Episode 141 | Posted on

Marketing 1-to-1 on Facebook Messenger at Scale with Mikael Yang

If you think that email is the present and future of online marketing, think again. Facebook Messenger has over a billion active users, and their open rate is astonishing compared to other forms of communication. While this may not be a viable marketing method for those trying to handle every message themselves, using a bot can help you scale and automate your Messenger interactions.

Today’s guest is Mikael Yang, the co-founder and CEO of ManyChat. This is the leading Messenger marketing platform, with over 250,000 businesses in over 200 countries using its services. (I’m proud to add that I’m one of its happy users, as well.) Mikael will take a deep dive into marketing through Facebook Messenger. He’ll explain why it’s such a valuable marketing avenue and how best to take advantage of this opportunity to streamline communication with customers.

Transcript

Email marketing is great but Facebook Messenger has over 8 billion active users and the open rate is astounding. Often times, it’s 60%+. You can use bots like ManyChat, for example, to help you scale and automate these interactions that you have with folks through Messenger. It’s pretty incredible what you can accomplish with ManyChat. In fact, I’m one of its customers. Today, we have on this episode number 141, Mikael Yang. He’s the co-founder and CEO of ManyChat which is the leading Messenger marketing platform with over 250,000 businesses in over 100 countries using the platform. Mike, it’s great to have you on the show.

Hey, thanks for having me.

Let’s talk about Messenger as a marketing platform, first of all. Because I think folks tend to think of Facebook as a marketing platform, but not necessarily Messenger or even just like any of these messaging clients such as WhatsApp or anything. What is it about the Messenger platform that makes it so ideal for marketing?

That’s a great question. I think the thing that makes Messenger a great marketing channel is because there is over 1.3 billion people using it monthly and the audience is very engaged. For example, the difference between Messenger marketing and email marketing, we like to point out that we have over 70%, 80%, even 90% open rates on Messenger while on email you get usually 20%, 25%. In terms of CTRs, email is 1%, 2% CTRs and Messenger is like 10%, 20% CTRs. It’s a really engaging channel. It’s really hard for you as a consumer to not read that message. That is why we think it’s going to be the next big marketing channel. I can dive deep if you want to but I’m sure there’s many more interesting questions that you want to unpack.

Let’s just qualify a couple of things about what you’re saying. It’s hard not to read a message in Facebook Messenger–is that because it just kind of screams at you if you leave it as an unread message more so than an email or what is it about Messenger?

Yeah. Messengers came as a substitute for SMS–a lot of them came as a substitute for SMS. Not a lot of people from US know this but outside US, texts usually cost you money so there is rarely a concept of unlimited text. When messengers and mobile internet came along, messengers like WhatsApp were a great way to save money on texts. If you think about historical open rates of SMS messages, they’re actually over 95%. It’s very personal, it’s very private, and you’re trained to open messages on Messenger as a consumer and yes, it is really hard to not read any message there. We believe that that’s where that engagement comes from. Of course, as more businesses become involved in this channel and start to build relationships with their customers, those numbers are going to get less impressive. But we believe that there are fundamental architectural differences between how Messenger works and how, let’s say, email works that will keep the engagement rates really high. I can mention two of them. The first is that businesses cannot message you first. As a customer, you decide who is going to talk to you and business cannot start the conversation. That’s really important because it eliminates the concept of spam.Because if you have emails or if you have phone numbers, you can just buy less or get it from somebody else, or somehow get those emails and just start sending messages to those people even though those people have never interacted with your business or wanted to interact with your business. On a platform like Messenger, that is just impossible. It’s the way the system works. That eliminates a lot of unsolicited interactions that are not bringing value to consumers. The other thing is a true unsubscribe. When you delete a conversation on Messenger, let’s say because a business has sent you irrelevant messages that are not meaningful to you, you can just delete it from the conversation with that business. If you do that, then that business can no longer interact with you as a customer. It’s a really different experience from, let’s say email, where a business might have seven different email lists and you unsubscribed from one but you still are getting messages from the other ones, and then you eventually unsubscribe from all of them. Unsubscribing is a really tedious experience. You have to search for that little grey button at the end of the email, and then you have to go to a website, and then sometimes you have to type in your email again and confirm the unsubscription. Then after all that, the business can just re-upload your contact to another list or just switch the email service provider and again start connecting with you. I’ve had those experiences myself. I’m sure I’m not alone.

In fact there are even email spammers who, when you click the unsubscribe link, they’ll spam you even more because you actually read the message. It’s pretty crazy that companies can get away with this or individuals who are hiding out in some foreign country, and underneath many layers of technologies so you can’t trace back who they actually are, and file some sort of grievance against them for not abiding by the law. But it’s pretty crazy what email spammers can get away with even today with all the regulations and everything.

Even though that’s the case, email, as an industry is still growing. That’s the most interesting part. Even after all that negative decisions on how the system will work that resulted this kind of behavior as a channel, as a marketing channel and as an industry, it is still growing, that’s fascinates me.

What about WhatsApp? Because WhatsApp is owned by Facebook as is Messenger, of course. Why aren’t we seeing the same sort of marketing happening on WhatsApp that we’re seeing on Messenger?

It’s a decision that first has to be made by the team that is creating the experience for the consumers. The WhatsApp has to open APIs first. They are actually, to my knowledge, they’ve been experimenting with this and we expect them to do something this year or next year and to open up the APIs for businesses to connect with their customers at scale.

Got it. Things have probably changed when that happens. Until then, we’re going to see Messenger continue to be the dominant one-to-one platform for marketers versus WhatsApp or any of its kin.

Yeah and Instagram also. Instagram is, I’m not sure if you know this, but Instagram is one of the top 10 messengers in the world. Not as social platform but the messenger. As a marketer, I would look at Instagram and direct messages on Instagram as soon as they open up their APIs. As a platform, ManyChat of course will integrate with both of those platforms.

Instagram is one of the top 10 messengers in the world. Not as social platform but the messenger.

Gotcha. Until that API has opened up, your platform, ManyChat, doesn’t integrate with it.

Yes. There’s nothing to integrate with.

Yup. Makes sense. Now, SMS, text messaging, there’s been a lot of blowback about marketers using texting as a way to communicate with prospects or customers because it can be done very wrongly and very invasively. Why is Messenger such a better platform versus SMS and texting—beyond just the obvious one that in many countries, people are paying for text messages that are being received and not just sent—whereas in the US, we’re kind of spoiled by unlimited texting both ways. Other than that, what are some of the downsides of SMS messaging from businesses to individuals versus using Messenger?

That’s another great question. I think that the main difference between SMS and Messenger is, first of all, is the two things that I’ve mentioned earlier; the ability to decide who can message you and the ability to unsubscribe whenever you want. The customer has to stay in control because if the business messages me with irrelevant messages that I didn’t subscribe to, that business is wasting my time, my attention. That shouldn’t be happening. That’s not how a good system would work. I think that’s where a lot of the blowback came from because, you’ve mentioned yourself, SMS can be used really wrongly by certain businesses, and I think if you set up a system where there is nobody controlling it, it’s an open protocol, then there is certain obvious advantages of that, but there’s also a lot of disadvantages. I think Messenger will provide a great balance to make those conversations relevant and meaningful to both sides–to consumers and to businesses. The other thing is SMS are just texts, they’re not interactive, there’s no buttons. It’s even costlier to send a picture–don’t even think about sending a video. Transitioning from SMS to a mobile web experience is big conversion killer. Messenger is the opposite of all that, you have buttons, you have interactivity, you have pictures, GIFs, videos, you can send audio, you can open a webview right inside Messenger without even having the user to switch to a browser like Safari or Chrome. You can serve web pages and even games right inside the Messenger conversation which is great because it opens up so many possibilities to create great experience for your customers.

Yes.

Also, I didn’t mention one thing, there is commerce that is built in Messenger. Facebook has its own native Facebook payment system, it’s also integrated with PayPal, and you can connect it to Stripe. As a marketer, as a business, you can actually sell things through Messenger.Try doing that through SMS and that’s not going to be really easy to do.

That all makes sense. Now, if you want to scale and automate this sort of opportunity with Messenger marketing, what are some best practices and what are some mistakes to avoid?

I think the best practices would be to—without going into details—I would say the best practice is to just get started because the thing is there is a fundamental shift happening right now. There is over two billion people who are using messengers every month. I’m not talking about only Facebook Messenger, I’m talking about WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, all the messengers. If you think about them, they have become the most frequently downloaded and the most frequently opened apps on our phones. They are the number one apps on our phones right now and the number one channel of peer-to-peer communication. That has happened basically in the past few years. Having two billion people switch to messengers, I don’t see any reason why the whole world is not going to switch on messengers as a way of communicating with each other. Now, you have all these billion of people using messengers and how many businesses are using this channel of communication? Basically zero. We have hundreds of thousands of businesses connected through our platform but in the overall scheme of things, that’s basically a 0%. That shows you something. That shows you this enormous opportunity for marketers and businesses to be ahead of the curve, and to start growing their subscriber lists, and to start engaging with their customers where they are already talking to each other but they’re not talking to other businesses. Because like in a few years, everybody’s going to be doing it, it gets saturated and you’re going to be having a hard time trying to cut through the noise on every other known marketing channel.

But what would you say to the naysayer who says that, “Oh, yeah. I’ve heard this before. AIM, AOL Instant Messenger has closed down. Yahoo Messenger is closing down. It’s only a matter of time before these other messengers become passed and it’s the next thing.” Why should I invest in Messenger specifically?

Yeah. That’s a great question. The ones that you’ve mentioned actually, those messengers, none of them have been mobile. You’re talking about more of a desktop messenger extends. Yes, of course, we had instant messaging before WhatsApp and before Facebook Messenger. If you look at China and if you look at WeChat, for example, and the way that it’s getting used, or if you look at WhatsApp and its numbers, the usage numbers are not going down, they’re actually increasing. The thing that is happening actually is that the use of messengers, and the number of people who are using messengers, and the average time on messengers is only increasing. It’s not a matter of which messenger is going to win or not, it’s the fact that there has been whole countries who have switched to messengers as their main channel of communication but there has been zero countries who have gone to messengers and said, “Oh, this was great but let’s go back to email.” It’s a one-way street. It’s like electric cars, let’s say. It’s an inevitable future that we are going into. As a human, you have to communicate with your family, friends, colleagues, etc, and turns out that there is nothing simpler than just sending something like, “Hey, how are you?” That you don’t have to have a attachment, an intro, the main paragraph, and some signatures, etc, etc. That’s why email communication is too fat. There’s so many things when you just want to share something, share at the moment, sharing idea. That’s why messengers have won that game. They already have won that game actually in terms of how many messages they have sent and the frequency of use.

Wouldn’t you categorize Snapchat as a messenger as well? But just using images.

Yeah, of course.

Why is Snapchat, as a platform, struggling and Facebook Messenger is not having those kind of growth problems?

I think we have to distinguish two questions here; “Are messengers as a medium of communication, as a form of communication going to grow and going to continue exponentially eat more and more of our communication volume?” Then we can talk about, “Okay, inside that growing communication volume, which messengers are going to be winning and which are going to be losing?” I think in terms of the first question, messengers are definitely on an exponential growth curve. I don’t see any reason why they would not be. They’re simple, they’re engaging, they’re fun, they dominate every other channel of communication that we’ve used prior to them. In terms of actual players on the market, if you’re asking about Snapchat versus Facebook Messenger, I think that Facebook Messenger has a lot of network effect that are associated with it and being embedded in the biggest social network in the world certainly helps. I think that Snapchat’s core features were copied by WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger—not because they just wanted to copy them—I think that they did spend a lot of time figuring out why people use it the way they do. They just realize that those types of stories—pictures that disappear after a certain amount of time—is a really important way and a really important format of communication where you don’t want something to be forever seen as a part of your life. You want to share the moments even if it’s not ideal or perfect. They’ve added that functionality. I think that’s when a lot of people started using it outside. Because Facebook, as a platform, had a much broader reach, and Instagram, and WhatsApp had a much broader reach. I think that’s one of the contributions. I think Snapchat has made a lot of decisions in the past half a year in terms of redesign and other things that’s created a lot of backlash from other users. I think there’s multiple factors in this equation. But messengers as a whole, they’re just exploding right now.

Yeah. Got it. Let’s circle back to my question about the scaling and automating of messenger marketing and the best practices. I don’t think that you completed your thought on that so let’s go back to that.

Can you repeat the question?

Yeah. What would be some of the best practices for scaling and automating a messenger marketing?

Sure. I would say that the first best practice would be just don’t think of this as a huge really complex thing, just take a bite. It’s actually pretty simple. If you’ve done email marketing for example, you can think of Messenger marketing in very simplistic terms as a, “Hey, grow a list of subscribers and do broadcast.” But if you start to go further, you’ll start to see that there’s marketing automation, and there is a thing called bots, and you can actually do much more with Messenger than you could ever do with email. Because actually Messenger is a great way to get leads, to qualify leads, to nurture your leads, to convert them into paying customers, to support them, to re-engage them, to create peripheral programs–there are so many things you can do on Messenger. But instead of overwhelming yourself with all the things that can be done there, I would just start with something simple like connecting your Facebook page to a service like ManyChat. We have free plans so it doesn’t cost you anything. You can just connect your Facebook page, start to get like first 5, 10 subscribers from friends and family, do a broadcast, feel how this works and then see where you want to go from there.

Yup. ManyChat is a platform for automating some of the communication that you would have with prospects and with customers via Messenger. What are some of the big mistakes that you see with people implementing your platform in a way that it isn’t very effective or that irritates people instead of building rapport and moving people through the buyer journey?

I think that the number one mistake is just trying to go after a volume of subscribers. Trying to get as many people into your Messenger bot as you can without really thinking about the quality and without thinking about who’s actually going to buy. The other thing would be not thinking from a customer’s perspective, not giving the customers an option to unsubscribe right inside the bot without deleting the conversation. The difference between Messenger and email is that you have only one thread. There is one chat between your business and your customer. That’s a different mentality compared to email because on email you have different emails and different threads. You can have a customer service department messaging in one thread. You can have sales department messaging in other thread. You can have marketing in the third thread, etc. Those emails are going to come from your business but they’re going to just create different messages inside the inbox of the customer. On Messenger, you cannot do that. Basically you have one window. You have to think really hard about what you’re going to say, when you’re going to say it, and to whom you’re going to say it. I think that’s the main difference, you get much higher engagements rates but you have to spend more time thinking about how are you going to use this channel. Because people are going to read your messages, and people are going to click your messages but if you’re not strategic and thoughtful about what you’re saying and to whom, and if you’re not staying relevant, people are just going to either mute you or delete the conversation of you, or even worse, report you to Facebook and that can result in your page getting restricted. I don’t recommend trying to spamming your people that have agreed to receive messages from you with things that they didn’t subscribe to.

What would be some examples, some case study examples of best practice in scaling and automating messenger marketing, in particular using ManyChat? Do you have any customer examples you want to share?

Sure. First of all, just to give you a sense of scale what’s going on right now in the market, we now have over 300,000 pages connected to ManyChat. They have over 100 million subscribers together. We’re sending over 30 million messages everyday. But compared to the overall number of businesses, that sounds impressive for us as a platform that’s been around for a few years. But as an overall, we expected it to grow to millions of pages. From our customer’s perspective, there have been lots of success stories, people selling hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of–one of the things that started to take off on Messenger was training and info products. I think the reason for that was because people who are the most excited about new channels are actually people who are teaching people about new channels and about new marketing strategies. They were the first to actually find this and start to get real results. For example, DigitalMarketer—one of the biggest educators in marketing world—have used this in 2016 and got 500% ROI on their messages. You can look it up, they’ve published an article about this. We have other people who are just solopreneurs who have sold thousands of dollars of t-shirts in just 24 hours, and they’ve never done this with their online store before. We have events that have sold out in a week of doing Messenger marketing. Prior to that, they would spend like months trying to achieve the same results. People asks us, “What vertical Messenger marketing works for the best?” My answer to that is, “What vertical does email marketing work for the best?” The answer is basically, it’s not about verticals, it’s about having a direct one-on-one conversation with your customers and having the ability to scale that through automation. We’ve got a real interesting use case where people have started using it in a restaurant instead of a loyalty system. They’ve actually had their previous loyalty system, the conversion rate from a business journey, to the restaurant, to a person inside the loyalty program was like 2-3%. After they’ve implement the Messenger strategy, and they’ve put Messenger [inaudible [00:30:53] on the tables, they’ve actually increased that to almost 22% or maybe even 30%. I remember it was over 20%. It was like a 10X increase in terms of participation. It’s real results, real sales for real businesses.

People who are the most excited about new channels are actually people who are teaching people about new channels and about new marketing strategies. Click To Tweet

Yeah, that’s awesome. I remember in 2016 hearing from DigitalMarketer about their uses of ManyChat and also from Frank Kern. I was at a war room mastermind at DigitalMarketer event together in January of 2017. Frank shared a really fascinating case study of things that he was doing with ManyChat. That’s pretty impressive. Incidentally, I’ve had a couple of DigitalMarketer’s executives on this podcast. I’ve had Roland Frasier and I’ve had Molly Pittman–both excellent episodes, listeners. I’ll include links in the show notes to those episodes. Also, if we could share the article from DigitalMarketer that you referenced a little bit ago in the show notes, that’d be great too.

Sure.

Awesome. How did you end up creating this platform? You’re the co-founder and the CEO, how did you dream up this bot for Messenger?

We started in 2015. The first idea was actually to build our own bots for another platform that has opened up a year before Facebook–the Telegram Messenger. When we saw Telegram Messenger opening up their APIs, we thought, “Hey, let’s create a bot.” I’ve tried to create a bot and it was just too hard. We thought, “Hey, let’s create a platform to create bots easily,” and that’s how it all got started. A few months—I can tell like three hours of the whole story—but basically, we’ve got viral growth on Telegram. After we’ve got 30,000 bots on Telegram, we got into platforms and startups. We’ve gone through batch 16 and at some point we seed funded and started working on Facebook Messenger, scaled the team, and the rest is history. Now we’ve hundreds and thousands of people using it.

That’s great. Are you still focused on Telegram as a platform or are you pretty heavily or solely focused these days on Messenger?

We have a Telegram platform still but they’re not actively developing it. We actually are growing there but I think that soon will come back and integrate our Telegram platform into the ManyChat website. Because right now the Telegram platform—it’s so interesting—it’s actually a bot that creates bot, so there’s no web interface. It’s all done inside Messenger.

Oh, that’s funny.

Yeah. We are planning to integrate it into the main website.

Okay. For those listeners who are not familiar with Telegram—I know that that particular messenger platform is really popular with people in the cryptocurrency space—any other use cases that are particularly popular with telegram other than cryptocurrency?

I think Telegram is just generally popular techies and also in certain countries. It has over 200 million monthly users now. They’re growing really fast so, so yeah, it’s an exciting platform.

Alright, cool. Let’s go back to this idea of a bot. What makes a bot a bot? What’s the definition of a bot in relation to what you guys do. There are bots in the SEO space which is my specialty, I’m the co-author of The Art of SEO. A bot in that regard is a search engine spider or crawler that goes out and explores the web, grabs web pages and other forms of content, PDFs and all that, and puts it in a big database–in an index. But that’s a very different kind of a bot than what you guys have built or even platform for creating more bots. Let’s define this a little bit.

Sure. A bot can actually mean lots of things along a different industries or areas. The way that we define Messenger bots is actually an automated Facebook Messenger page. If we’re talking about bots on Facebook Messenger, I actually don’t think that they’re going to be cold bots on Whatsapp. I might be wrong but I think that they’re just going to be called accounts or business account. When Instagram opens up the Instagram direct APIs, I don’t think that they’re just going to call them Instagram bots, they’re just going to be company accounts. When we are talking about bots we are actually talking about the automation of business accounts on these Messengers. The business account on Messenger is just like what you would expect. It’s just your business on Messenger being able to send and receive messages from your customers and being able to interact with them. You can do that manually–just a person sitting in a Facebook page’s inbox and replying to all your customers or sending the messages. It can also be automated and that’s what we call a bot. It’s basically the automation of your business account on these Messengers.

Okay. Why would somebody want to create a bot for their Facebook page as a way to communicate versus just manually having a team of people–like customer service reps manning that 24/7?

I think the main reason for that would be to decrease the costs of the interactions and to also increase the precisions of the interactions. By precision I mean, for example, you can have let’s say a marketing automation that after somebody visits your restaurant, two hours later, send them a message asking them, “Hey, how did you like it?” And we’ve different buttons that they can reply with. Either let’s say, you are asking for a rating from one star to five stars, and you can do that through buttons inside Facebook Messenger. You could certainly do that through a person but imagine that person having to send each person manually that request for review, for a feedback to everyone who has visited the restaurant that has interacted with your bot. Basically, that is impossible. That’s why you build automation. That’s why you build the bots to have those automation that don’t require any human handling, and your customer service representatives can actually spend more time solving real, complex issues, and everything else can be handled by the bot. Another example could be, let’s say again, you have a loyalty program in your restaurant. There’s just no way you can do that manually. If you have table top assigned on each table that says, “Hey, talk to our bot to get a free coffee or free lunch.” Then people will start, naturally, to open their Messenger, “Hey, I wanna get a free coffee or free lunch.” The bot will reply something like, “Hey, nice to meet you. Let’s see what you’re got. There’s going to be a button that’s going to open the webview or just roll the dice and decide either they get free coffee or free lunch. They can show that message to the waiter, the waiter can verify that they’re first time in this restaurant, and that’s how this interaction will happen. You cannot just handle that manually. You’ll need automation to have that experience left for your customers. Some of the things that the bot does can be actually thought of at some of the things that a mobile app would do or a website would do. That’s where the automation comes from.

When you’re describing that there’s precision that the bot provides that a manual interaction would not. Like somebody is typing in a response saying, “I give it 4 stars,” and they spell out the word four instead of a number and they’re using a whole sentence instead of choosing one of the four or five buttons that you’ve provided, there’s a lot of manual work involved in trying to sort that out and put those responses into buckets. It could be a real mess.

Yeah, it can. We’re working on the AI part of it also so that we can actually make sure that everything gets captured correctly.

I definitely want to learn more about how you’re integrating AI into your platform. Before we do that, could you give a use case for referral programs? We talked about using a loyalty program through Messenger in a bot type platform, what about referrals programs?

Sure, sure. The referral program wouldn’t work. Facebook Messenger has an internal way to share message from the bot to your friends. You can message the messages that have been sent to you by a business account to your friends through the share dialog. The way you can fuse that is actually to send people a custom link, custom card that contains a custom code that is not invisible. When the person looks it, it’s just a card that says something like, “Hey, invite a friend for a chance to get a free beer,” for example. The person can send this card to their friends right through Messenger. When they click on that message, they go into the bot, the bot talks to them and says, “Hey, it’s great that your friend have invited you. This is where we’re located. Come here in the next 14 days for a chance o win a free beer.” that’s how you can get more people into physical location. Same thing can happen for an e-commerce where you can do just the same thing but direct people not to a physical location but to a website.

I’m imagining for e-commerce company that’s got a Messenger presence that they could send out abandoned card type of offers to their customers as well through Messenger.

Exactly.

Do you have any examples of an e-commerce company using your platform for that?

We’ve got lots of e-commerce companies using ManyChats. Typically, the way they do that is either through our native tools or through a Zapier integration. We’re integrated with Zapier. We’re integrated with 700 other apps including Shopify and others. We have Ezra Firestone actually is one of our investors. Ezra Firestone has actually said to us that his Messenger subscribers are 5-10 times more valuable to him as compared to his email subscribers.

Wow.

He’s now looking for a way to actually get more Messenger subscribers and to do more with Messenger. For some e-commerce stores, email is like 20-40% of their revenue generator. Through email marketing, they generate 20-40% in their overall revenue. Imagine what’s going to happen when they start using Messenger.

Yup, awesome. Let’s circle back to the concept of AI–artificial intelligence and how you’re integrating that into your platform, into ManyChat. Tell us more about that.

Sure. Right now, we believe that AI is going to change the way more marketing is done. It’s going to be done on both sides. It’s going to help you make better decisions. It’s going to be more of like a–imagine having a coach that just suggests to you what to do next and how to build more meaningful relationship with your customers so that everybody wins. Talk to more relevant users, provide the more relevant offers, and just be more successful. I think that’s one side of AI can help with. The other side that AI can help with is actually making decisions in your behalf when structuring that communication. Right now, I think we’re in this condition period where we are going from the structures that are very logical and straightforward like “and this, and that” type of logic. That one’s going to be around I think for the next I would say five years but then there’s going to be this trend of AI going to marketing where you’re then going to tell the bot and teach it how you want it to interact with your customers and what is the end result that you’re optimizing for and then the bot is going to figure it out. Of course every brand, every business is going to have their own voice and you will be able to train your bot to have that brand voice, and about your business, and what are the open hours, what are the details of your business, but then that bot is going to be training on customers, and trying to achieve that end result for your business. That’s the other thing that AI is going to be really, what we think, AI is going to be important for. We are actually, right now, in our first steps of going after that vision. That said, we believe that in the next five years, the number one thing is going to happen is you have to make the transition to Messenger. That is not going to happen through those types of AI right now at this point but we believe that as more people start to use conversational marketing then the role of AI is going to increase dramatically.

What is AI-related that’s coming up on your development roadmap? Any cool kind of computer vision type things or with decision trees? What sort of stuff is on your roadmap–AI related?

When we think about the product, we don’t really think about “the cool stuff”. The first things that we think about is, what makes sense for our customers? What would actually help them make progress towards their goals that they set for themselves as a business, or as a marketer, or as an individual consultant? I think the first things that we’re going to tackle through AI would be the customer support used case which is really important. Businesses are not very excited about customer support usually because it’s a call center. We believe that you can actually turn that into a profit center if you approach it correctly. That would be kind of the first things. Getting personality to the bot would be the second thing but other than that, I think the actual program and the actual challenge is just to make a real easy-to-use platform, beautiful platform that millions of business are going to use to get started on their Messenger journey. Then step-by-step implement AI full customer support personality and then how you would apply it to more of a marketing role.

Speaking of personality, can you give an example of really fun or memorable personality as far as a Messenger bot?

I think there great examples out there. We are not actually the best platform to do that. We focus on helping businesses get results and usually it’s not about creating a social experience, it’s more about creating a way for people to get the job done with its business. For example, to book something, or to pay for something, or to get information about something but I’m sure there’s been a lot of personality bots. One of the latest ones and bigger ones I think was done by Microsoft in China. That bot got over 10 million people sending messages, “I love you,” to that bot. I don’t remember her name but I’m sure that listeners would be able to look it up.

It’s not about creating a social experience, it’s more about creating a way for people to get the job done with its business.

I recall that one. It went a little psycho at the end.

At some point, yeah.

That Microsoft bot was named Tay. It took into account the communications it got from Twitter users that were tweeting to it and it started becoming kind of racist. That was pretty weird.

I think I’m talking about the other one that was on WeChat. Let me look it up. I don’t remember its name. It’s also Microsoft but it was a different version of it, it had a different name. WeChat user have sent it millions of messages. But the Twitter one, yeah, at some point it went a little bit crazy.

Was it XiaoIce?

Yeah, I think so.

Interesting. Let’s wrap up here. We’ve got a lot of opportunities to chase after as marketers, this being one of them but also Facebook advertising, and other social media platforms–Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. There’s SEO, there’s Google AdWords, there’s so many different opportunities. What would be the differentiator, the key thing that would push a marketer to explore using Facebook Messenger and particularly using ManyChat in setting up their own bot? Why this over all the other things they could be working on?

Sure. I think that the number one reason to choose Messenger marketing over all other channels would be the future. The future is, in our perspective, is very easy to predict in this actual domain. Over 2 billion people use Messengers every month–that’s a fact. The number of people using Messenger is growing exponentially–that’s also a fact. You don’t get a lot of chance for one-on-one conversations with your customers as a business and you should have those. Every channel where there is mass communication, one-to-many communication like a public Facebook page, or a Twitter account, or an Instagram account, or anything else, you’re always going to be back linked with other businesses for that attention. The beauty of having direct relationships with your people is because they’re yours. Messengers is the new channel to start building those relationships. Email was, I think, a really great channel for one-on-one connections with your customers but the consumer attention has drastically shifted towards Messengers. When we are talking about Messenger marketing, we don’t really see this as an option like either, “Am I going to be using it or not?” We believe that old businesses that want to have one-on-one conversations with their customers are going to be using Messenger marketing at some point, it’s just a matter of, “Are you going to be ahead of the curve,” or “Are you going to be going with the early majority, “ or “Are you going to be a lagger?” That’s the way that we see this transition happening. That’s why I would say that investing and understanding Messengers right now would probably be the most efficient use of somebody’s time. It’s really simple to start with but there’s so much depth, like you can do commerce, you can do marketing automation, you can do all these things that we’ve talked about throughout this interview, and to get to understand that as a marketer, it just takes time.

Alright, makes sense. If folks wanted to try out the ManyChat platform, where do they go?

They can just go to manychat.com. They can start with free plan, it’s just to start getting those experience of building bots, building automation, sending broadcasts. We also have a course, a 10-plus hour course on how to do Messenger marketing. It’s free, it’s available to everyone. If you just go to manychat.com, there’s going to be a free course button. If you want to dive deep into ManyChat, the Messenger marketing, that would be the place to start. I assure you if you go through those 10 hours, you’re going to be the Messenger marketing expert in your community, in your area, and you’re going to be very much ahead of the curve.

That’s awesome. Thank you, Mike. Thank you listeners. Now it’s time to take some action. If you go to marketingspeak.com, you’ll get the show notes for this episode with all the links and also the transcript of this episode, and a checklist of action items that you can take from this episode. That’s all at marketingspeak.com and of course, go to manychat.com to sign-up for the platform, and take their 10-hour free course. This is Stephan Spencer, your host. We’ll catch you on the next episode of Marketing Speak. In the meantime, have a fantastic week.

Important Links:

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

☑ Prioritize customer engagement. Find ways to connect with my clientele to keep them taken care of.

☑ Utilize ManyChat and take advantage of the growing number of Messenger subscribers.

☑ Provide my subscribers with the utmost convenience. Make it easy for them to reach out, conduct purchases, and send feedback.

☑ Wait for my customers to express interest in my business before connecting with them on messaging portals.

☑ Be systematic in my communication and eliminate interactions with poor leads. Use effective CTAs and curate auto-replies for better engagement.

☑ Make it easy for my contacts to unsubscribe. Even if I don’t want them to unsubscribe, it’s better to honor their request.

☑ Find out which other messaging apps work for my subscribers. See if they’re comfortable using Viber, Messenger, WeChat or Instagram.

☑ Integrate eCommerce into messaging apps with the help of tools like ManyChat and other bots.

☑ Automate my process to eliminate the need for constant monitoring. Determine my customers’ common needs and create auto-replies to handle their requests.  

☑ Try ManyChat to reach out to my followers via Messenger in an engaging and interactive way.

About Mikael Yang

Mikael is the co-founder and CEO of ManyChat – the leading Messenger Marketing platform in the world. Over 250,000 businesses in 100+ countries use ManyChat to grow by building meaningful relationships with their customers.

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