Elections are a special time for everyone, but tremendously so for companies building and testing new technology. The Nation’s focus, large budgets and intense competition send campaigns looking for every advantage to find voters and drive them to the polls. This environment leads to new approaches and technologies getting the green light from campaigns and has resulted in some tremendous technical advancement.
The big advancement this cycle was the bot, or automated conversations over Facebook Messenger. Becker Digital Strategies and @Mssg built & deployed a Facebook Messenger bot for a handful of campaigns this election cycle. Reach and usage were limited, but the response rates and overall engagement were promising. Across all customers the response rate was 74%. The best performing bot saw a 91% response rate.
First, let’s discuss exactly what is meant when we say response. The goal of this Messenger bot was to help people find their voting location. A user would message in their address and receive a message back with the name and address of their polling place. When we talk about the response rate, we’re looking specifically at users that started the conversation with the bot, and what percentage responded with their address.
The typical interaction would begin with the user arriving at an organization’s Messenger Page. There is a short description of the bot, and a single call to action with a Get Started button.
When the user clicks Get Started, the bot jumps into action. The organization has total control over the messaging. This bot thanked the user for engaging and asked them to reply with their address in order to look up their polling location. This direct and singular ask mimicked the interactions of websites like http://gettothepolls.com which had the same use case — just on the web.
The conversation would continue when the user messaged in their address. As you can see from the graphics, the message is meant to be clear and we even capitalize FULL ADDRESS when the user is asked. There are safeties built into the bot and the address was normalized to correct for users that might not follow directions perfectly. So the system was able to pick up addresses that weren’t entered fully.
When we’re measuring response rate, we are specifically looking at the user sending in their address.
The bot received the user’s address, saved it as data and then looked up the polling place location for the address entered. This query happened outside of the bot, using the Google Civic Information API for the voting location database. Instantly a message is sent to the user with their polling place name and address. As can be seen in the above example, because this is happening on the phone, the address is clickable and will open the maps app. Another added benefit is the voting location is saved in the conversation. So the user has that information on their phone, with them wherever they go.
These campaigns were conceived and launched very quickly. We didn’t have a lot of time to plan, so we feel that reviewing the results is especially important. The biggest positive takeaway is that once the conversation starts, the results are outstanding. Getting users to start the conversation is where the most improvements can be made.*(in the last week, FB has released features to greatly increase conversation starts as a percentage of ad clicks — possibly to 100%) Following are a few ideas to increase Messenger Bot usage.
Highlight the fact you have a Messenger bot. The average Facebook user hasn’t interacted with a bot, so the experience will be new to them. In promotions leading users to a bot, it’s important to be clear that the user will arrive at the bot and should start a conversation. The goal is to help orient the user and align their expectations to make it more likely they will engage.
Build an MVP bot. A Minimum Viable Product (Bot) is an approach to help you launch early, test things out, track what works and then innovate. The point is to try different promotions and conversations as you’re developing. Organizations shouldn’t solely focus on the technical aspect and not spend any time on promotion. This wasn’t possible during the 2016 election, but it’s a good idea moving forward.
Promote with more than FB Ads. These campaigns were promoted with FB Ads exclusively. Ads offer an amazing opportunity to target the people the organization is trying to reach, but they’re expensive. The same way that a website link can be distributed through ads, blogs, press and social — Messenger bots can be promoted through the same channels. If you’re launching a bot soon it will be new and novel and a great story to pitch to the press.
Stay on the cutting edge technically. Facebook is putting a lot of their might behind the Messenger APIs and Messenger Bot ecosystem. It’s safe to assume that they want to drive usage and have been rapidly releasing new tools to do so. Messenger bots should incorporate any and all changes that increase usage. For example, in the last 10 days there have been two major features released by Messenger.
One feature is a deep link into Messenger. This allows the Messenger bot to track where the user is coming from, and to start the conversation without forcing the user to click Get Started. The second feature is an ad unit inside Facebook Messenger, called sponsored messages. It’s clear that Facebook views Messenger as the next platform.
Overall, Facebook Messenger and conversation as an interface offer an exciting opportunity to engage supporters and drive action. It’s extremely early and will take some time to understand best practice, but without a doubt organizations should start thinking and testing their messaging strategy.