A Simple Framework for Creating a Viral Chatbot
Virality is every product maker's dream. It's the perfect acquisition channel. It's what we all strive for.
It's the Holy Grail.
Here's the good news: chatbots have the greatest chance of going viral.
They're usually social. They're sometimes fun. They often live on platforms specifically built for virality and continuous engagement (Facebook Messenger, Kik, Telegram, etc.).
So, making a chatbot go viral should be easy, right?
Not quite. Making anything go viral is part science part art. In this article, we will lay down a simple framework to help you with the science part.
In the spirit of this topic, if you wouldn't mind sharing this article with your friends, family, social following, dog, that would make me very happy... :)
How to make a chatbot go viral
What is 'virality' and why is it amazing?
Let's catch everyone up first. Those of you who know, feel free to skip ahead.
Virality is, in its essence, a form of acquisition. You've all heard of videos 'going viral' or games 'going viral'. A viral product, whether it is a video, game, or a chatbot, spreads like wildfire.
Something within that products makes people share it, talk about it, invite others to it.
Why is it amazing? Because it's free acquisition!
Let's say you build a product and spend £100 to attract 1 user. This user pays you £5 per month to use your product. The £100 you spent was all the money you had. Now you need to wait 20 months (20 x £5 = £100) to have the fund to spend on a new acquisition blast.
Now, imagine every user you acquire attracts another user from her circle of friends. Every £100 you spend now attracts two users paying you £5 each per month. You can now spend another £100 in 10 months instead of 20.
Now, imagine this user attracts three other users from their circle of friends. You get the picture.
Virality is a very good thing (unless you go viral for the wrong reasons).
The framework: 7 phases to take your chatbot viral
Understood, viral = good (in the world of marketing, at least).
In our experience, here are eight steps to follow to give your chatbot the highest chances of going viral.
A word of warning: these steps work best with consumer-facing chatbots. If you have an internal HR chatbot, chances are you don't really want it to go viral.
1. Give your chatbot a personality
Chatbots bring a new dimension to marketing. Through the medium of conversations, one-to-one conversations, your customers can now engage with your brand.
This has never been possible before. At least not at scale.
To make these 1-o-1 interactions go viral, you must create a personality for your chatbot.
Now, granted, 48% of consumers prefer a chatbot that solves issues over a chatbot that has personality. But that's if you're in the problem-solving business.
If you want your chatbot to go viral, a strong, funny, and relevant personality will help.
2. Make use of all the (chatbot and platform) features
As mentioned in the introduction, most chatbots live on platforms that beg their users to share and engage. This is great for your viral purposes.
In our work with Unilever, we embedded social shares into some of the actions Monkey would take. For instance, each day Monkey would share a joke to all its users. Below that joke was a share button, allowing users to share it on Twitter or Facebook.
This did really well in terms of virality. Users were sharing the jokes every day, on top of which we hard-coded a link to the chatbot; thus bringing new users.
Suss out the features that will help you achieve similar results. If you can't find a feature like this, come talk to us -- we're experts at building exactly what our clients need.
3. Build a reward system
Reward systems are all the rage. Entire brands are built on this simple system: if you share what we want you to share, you will get something you care about. Think of platforms like gleam.io, for instance.
We found this to be extremely valuable for chatbots as well. The best way to do it? Get your chatbot development team to create a referral system. When a user shares the chatbot to one of their friends using this very specific link, the user's account gets flagged and enters a contest.
Win, win, win.
4. Grab the user's attention, quickly
Our attention span is shrinking and the opportunities for distractions are growing.
For something, anything, to go viral, it needs to grab attention. And it needs to grab it fast. Some brands have done this extremely well. For instance, Always released this video a couple of years ago:
You can probably tell where this is going from the first few frames, but if you've never seen it, you're hooked. This is a 3min long video, aka super long, in our world.
Your chatbot needs to do the same. It needs to hook the user early. This can be done in a few different ways:
- Provide instant value.
- Create a flawless chatbot onboarding sequence.
- Heavily involve the user by creating a demanding back and forth.
5. Create something unique
For something to go truly viral, it has to be unique. This is true for any viral marketing strategy.
If some Always competitor were to recreate the same ad, it would instantly flop (and have a negative impact on their brand).
If some PG tips competitor were to recreate a [insert mascot] that tells jokes chatbot, it would probably flop as well.
Go poke your marketing team. Make sure they come up with something unique!
6. Create something high quality
Chatbots are interactive, which is fantastic for engagement. Unfortunately, this also means users have the freedom to try and break things.
To make sure your chatbot goes viral for all the good reasons, you must make sure it is high quality.
A poorly built, out-of-the-box, run-of-the-mill chatbot will not cut it. As soon as someone has a little bit too much free time, they will break it and the dream is over.
If your chatbot is a serious branding play, make sure you involve a team of serious chatbot developers.
7. Promote, promote, promote
Finally, promote your chatbot.
If you scroll all the way back to the top of this article and look at the diffusion chart, what do you see?
That's right, someone on the left-hand side starts the chain.
Without promotion, you don't get the first users. Without the first users, there is no virality.
Leverage your current marketing channel (social media, website, PR, etc.) to get your first few users and don't stop until you've reached critical mass.
Additional tips: group and internal chatbots
Before we wrap this blog post up, there are two additional points I'd like to touch on.
Virality and group chatbots
Group chatbots live on, you guessed it, groups. On most messaging apps, you can create a group for you and your friends or family to all engage.
A group chatbot can be invited into your private groups. There, everyone can enjoy the value of the chatbot by engaging with it. This is an extremely effective way to build virality into your bot.
This is what the guys at Roll did.
Roll is a Kik chatbot. Invite it to your group and ask it questions like '@roll, who should pay the check at the restaurant tonight?'. The Roll bot will reply with a random name pulled from the list of group participants.
Easy, simple, useful; super fun.
Roll grew like wildfire. In 30 days, they had over 500,000 users. The secret? Groups! Groups are full of people (duh), all engaging with your bot, finding value, then spreading to their other groups.
Read more about Roll's story from its founder, Ryan.
PS: This is a form of Pull Product Virality (PPV), if you want to get more technical. It sort of works in the same way as the Twitter example above. If you don't have other people to use it with you, you're going to feel pretty lonely (and end up paying all the restaurant checks).
Virality in company-facing chatbots?
Not every product needs to go viral. At least not in the ways explained above. This is where the concept of word of mouth takes a different turn from the simple viral concept.
For example, you may not want your company-facing chatbot to go viral. There is little sense in an HR chatbot going viral. You don't necessarily want the whole world to know about your internal HR bot.
However, do keep in mind that a company is, essentially, a tiny community. If you work in a large company, you will want 'internal virality' kicking in. Make sure you build enough of an amazing experience that employees tell the other employees to use your epic HR chatbot instead of calling your staff for the 12th time today.
Finally, you may not want to build virality into sensitive or personal chatbots. We often work in the health industry, building chatbots that help get diagnostics by sharing personal information. Is this the right place to invoke a viral loop by 'sharing with friends'? Probably not.
In all instances, though, whatever you are building, you can always make the user experience amazing enough that people will talk about you. It may be a whisper (in the case of a health-sensitive chatbot, for instance) or it may be a loud tweet; you should always strive for, at the very least, this type of virality.
Building a product with virality in mind is always a good strategy.
With chatbots, we have the opportunity to tap into viral marketing in a brand new and exciting way. Use the framework presented here to make sure your hard work reaches the audience size you dream of.
Need help getting there? Get in touch with a team of professional chatbot builders.