At ubisend, we have deployed chatbots on a variety of platforms. Some on relatively unknown messaging applications, others on the big boy platforms.
It is a topic we touch on with almost all our clients. Which platform is best for us? As a default, most of them assume Facebook Messenger should be their choice. Sounds obvious.
But, is it?
In this article, I want to cover Facebook as a chatbot platform. Is it the right choice for everyone? Should you jump on the Facebook bandwagon or should you shop around?
Wait, there are more chatbot platforms?
Yes, Jimmy. There are.
We build chatbot solutions on upwards of 20 different channels. Facebook is one of them, but we also deploy on Line, Telegram, SMS, Kik, and more.
If you glance at our homepage and scroll down a tad, you'll get an idea of the different channels we build chatbots on.
Of course, Facebook is one of the biggest out there. It certainly is in the West. On the other hand, WeChat is the leading chatbot channel in the East. At the end of Q4 2016, WeChat had 889 Million monthly active users.
We could write an entire article about Facebook vs. Tencent (the company that owns WeChat) but this isn't the purpose of this article. Instead, let's reiterate: there are a plethora of possibilities out there when it comes to releasing chatbots. You need to be aware of them.
Why does Facebook dominate the chatbot landscape?
Again, Facebook is dominant in the West side of the world. When you venture in Asia, you will notice everyone using WeChat or even Line.
Still, though. Why is Facebook number one? Most of the conversations we have on this topic with potential clients end up with them asking whether they should use Facebook Messenger for their chatbot. So Facebook must be doing something right.
I believe their domination comes from two fronts.
The first is obvious: Facebook was already a huge part of our lives before chatbots even existed. I created my Facebook account back in 2008 and I was late to the party. Facebook opened their API allowing developers to build chatbots in the middle of 2016.
This means for eight full years we have had the time to get completely entangled in their platform. They've grown into the giant we know them to be, then opened this amazing chatbot development opportunity. With a flick of a switch, they raised awareness about chatbots and made them accessible to over a billion people.
The second is simplicity. Facebook started by opening their API (geeky way of saying 'giving access to their platform to all the developers out there to build stuff on') and making it super simple for devs to use it. It was buggy, trust me we have had to live with these bugs, but it was easy.
From a user perspective, they've also made Facebook Messenger chatbots really easy to use. At the start, there was no crazy button, menu, or anything fancy. It looked like text, like a simple interaction between you and a friend.
Should you release a chatbot on Facebook?
After all this, you still wonder the same thing. Is Facebook the right choice?
If you are in the West, all indicators point to a big fat yes. Most of your customers are on Facebook. They also all have Facebook Messenger. Go where your customers are.
Of course, it's not that simple.
As with anything your company might release, you need to think of your audience. Think of the demographic first. Who are they?
If they are young, they might not even have a Facebook account. Most of the youth these days use Kik or Instagram.
Kids these days. Not even using Facebook.
If they are in Asia, focus on WeChat or Line. In the Middle East? You might have a better chance with Telegram.
If they are 30-something geeks working in startups, why not focus on Slack or Workplace?
It's not just the demographics
Once you have narrowed down on the type of consumers who are going to use your chatbot, there is a second layer you have to go through: APIs.
Not every platform works in the same way. They don't all give access to the same type of connections.
Contact your friendly chatbot building company and explain your idea in detail. Ask their opinion about the platform that would be most suited for your needs. Then, ask if you can actually do everything you want to achieve through that platform.
Picking the right mobile messaging platform to build your chatbot on is not simple. It is at the core of your project and you should have a defined plan.
At ubisend, we tackle the platform issue early on by doing two things.
First, we bring up the topic early. We need to know what you want to achieve and where. It is part of our process.
Second, ubisend stands for ubiquitous sending. We build chatbots in such a way that the platform does not actually matter to us. Want to release on Facebook Messenger first then maybe WeChat in six months? Fine. You tell us when you are ready, we'll flick the switch.