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5 Ways to Leverage a Facebook Messenger Bot for Lead Generation

Kaitlyn Witman
Kaitlyn Witman

If you haven't checked into a bot for your business, now is the ideal time. The competition is low, and the returns could be sky-high.

Facebook remains a hugely popular international site for connecting businesses and consumers, particularly through its Messenger app. Facebook's royalty in messaging circles isn't surprising. EMarketer estimates that more than 87% of smartphone owners (that's 2.52 billion people around the globe) use mobile messaging apps.

How many eyes does this add up to per month? According to Facebook's figures, the number hovers around 1.3 billion for its Messenger app alone, and people and businesses exchange about 20 billion messages each month. This makes Facebook Messenger second only to WhatsApp, a Facebook-owned platform that boasts 1.6 billion monthly users.

But wait, there's more. The large audiences are getting more consolidated. CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced plans to integrate WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram (and its 1 billion monthly users), allowing users to share across platforms.

Surprisingly enough, even with these impressive Facebook statistics, relatively few organizations are capitalizing fully on its capabilities. Case in point: There are only approximately 300,000 AI-enabled Facebook Messenger chatbots.

Larger brands use chatbots for customer support, not as a marketing tool. This leaves a considerable gap for young brands to build a community from personal interactions rather than huge blasts and giant campaigns. 

This should excite any e-commerce marketing professional eager to break through the noise, grab warm leads, and disrupt without breaking the bank.

A 360-degree understanding of chatbot possibilities

Chatbots aren't a new phenomenon. They've become commonplace, particularly among legacy brands and brands boasting deep coffers. As an Oracle survey indicates, companies from all industries are dabbling in chatbots, and 80% of Oracle's research participants say they have or plan to adopt chatbot technology by the end of this year.

Yet known organizations aren't the only entities that can benefit from having a robust chatbot in place. Recently launched brands ought to try this method of creating a warm, familiar face for prospects and early customers, too. Certainly, startups must adopt different chatbot strategies than their better-known counterparts. Consumers might be less forgiving when an emerging business isn't as quick on the draw in terms of inbound support or response time.

For instance, a new brand might set up its Facebook Messenger bot to tell people, "We're still small, and we're super excited to help you! We've set up this bot to help answer your most frequently asked questions. However, if you need a live person, we'll get to you as soon as we possibly can with friendly service." Setting that simple expectation helps reduce potential annoyance and further the give and take.

Beyond opening the door with a welcoming voice, Facebook Messenger chatbots can act as a lead-generation tool. Emerging enterprises just need to understand the tool's core advantages and potential drawbacks to make the most of it.

Where Facebook Messenger gets an A-plus

In terms of upsides, Facebook Messenger chatbots present three major benefits. 

  • It's a green field. With just over a quarter-million Facebook Messenger bots online, the barriers of entry remain low. It's relatively simple for an upstart to differentiate itself using a well-conceived Facebook Messenger bot, even if the brand is completely fresh to the marketplace. Plus, with integrated AI, a Facebook Messenger chatbot can cut the need for human intervention, thereby lowering the overall costs for wooing and wowing target audience members.

  • It's more effective at lead nurturing. Email marketing click-through percentage rates hover in the low single digits, offering stable but unexciting returns. By contrast, users tend to open Facebook Messenger content five times more often than they do standard emails. It is still so new and uncluttered.

  • It's got the weight of a powerful network behind it. Finally, Facebook Messenger's popularity makes it an easy vehicle to drift behind. People everywhere are on the platform, so it hardly seems inefficient to use it for marketing and lead-cultivation purposes. While the vast majority of apps are deleted within three months, Facebook's Messenger app carries longevity and consistent use. It's definitely the app to stick with for the long haul for any brand trying to increase subscribers, buyers, and raving fans.

Avoid easy mistakes

At the same time, make sure you are avoiding easy mistakes by following these three tips. 

  • Diversify your outreach strategy beyond Messenger for the best results. Of course, Facebook Messenger isn't without its negatives or considerations. Email, SMS, push notifications and other marketing tools still rule the roost when it comes to dependable revenue drivers. Consequently, companies shouldn't rely on Facebook Messenger as a solo lead spigot; instead, it should be considered one bet among many.

  • Don't be annoying. Another misstep many businesses trying Facebook Messenger make is thinking that direct messaging people alone will create stickiness. Even if a company manages to grab the attention of 10,000 users, those users may remain ice cold and unmoved. Without integrated touchpoints and a robust Messenger chatbot to back up the introductory game plan, a brand may find itself struggling to gain traction.

  • Know your audience first. Last, not all buyers use Facebook Messenger. Though Facebook attracts a variety of users, the social media giant trends older. Only a little more than half of American teenagers use Facebook at all, and eMarketer expects that number to drop in the next two years. Interestingly, Facebook usage has also slightly waned among Gen Xers. At the same time, millennials and baby boomers seem to be increasing their consumption of all things Facebook.

This isn't necessarily bad. It just means that businesses need to know their key demographics before setting up a Facebook Messenger chatbot. That's what our company did, and our experimentation with the bot has been eye-opening and thrilling.

The Rainfactory Facebook Messenger chatbot experience

Recently, Rainfactory gave website visitors the choice to opt-in via Facebook Messenger in addition to other opt-in methods. We discovered that when someone opted in with Facebook Messenger and at least one other method, the leads were about twice as valuable. After all, they received communication on their favorite channels. Not only did this increase their receptiveness, but it helped drive the tone of our messaging, too.

So we recommended that one of our customers add Facebook Messenger to its lead-generation quiver. By launch day, the business will be able to see where people are coming from. Simultaneously, its team members can enrich the quality of information they receive from and give to prospects through the Facebook Messenger chatbot.

Rather than a Net Promoter Score survey, users who designate the chatbot as a preferred means of messaging can tell you exactly why they're interested in the brand, what features are most important, and what they intend to use it for. It's all in one spot, and it's much more inviting. 

Strategies for upstarts on using Facebook Messenger chatbots

If you're trying to figure out the best way to launch your next product or business as a whole, why not integrate the Facebook Messenger bot into your social media and lead-generation strategy?

The five hints below will assist you in bringing in leads to fill your sales funnel.

1. Find the right chatbot builder and stay involved.

Just as you would vet any company, make sure you evaluate lots of chatbot creators to see which one meets your needs. We've looked around quite a bit, and we like MobileMonkey as a chatbot solution. However, new chatbot builders are popping up every day, so find one that your whole team feels comfortable with.

After you've made your selection of a chatbot provider, your involvement should only get more intense. After all, you need to test, test, and test again. You can't afford to just open up your Facebook Messenger chatbot to strangers until you've run it through its paces internally. Plus, you will want to be involved in the type of chatbot that your provider will create.

Most chatbots are built around rules or menus. This means that they have a predictable set of answers depending on what someone writes in the chatbox or how a person responds between several prewritten drop-down options. If you only expect users to interact with your chatbot for routine, day-to-day tasks, you probably won't need programming that's too involved. 

In fact, some sites provide you with the ability to build your own chatbot without hiring anyone else. If you go this route, be sure to test your messages frequently. You will no doubt be surprised by the snags that can happen, and you'll be happy that you took the time to fix them before you went public.

Last, don't be too frustrated if your chatbot takes time to unglitch. You won't be able to set it up in a day, and that's OK. Prepare for a few unexpected reactions along the way. Then, tweak the messaging to get everything as tight as possible before and after you take it live.

2. Dedicate some of your team members to answer non-bot questions.

No matter how sophisticated your chatbot is, it will encounter questions it's incapable of handling. Nothing is as frustrating as trying to get answers from a chatbot stuck in a loop. It can be such a turnoff that users become tempted to block the bot entirely, and that's the last thing you want as a growing business seeking leads.

For instance, we were recently testing a chatbot that, when it didn't have the answer to the user's question, was programmed to say, "I'm sorry. I'm just a bot. But somebody will be with you shortly." That was all well and good, but when a human on the other end tried to intervene, the bot would jump in with the same canned response again and again.

Obviously, the problem here was that no one had set up the chatbot to give way to a human jumping in. If you don't have a real human to intercept weird messages that are too nuanced for a bot or your bot won't behave, you're setting up both yourself and your audience for frustration.

Of course, you have to be aware that when you add a human element, you put some stress on your customer support team to respond in a timely fashion. But that's the cost of engagement; small, personalized moments can mean the difference between making and losing a sale. Nevertheless, you don't have to have a flesh-and-blood monitor available 24/7 to save a confusing bot conversation. A badge on your Facebook Messenger bot that says, "Usually replies within a few hours," will earn you some leeway.

3. Put a chatbot support plan in place for your brand evolution.

Initially, your basic, rule-based, or menu-based chatbot may suit your needs. Post-launch, though, you may discover that you need to double down on your personal communications, advancing your chatbot's ability to fit your audience's expectations. After all, you won't be a "little guy" forever, and when you move past the startup phase, consumer expectations tend to soar.

True, you may not have a detailed customer support system in place even if you hit a million widgets sold, but your buyers will assume you do. You can use your chatbot to remind visitors and buyers that you have a small team and are checking messages daily. Your chatbot can provide transparent communication so that no one is blindsided because you're unable to move as quickly as a company four times your size.

You can also rely on your Facebook Messenger chatbot to automate your ticketing system if you have one. For example, your bot could instantly analyze and assess users' comments. In the case of a need that goes beyond the chatbot's capabilities, the chatbot could advise the consumer: "It sounds like you need to talk to a live representative. Please go to this support email address for personalized assistance."

Essentially, the chatbot becomes the triage nurse. If the chatbot can solve the issue, it does. If the issue is too complicated, the bot passes along the individual in a non-clunky, supportive way that causes minimal friction.

Will leads feel like they're being passed around in this type of environment? Not necessarily. If the chatbot is written correctly and with responsiveness in mind, the end results will be positive. Plus, the prospect who heads to the chatbot first is at least somewhat comfortable engaging with bots. Therefore, the customer wants to be helped by the bot and won't necessarily be put off by a recommendation to try another platform, like sending an email or making a phone call.

4. Move consistently toward the most natural language possible.

Maybe you don't want consumers to know that they are speaking with a bot, or perhaps you want them to at least feel like they're having a somewhat human-to-human exchange. This can happen if you outfit your chatbot with natural, conversational prompts that guide users toward relevant, somewhat predictable answers.

A good way to start is to program your chatbot with common words and colloquialism. Think about how your audience speaks. If you're dealing with a global audience that speaks basically the same language, remember that even English is spoken differently depending on where you grow up. Keep this in the back of your mind as you try to come up with your prompts and responses.

In terms of the prompts themselves, opt for a useful but not pushy tone. And don't fall into the trap of thinking that your chatbot has to push products or services in every other line. Cross-selling and upselling via chatbot can work, but it requires extreme caution and sophistication. If your chatbot comes across as abrasive or focused on the hard sell, users could unsubscribe or tune you out. 

5. Remember, a Facebook Messenger bot isn't just a leads-only tool.

Leveraging a Facebook Messenger bot as a tool to help you collect and develop leads early in your brand's life makes sense. However, you should look beyond lead generation and make the most of your chatbot to fuel other areas of your organizational and operational growth.

A secondary use for your chatbot could be to work with existing customers. You might want to drive them effortlessly through a repurchase. Or you could reach out via your chatbot to conduct impromptu surveys to remain in contact with warm or hot prospects. It's even possible for you to allow a more nuanced chatbot to handle minor complaints, although this should be done with tact and sensitivity.

People who have concerns will probably want to speak with someone – unless those concerns are small enough to handle within the limited parameters of a chatbot. In that case, the Facebook Messenger chatbot can notify a corporate representative of the complaint, then send the user directly to the representative for a private DM session.

Eventually, you'll start to see many places where your chatbot can become an invaluable, cost-effective resource. Remember to advertise it wherever you can, from your blog and newsletters to your website and YouTube channel. That way, people will know it's available when they want to connect with your team and brand.

Fueling lead-generating buzz can seem challenging for startup brands. A Facebook Messenger chatbot can provide the perfect mix of functionality and personalization to grease the wheels for incoming prospects. If you haven't checked into a bot for your business, now is the ideal time. The competition is low, and the returns could be sky-high.

Image Credit: jamesteohart / Shutterstock
Kaitlyn Witman
Kaitlyn Witman Member
Kaitlyn Witman is the co-founder and director of product marketing at Rainfactory, an award-winning full-service digital marketing agency that provides go-to-market strategy and advertising for growth-stage startups. Witman leads a team of digital marketers, designers, and developers to strategize everything needed for a successful product launch and brand growth online.