HEAD-ChatBots-Domo-arigato-Mr.-RobotoArtificial Intelligence is more than just a sci-fi concept these days. It’s also an important tool used by many businesses for online marketing purposes. For this reason, it’s crucial that you incorporate AI and chatbots into your digital marketing strategy if you’re hoping to reach customers across social media or other web platforms. Not everybody understands exactly what AI in the modern world looks like though, or how to work it into successful customer acquisition and retention strategies. For that reason, we’ve put together a brief explanation of this technology’s potential applications, so that you can see how your company stands to benefit from its use.

AI is commonly being used to mimic salespeople in online interactions between a company and its customers. Programs that do this are called chatbots, and they’re catching on like wildfire—in fact, Facebook just announced that it’s even working on developing chatbots for groups this year. Chatbots aren’t just for sales, though—they can also be used for customer service. A well-designed chatbot can do both, and a few other things besides. Just ask any successful consultant that works with modern small businesses: companies that use chatbots gain major advantages over those that don’t.

How to Get Your Own Chatbot

There are basically two ways to go about developing a chatbot for your business. The first method is to teach yourself Machine Learning so that you can build an NLP/NLU platform. NLP stands for Natural Language Processing, whereas NLU stands for Natural Language Understanding. Both of these are essential parts of the interface that allows your chatbot to process conversations—a defining characteristic of any AI. While it is possible to teach yourself the fundamentals of Machine Learning with a layman’s understanding, it’s generally quicker and more cost-effective to just hire a third party. This way, you’ll have your bot developed by people who understand the technology thoroughly, and can optimize it for your purposes.

The Advantages to Using Chatbots

Imagine running a business where your clients can feel supported 24/7 and you don’t have to pay for a whole team of customer service representatives to work around the clock. That’s the idea behind a chatbot—it offers a helpful and interactive experience to anybody that engages with your brand via your website or any number of popular social media channels. Facebook Messenger is a great example, and hosts one of the largest number of successful chatbots on the internet (a particularly successful example is 1-800-Flowers.com, but there are plenty of others).

Different Bots for Different Reasons

Some bots—like the one created by 1-800-Flowers.com—offer simple information to customers designed to get them into the company’s purchasing funnel as fast as possible. Others collect user data and use it to offer more complicated services, like Foxsy—which aims to help you forge “beautiful and meaningful connections” with other people on Facebook Messenger. The depth of experience a given user can achieve with any given chatbot is up to the bot’s designer, and mainly depends on that designer’s goals. For example, certain bots may be able to hold entire conversations on subjects unrelated to the brands they represent. This is often done for the simple purpose of increasing a brand’s exposure, since many people will check out a chatbot based on its novelty alone. Mitsuku is an excellent example of this phenomenon—a bot designed for no other purpose than to hold realistic conversations, which now interacts with tens of thousands of curious people on a daily basis.

Chatbots require fewer resources than staff members, never take breaks, and people will take an automatic interest in them because they’re new and exciting. This is perhaps the best argument for using an AI: you don’t want to be the only company of your kind without one. Decide on a bot that helps promote your brand and supports your goals, whether you’re interested in sales, customer service, or simple brand awareness. Then join the world of businesses already using this important technology to their advantage.

Nick Rojas is a self-taught, serial entrepreneur who’s enjoyed success working with and consulting for startups. Using his journalism training, Nick writes for publications such as Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, and Yahoo. He concentrates on teaching small and medium-sized enterprises how best to manage their social media marketing and define their branding objectives.