You may be seeing a lot of talk about bots—especially this week, following Facebook’s F8 software developer conference in San Francisco. What are bots, why are we hearing about them and importantly, should Christian organizations use them?
An internet bot, also known as web robot, is a software application that runs automated tasks over the internet. A simple example and one that’s been around for years is a chat bot—a bot that powers a chat conversation, typically used for help or customer service on websites. Siri, a voice assistant for iPhone, is another example.
At F8, Facebook launched chat bots for Messenger, its messaging app. This gives people and organizations the ability to text directly with each other, just like they do with friends.
Instead of going to a business’s website to buy a product, people can now do so via Messenger.
The Kik messenger app also just announced its own bot app store. Sephora is the first beauty brand to debut on the messaging app, allowing people to skip the Sephora website all together in exchange for a one-on-one chat experience. People can get product reviews and recommendations and make purchases directly on the app.
Twitter uses bots as well. You know how you can order a pizza from Domino’s by tweeting a pizza emoji? That’s done using a bot.
Other chat bot use cases include scheduling doctor appointments, sending money, adding a meeting to a calendar or getting information about package deliveries.
Bots simplify digital experiences by allowing people to complete multiple tasks from within a single app—an app they are already using—rather than switching back and forth between apps and websites. This makes it easier for people to, say, send a Vine video, order flowers or obtain information about a product without having to leave one app to download another or go to a website to complete the task.
With this week’s Messenger bot launch, businesses on Facebook now have tools to create interactive experiences for people—experiences that allow people and businesses to communicate directly in a way they haven’t been able to before.
So what do bots mean for Christian organizations? Should churches, non-profits or even Christian for-profit corporations take advantage of bot technology?
Let’s think about potential use cases for a Christian non-profit:
Say you’re a church. Someone who is already on Facebook Messenger chatting with friends may want to know church service times. Rather than switching to a church app or going to the website, they could chat directly with the church via chat bot to get that information.
If you’re a non-profit, a bot could allow you to get important pieces of content to many potential donors quickly. You’d have the ability to chat one-on-one with people inside the app, answer questions, give information and recommend donor levels to people based on their responses.
For Christian companies, the application is easy to see: share product content, make recommendations, interact with people directly and allow them to purchase that product from within the app.
If you have an event coming up, you could even use the bot to allow people to purchase tickets and add the event to their calendar.
Though bots have been around for a really long time, they are gaining more traction. We are seeing some valuable, real-world use cases for them from a marketing standpoint. You can bet that if tech powerhouses like Twitter and Facebook are putting their weight behind bots, we will see their proliferation.
Digital technologies should never replace real, one-on-one human interaction. Ever. But when it’s impossible to have real and human interaction with many people 24/7, and you need to get information to people quickly (especially for mobile users who want easy and fast access to information), bots may be a good supplement.
If you want to create highly interactive and excellent digital experiences for your key audiences, in places they already are online and in moments that matter, your Christian organization may want to start thinking about how you could leverage bots.