In the same breath that many people call 2016 “the year of chat,” they’re also quick to establish that bots are one of the directions that mobile app innovation is without a doubt heading towards, full steam ahead. Facebook proved as much when it launched chatbots and an accessible development platform to make them for Facebook Messenger, but many users still don’t have a clue how to chat with Messenger bots in the first place. What do they do? Why would you want to interact with one? What will they add that mobile messengers were lacking in the first place? If you feel out of the loop, read on for the scoop on this recent shift in online chat development.
Even though “bots” are a subject that’s trending right now, they’re not necessarily a brand new innovation in the technology sphere. Automated programs have been around for quite a long time, but it’s only recently that they’ve entered the mainstream as a surefire way for businesses, personalities, and services to promote themselves on social media platforms and messaging apps. Fans and users of Kik Messenger aren’t any strangers to bots or what they can bring to chat applications. It might even come as a bit of a surprise that Kik has been on the front lines of bot implementation.
It should also be a bit of a surprise that it took so long for chat bots to enter mainstream chat applications. While chat, messaging, and social media platforms have been evolving and growing in new and interesting ways for years, one thing about them has not changed–they’re where people are choosing to spend a great deal of their time. This has been the case for over a decade since smartphones became both affordable and a standard part of most peoples’ lives. Technology has always chased people into the areas that they tend to invest the most energy into, and that’s where chat bots are now popping up left and right.
In order to generate a bit of excitement on the topic, it might be beneficial to talk about why chat bots are worth getting excited about. Most mainstream experience with them has been limited to a few lines of code that respond to specific queries, mostly meant for amusement or a showcase of mildly clever coding. The chat bots featured on services like Kik, Messenger, Line and others are leaps and bounds beyond what we used to know, though.
New chat bots have a purpose, and that purpose is to allow services to more easily reach us without requiring smartphone users to open up a separate app for every single thing that they’d like to do. Want to book a hotel room from Messenger? No problem. Order a pizza through Kik? You bet; no need to open up the proprietary app for each, individual pizza chain, anymore. The main purpose of a chat bot is to provide a programmed, intuitive interface for you to engage with. They’re designed to be simple yet efficient; easy to use and still remarkably useful.
We’ll cover the most recent implementation of bots in a messaging program–their addition to Facebook Messenger. In the following guide, you’ll learn how to conjure up these handy little things efficiently, so that they can best be used to save you time and effort in your day-to-day life.
Chatting With Messenger Bots
First, it’s important to understand that bots are still working their way into our messaging apps at this time. The bot scene isn’t quite as comprehensive as developers have imagined it to be, but we’re getting there. I say this because every time you read about bots, you’re usually going to be presented with a laundry list of potential things that they can accomplish for us. Understandably, it’s all pretty cool, and that level of implementation is right around the corner.
For now, however, we’re going to focus on some of the chat bots that you can find on Messenger right now.
Let’s set a few ground rules, before we dig into the bots themselves. While Messenger may still be intricately tied to the Facebook platform itself–as in, you can access your messages and chats from Facebook in addition to Messenger–the bots are only available through the online Messenger portal and the Messenger mobile app. Once you start to interact with them, you’ll quickly understand why they require the extra screen real estate and functions that just aren’t available in that cramped corner of the Facebook social media feed.
It should also be said that some bots are still slightly glitchy, but you shouldn’t be deterred if you encounter the occasional error. While bots aren’t new, they’ve only been introduced to Messenger within a few recent months.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive list of all the bots available on Messenger, some websites have already begun to compile a list of them for you, and they’re updated regularly enough that they can be considered reliable. For our purposes, we’re going to examine some of those that are working the best.
When you want to find a chat bot, all you need to do is use the Search function that’s baked right into Facebook Messenger. You can either search for specific brands, business, and companies, or by whole categories. A search for CNN and News might actually yield a very similar list of bots, which means that the rules for finding them and contacting them are fairly loose. This is a good thing! Bots would be useless if they were difficult to integrate, given that their whole purpose is to give us faster and more reliable access to things that we’d normally have to venture outside of the chat app for.
Below is a list of reliable, fun bots that you can search for and interact with. Once you’ve found a bot, just tap it and add it like you would any other contact on Messenger.
- The Washington Post
- Lingio Translate
- Harry Botter
Give any one of these a search, or look through some of the online directories of listed, available bots that you can chat with. More are being implemented all of the time, and Facebook’s development platform is making it exceptionally easy for businesses and individuals to design their own bots.
Interacting with Chat Bots
Once you get in touch with a bot, you’ll start to experience some of the magic that has tech-centric people so very excited. They’re not artificial intelligence. Not even close, actually. Feeding the bots complex questions or attempting to fool them is never going to result in any particular benefit for you, in the same way, that fooling an app doesn’t really provide much in the way of benefit or entertainment. When you’re chatting with a bot, keep things simple.
When you’re chatting with a bot, keep things simple. If you’re talking to the CNN chat bot, for example, ask it for news on particular topics. Keep your messages short and sweet, just like you would if you were messaging a friend. If you’re looking for a tech topic through Tech Crunch, the same rules fly–use general, broad topics that the bot can use to deliver a wealth of content for you.
Shopping bots are some of the most fun, largely because they can provide some of the most impressive results to your queries. If you’re looking for particular outfits and styles through ShopBot, for example, trying changing up your descriptions in order to get new and interesting results from the bot. They’ll use more than just text, too! These simple programs might not have been designed to learn as you speak to them–we’re a far cry from that sort of intelligence in a chat bot, still–but they do know how to curate results in the form of images and, occasionally, videos. The best part is that they’re getting better all of the time. The term “bot” may not be new, but their implementation in Messenger and other chat apps is a “ground floor” variety of innovation.
The best way to learn how to interact with bots is to go out and find them! Truly, there’s no drawback to trying them out, and nobody is keeping tabs on the silly ways that you choose to test and engage with them. They’ve been automated for a reason–to remove the human element necessary for you to interact with the services that these bots are offering. The “how” behind chatting with Messenger bots is going to change between each of those that you search out and start poking at, but the basic guidelines that we’ve provided above are definitely enough to get you started with this exciting new feature. Once you’ve given it a taste, you’ll be in a prime position to watch as it grows into a full-fledged phenomenon, which is what tech analysts are predicting across the board for 2016. Any remaining questions about Facebook Messenger and its new bot population? Let’s hear them in the comments, below!