transfer money to more than 200 countries around the world.

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Yahoo brings its Captain task management bot to Messenger

Yahoo has launched its Captain bot on Facebook Messenger, becoming one of the first third-party programs to integrate with Messenger’s chat extensions. Now you can track what needs to be done within your group conversations.

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Giphy expands its Facebook relationship with new apps

Giphy has launched three more products aimed at making it easier to use GIFs in more ways: in creative camera effects, in live video, and more natively in Messenger as a chat extension.

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Octane.ai adds support for Facebook Messenger QR codes

Bot maker Octane.ai will now allow bot creators to generate Facebook Messenger parametric codes to guide a user to their bot and customize the consumer’s experience.

Read more

There’s more to come from Facebook as the conference concludes on Wednesday. VentureBeat will be there and reporting on all the news. Please check back later for an update or you can view an updated list of F8 stories right here.

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