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When you think of chatbots, content marketing might not immediately spring to mind, but it should. Chatbots and content marketing are two concepts that can work well together for brands and businesses, so it’s no surprise that chatbots are skyrocketing in popularity with content marketers.

If you know your audience and what it’s looking for and have a content strategy that uses a variety of different platforms, then there’s no reason to be intimidated by using chatbots in your content marketing. Chatbots can help you cut through all the content clutter out there in a very targeted way that benefits your audience and your brand.

For example, when your target market consistently asks the same questions, you can put chatbots to work to help answer them in a quick, cost-effective way. Or when you want to ask your audience a specific set of questions to determine what they want, chatbots can do that too. They can also figure out what stage of the purchasing process consumers are at, including which ones are ready to buy.

What Chatbots are and How They Work

Chatbots are, at the core, computer software that has been programmed to interact with humans in a conversational way. You know those little comment boxes that seem to pop up from out of nowhere on your screen when you’re online, working in a computer program or using an app? If a real person isn’t behind those, then you’re interacting with a chatbot.

Popular virtual-assistant devices like Siri and Alexa are examples of voice-based chatbots that use voice recognition to interact with humans. Chatbots can also lighten the workload for live agents by getting the more mundane tasks done first, gathering the helpful information needed for more streamlined human-to-human interaction.

Different Types of Chatbots

Some Chatbots are considered AI-based because they’re created using artificial intelligence. They’re often programmed to use natural language, so you might not even know that you’re not chatting with another human when you interact with them. Machine learning is an arm of artificial intelligence that gives chatbots the ability to learn and improve over time by analyzing data to build models and identify patterns.

Other types called fixed or scripted chatbots, have more limited capabilities, like understanding certain questions you might ask and providing the answers to them. They can also ask a fixed set of questions, for instance, to help get information about consumer preferences.

How Chatbots are Influencing Content Marketing

Chatbots are influencing the world of content marketing by personalizing customer experiences in all kinds of creative ways. For example, content marketers can create their own chatbot characters that reflect a brand’s values and respond to customer needs. Chatbots can even do innovative things like chat in a lighthearted way with someone who can’t sleep during the wee hours, as the Insomniabot-3000 chatbot does for mattress brand Casper.

Chatbots have a multitude of uses beyond customer service. Marketers can introduce chatbots into their marketing strategy at a number of different points along the customer journey. For example, chatbots can respond to customer questions and make purchasing suggestions using data gathered about the customer. They can sell, entertain, educate and assist by generating everything from memes to sports stats, and they can order anything from pizza to flowers.

Whole Foods has a chatbot on Facebook Messenger that generates personalized recipes and dining ideas and recommends products for customers. It even has a shortcut feature that uses food and dietary emojis that customers select, which it then uses to create recipes for them. Domino’s Pizza has a chatbot on dating app Tinder called Dom Juan that sends pizza-themed pick-up lines to help users get dates.

The Benefits of Using Chatbots

  • Chatbots can reach a larger market across a wide variety of platforms and apps
  • Chatbots can scour data for content topics and keywords. For example, if a hotel brand creates travel content about New York City, and the audience keeps asking the same questions, like “Where is the best pizza in NYC?” the brand can use the info to create valuable new content that answers the question.
  • Thanks to AI and automation, chatbots can interact with customers 24/7. So if a customers want to order gifts at 3 a.m. from bed, chatbots can help them do just that.
  • Chatbots can process greater volumes of information more quickly and more accurately than humans, within certain parameters.
  • Chatbots can send timely reminders to customers, like reminders of a flight, an appointment or a restaurant reservation. They can also send notifications, like greetings welcoming consumers to your brand’s site or social media platform.
  • Chatbots can save your brand money in areas like labor costs and take over repetitive tasks that can become boring to live agents.
  • Chatbots make purchases and other tasks convenient for customers who are increasingly making decisions and planning their schedules on the go. Customers can plan anything from an outfit for a special occasion to a dental appointment or a donation to their favorite non-profit on their cell phones using chatbots. And they can do it from practically anywhere.
  • Chatbots can be handy when customers want speedier service than they can get with live customer service reps. Amtrak’s Ask Julie chatbot helps streamline the customer booking experience, saving time by pre-filling out fields based on customers’ answers to travel questions.

The Drawbacks of Using Chatbots

As with most things that are automated, there can be drawbacks to using chatbots. When planning to incorporate chatbots into your content marketing strategy, keep the following cons in mind:

  • Chatbots can’t completely replicate the nuances of the real human-to-human interactions needed for some deeper conversations. They’re not great at detecting emotions or understanding things like different accents, mispronounced words, idioms, irony or sarcasm.
  • Chatbots can frustrate customers by making them jump through too many hoops to get what they need or where they need to go online to do something like make a purchase or reservation.
  • Sophisticated chatbots can be very pricey. If your primary goal is to save money, then you’ll be working with a chatbot that has more limited capabilities.
  • Just like some live agents, some types of chatbots can’t multi-task very well and can get slowed down or stuck when they don’t recognize the questions customers are asking or know the answer to them. Make sure to use a chatbot that’s well customized to your brand’s and your customers’ needs.
  • Chatbots can drive customers away by overwhelming them with too many messages. In this case, they’re like the digital equivalent of a salesperson that won’t leave you alone when you’re shopping for an item in a brick-and-mortar store.
  • Some customers don’t trust chatbots to be accurate and won’t use them. Know your audience members well enough to understand whether they’ll be open to interacting with them and repeating the experience.