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Chatbots: How Do They Work and Where Do Links Come In?

Integrating bots into customer care and digital marketing strategy is a hot topic among our clients and integration partners, and we're seeing lots of discussion around when, how and why to utilize them. Links play an important role in any business communication, so in this post we're digging into the background and basics of bot technology. 

A bot at the core is a service representative, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence (AI), offering interactions via a chat interface. The service a bot provides could be any number of things, ranging from transactional, functional or trivial, and bots live in all major chat products- Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, SMS, etc.  

Why would a business choose to utilize bot technology? Bots can help engage customers and facilitate faster conversions by answering questions or offering suggestions at the exact time the customer is looking for them. Other ways bots can help with customer care: 

  1. Increase awareness and engagement while a customer is navigating your site
  2. Help turn casual browsers into new customers 
  3. Perform actual transactions
  4. Provide real-time and relevant support

The term "conversational commerce," coined by former Uber lead developer Chris Messina, is gaining popularity and refers to bot technology as less about providing a yes/no answer to a list of pre-programmed questions, and more as a meaningful way to engage with consumers. 

People are now spending more time in messaging apps than in social media and that is a huge turning point. Messaging apps are the platforms of the future and bots will be how their users access all sorts of services.” 

-Peter Rojas, Entrepreneur in Residence at Betaworks

Messaging apps are becoming the preferred means of communication. According to eMarketer, 1.4 billion consumers used messaging apps in 2015, which is up 31.6% from 2014, and that number is expected to hit 2 billion by 2018. This infographic from BI Intelligence puts it into perspective:

bots-graph.png

Previously when online shopping, reading reviews was the primary way to get a feel for how a product might work for you personally. However, you're at the mercy of a random stranger regarding accuracy and if reviews are even available at all. With a chatbot integration, you can actually request real-time product comparisons and better emulate that personal touch you would receive from an in-store sales rep.

That's why businesses are adopting bots, but how do they work?

There are essentially 2 forms of chatbots:

  1. A rules-based bot provides answers and directions to your clients based on programming. This is a baby step into the bot world, and if a consumers asks a question or query that hasn't been pre-programmed, they may receive a non-sensical answer or no answer at all, which can lead to attrition. 

The second form of bot is what futuristic movies are made of. 

  1. The AI bot is based on machine learning. This is where the bot ‘learns’ based on language and the types of things your customers are asking or looking for. The more interactions with the bot, the better it gets at providing value, and sophisticated bots may even appear to be real customer service people.  

How can you leverage links within your chatbot?

If you're managing your links with an open API service like BudURL, you can integrate with your bot via the API to create and retrieve content on demand.

By providing dynamic content, you'll also have access to real-time analytics to measure your bot's performance.

The API can create properly tagged and branded tracking links by: 

  1. Tagging the source of the inquiry
  2. Tagging the campaign(s) that are driving content engagement
  3. Assigning a readable and meaningful hash to brand your links

Leveraging this dynamic data, the API can also pull a wealth of analytics into your BudURL dashboard (or 3rd party platform of choice): 

  1. What links are trending in real-time
  2. What URLs have been dynamically created by your user's chats
  3. Which content is sparking the most engagement over time

That's a lot of stock to put behind a link- what happens if the link breaks or the content gets moved?

Enabling the BudURL 404 report will run a daily check that live links have a proper destination, while alerting the account admin if anything breaks along the way. Your users will have a seamless experience and your bot won't get tripped up by a wonky link.


The chatbots are coming and with them brings ample opportunity for new and better ways to engage with your audience. An important caveat: don't let conversational commerce replace the human touch. Our partners at Spredfast are the experts on Smart Social, and this post includes great tips on making sure automation doesn't detract from genuine interactions with your audience: 4 Questions You Should Ask Yourself About Chatbots and Social Care

What do you think about chatbots joining the everyday customer experience? 

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