And that may be a smarter approach - while Facebook's been pushing hard to promote their Messenger bots and the opportunities they bring for more than a year now, they haven't yet become a key part of the Messenger experience. That's not to say they won't, there's every chance that it'll only take one or two truly great bots to spark the broader trend. But they haven't yet.
By keeping in touch, Twitter is essentially dipping a toe in the water and letting Facebook (and others) promote such interactions without having to put significant focus on the option themselves.
In line with this, Twitter has this week announced a new bot option, one which doesn't utilize AI or machine learning as such, but which provides a new range of ways in which business can automate customer engagement on the platform.
The new tool is buttons within messages, making it easy for people to take actions outside of the Direct Message conversation - "like composing a Tweet, following an account, or opening a website within the Twitter app".
As you can see in the example, after completing a quiz - released as part of a promotion for the new film 'The Beguiled' - there's an option for the user to then tweet their score, helping further boost the promotion in a more organic way, as well as an option to follow the brand handle, direct from the DM.
Twitter advises that there are various ways in which the new option could be used, including:
- Tweeting about your bot - As shown in the above example, helping fuel organic, interactive promotion
- Visiting a website - Twitter notes that after making a choice in a DM bot thread, the new option makes it easy for brands to then connect the user with follow-on actions, like visiting a website to complete an order. And worth noting too: "Buttons that point to web links open a native browser within the Twitter app, so that once a person completes an action, they can come right back into the Direct Message to continue the conversation."
- Following accounts - Again, as displayed in the above example, brands can use the option to help add new followers via their promotion, which could give extra kick to their campaigns (i.e. you could promote two objectives in one, prompting users to take a desired action and follow for future opportunities)
- Starting a conversation with a different account you own - This could be particularly useful for brands that run a customer service account, or a separate account for a different product. Via the new buttons, you can add an option within your automated bot flow to refer people to another Twitter handle - so if there's a common question built into your bot framework that requires human assistance, you can refer users to a specific handle to continue the conversation, rather than have them drop-off.
Up to three buttons can be attached to any message, and they can be used to open any web URL, including links to other features within the Twitter app. Businesses can also fully customize the call-to-action text on a button - which, Twitter notes, includes the use of emojis.
As noted, Twitter's introduced a range of bot tools, including automated welcome messages, quick replies and new ads which promote bot interaction, helping them keep in step with user demand and maintain their position as a key customer service platform. As emphasis on bots ramps up - which is still largely expected - Twitter will be in a position to move in-line and make a larger push, so it's a clever move by Twitter to stay up to date without making the same investment in machine learning that Facebook and Google have to facilitate such options.
Another key benefit of this could be that Twitter's bot options actually end up being more accessible and easier for non tech experts to create - while Facebook Messenger bots generally require the assistance of third party specialists or tools, Twitter's variations are more simple. At the same time, this could become a constraint too, but it may give them a means to enable more businesses to tap into the bot trend, when the time is right.
Buttons on messages are rolling out now on iOS, Android and desktop web clients.