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Why and how chatbots will dominate social media

Source | TechCrunch : By Cory Edwards

Since the early 2000s, brands have experimented with social media platforms and networks to communicate with customers and prospects — first through weblogs, then eventually through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Although the capabilities and sophistication have continued to evolve, at its core, social media has remained a platform to facilitate human-to-human communication.

But then the robots moved in.

Robots, though more specifically virtual robots or chatbots powered by artificial intelligence (AI), are transforming the way brands do business with their customers. Domino’s was one of the first companies to dabble in AI, allowing customers to order pizza by tweeting a pizza emoji to @Dominos. On the backend, a bot scans to confirm the tweet was not a hoax and processes the order.

More recently, Taco Bell unveiled its TacoBot within the Slack messaging platform that allows busy workers to chat with a bot to order a taco. And at Facebook’s F8, 1-800-Flowers, CNN, Spring — a retail shopping startup — and others released chatbots for Facebook Messenger. These bots offer new ways to shop, make purchases, read the news and more within the Facebook platform.

While all this sounds exciting, what does it actually mean for consumers, and what’s to become of the “humans” on social media?

Chatbots as the factotum for all business needs

The first thing to understand about chatbots is that most won’t introduce new capabilities; instead, brand chatbots will centralize where and how customers engage, using social media as an operating system.

Consumers will engage with bots in three ways: content consumption, customer service and productivity or transactional engagements. Social media is already part of many of these activities between brands and consumers, but social media acts as a gateway to direct consumers to the brand website, blog or separate channels. Instead of using social media as a portal, consumers can read and receive information, ask technical questions and even make purchases from one chatbot.

Take for example customer support. More than one-third of customers already prefer using social media rather than the telephone for customer support, and most consumers expect a response within an hour — if not faster. That’s a taxing load for brands, but the enhanced AI through chatbots makes it feasible to accommodate.

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