Embrace the Facebook Messenger Bot — Or Else?

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg

Plenty of news streamed out of the Facebook F8 developers conference this week in New York, but perhaps none more electric or controversial than the increased introduction of Messenger chat bots inside its growing and popular Facebook Messenger app.

Now with over 900 million users, and 60 Billion messages sent per day, on Facebook Messenger, the company sees the time is right to monetize it in a very big way.

The obstacle for Messenger chat bot growth and adoption is it’s foreign and uncomfortable for many American consumers.

For those of you who just arrived the party: chat bots are interactive software powered by artificial intelligence — even sometimes with the assistance of their human operators. These chat bots can be used to power customer service, sell items, or otherwise interact with users via the chat function that powers Messenger.

For Americans, and even Europeans, chat bots aren’t new, but they are new to Messenger and that’s a bit of the rub. While chat bots are used extensively in Asia, they’re new in this context and it’s going to take our change-resistant population a little time to get used to it and adopt it.

Anyone who has used WeChat for business in places like China knows this is everyday activity and already embraced.

Commerce and customer service is happening via chat bot there every day with great adoption rates. Asian consumers have embraced it and even businesses (small and large) are using WeChat and its chat bots to conduct business with customers down the block or around the world. Aisan consumers are checking into their flights, paying bills, and even making medical appointments with chat bots.

The obstacle for Messenger chat bot growth and adoption is it’s foreign and uncomfortable for many American consumers. They’re just not used to it. With the focus on privacy and security in the U.S., it will take time to convince them it’s worth the perceived risk. Adoption of new forms of technology can happen quickly, but automating services that are usually provided with some human element isn’t something John or Joan America jumps at with reckless abandon.

Ultimately, I think the convenience and availability of helpful chat bots in Messenger will work with great success. Brands will use it as a more efficient and targeted way to reach their customers and consumers will embrace it thanks to convenience, quick help, and easy purchasing.

Much like consumers first despised automated phone systems, they eventually became a (mostly) useful part of our lives and consumer experience. I believe the same will eventually happen with chat bots. If they are refined, user friendly, and provide what the customer needs, they’ll weave their way into our everyday life.

That’s not to say there won’t be some pain first.

Scott Gulbransen is an accomplished social media, public relations, and digital marketing pro and thought leader. Having managed public relations, social media and digital marketing at brands like Intuit, Applebee’s and H&R Block, and in college athletics at his alma mater UNLV, he currently serves as the Global Head of Digital Content at Haymon Boxing, creators of the Premier Boxing Champions series. Gulbransen resides in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas. #BattleBorn