Twitter updated Direct Messages to make them more useful to marketers that want to use the platform for customer service and engagement. By providing greater flexibility for chatbots, companies can put as many as three clickable buttons in messages to interact more meaningfully with users, according to a blog post by the company.
Developers can create bots to handle a greater range of functions including composing a tweet, making purchases, linking to websites, sharing a bot and additional calls to action or conversational cues, according to VentureBeat. The buttons support emoji characters and can also access features within the Twitter app. The feature is now available for iOS and Android apps and desktop browsers.
“For many businesses, delivering a great customer experience through a bot in Direct Messages depends on helping people complete a task other than sending a message,” Ian Cairns, a product manager at Twitter, said in the post.
Twitter’s bot features are one step toward catching up with other social media platforms that have featured action buttons alongside bots for years. Twitter shows how brands can use the bots with a video demonstration by film studio Focus Features, which uses a bot to play movie previews, enable ticket purchases and connect the user to customer service. For the feature film “The Beguiled,” Focus Features built a trivia game bot that serves up questions and lets participants easily share scores with friends on the social media platform.
While bots can be clunky and limited in their conversational abilities, they are being rapidly adopted to handle interactions between businesses and their customers. By making bots more interactive, brands will be able to learn more about what consumers want from bots and better optimize experiences.
Making bots more useful could also drive word of mouth for bots if users like the new functionality. One of the big challenges for brands with bots is letting consumers know a bot is available when they are engaging on a platform like Twitter where the messaging experience is available. Twitter Direct Message Cards were released last month to drive discovery of the new tool through promoted tweets and organic sharing.
The latest update addresses discoverability by enabling marketers to encourage users to share bots. STXfilms created a bot for its upcoming film, "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Plants," that enables users to chat with characters from the movie. Once they get far enough into the storyline, users receive a message with a button encouraging them to share the bot with their followers to unlock exclusive content.
In the past several weeks, heavyweights like Facebook, Google and Microsoft have announced new ways to find bots on their chat platforms, according to VentureBeat. Microsoft said last month at its annual developers conference that the 130,000 software programmers using the company's Bot Framework can publish their bots on its Bing search engine. With that kind of progress in support for bots, they'll likely continue to expand in use as more companies and users grow accustomed to the new tech and bots become increasingly human-like.