Like so many of its rivals, it was rumored for a few months that Facebook would introduce chatbots. Yesterday at the F8 conference, Mark Zuckerberg finally unveiled them for Facebook Messenger. But how can you can get into a conversation with your favorite brand? Read on.
The short answer is search. The search box in the Facebook Messenger apps and the Web-based version have the feature; you can’t search for bots from within Facebook, even on the desktop. But when you search on mobile for something like Uber or 1-800-Flowers, it shows up under the heading “Bots and Businesses.”
The bot typically has a Messenger symbol, the little lightning-bolt in the blue circle, the same used to alert you to friends who are active on the service.
However, chatbots are so new that not all the bots show up in search and behave as they should. I found Uber and 1-800-Flowers within Messenger, but not CNN. But hey, it’s the first day. It’s only going to get easier to find bots, and they’ll likely proliferate quickly so enjoy the calm before the storm.
If you can’t wait, there’s a site called Botlist that has taken up the mantle of “App Store for Bots,” listing any and all chatbots available (it’s where I found CNN). Not just on Facebook Messenger, but also via email, iPhone, Kik, Slack, SMS text, and more. It already has a list of 40 chatbots available for Messenger including major brands like Wall Street Journal, Dropbox, Giphy, and many other up-and-comers.
If you see a brand on Botlist that you want to chat with, tap it, then tap at the top on the link labeled “m.me”—that’s a short URL that anyone can use to quickly get to Facebook Messenger. I tried it with Operator, a shopping recommendation bot that I’d never heard of until today (it also works via an iPhone app of its own). After a quick “hi” from me, the Operator bot shot back a welcome and suggested I search by sending it emojis of what I want (I did not reply with the poop emoji). It showed me links for this week’s curated shopping picks, plus suggestions for Mother’s Day and other needs I didn’t even know I had.
Bots can reply with more than just text—there are entire carousels of images and links served up to you, the potential customer.
Don’t expect too much, though. We’re not exactly talking quick-learning bots like Microsoft’s (sometimes racist) Tay. I asked the CNN bot to stop sending me stories on Trump. It replied:
Want more ways to get the most out of chat? Read Cool Tricks and Secret Gems Inside Facebook Messenger.