How to Build a Chatbot from Pitch to Promotion

In April 2016, something happened at Facebook that would quickly result in a revolutionary paradigm shift on the horizon of online communication — from mobile to desktop, marketing to services, personal to corporate — everything, really.
Messenger opened its doors to developers with an invitation to create chatbots — something of which roughly 78% of online adults were unaware.
Within six months, developers had created about 30,000 active Messenger bots. Today, less than a year later, that number is up 233%, with 100,000 active bots on the platform.
But it’s not just a popular, funky thing to do. Businesses using chatbots are seeing results, like Sephora, which reportedly earns “an average spend of over $50 from clients who have booked an in-store service via its Messenger assistant,” according to VentureBeat.
In case you’re wondering what the heck a chatbot actually is, though, here’s the condensed definition: A bot is nothing more than a computer program that automates certain tasks, typically by chatting with a user through a conversational interface.
There’s a vast range of chatbots. They can be rule-based, or powered by artificial intelligence (AI), both of which will drastically change the process of developing one. And if you’re looking to formulate your own chatbot strategy — from building the bot from scratch to promoting it and getting customers to use it — we’ve developed a basic framework for just that.
Read on, and let’s start building.
How to Build a Chatbot from Pitch to Promotion

1) Decide your bot’s purpose.
Ultimately, the purpose of a bot is to provide a service people actually want to use — time and time again. No bot is meant to do everything, so when you set out to create your own, think of an existing problem that it can fix in a more efficient way.
While there are many types of chatbots, if you’re building one for the first time, you’ll likely want to choose from the following two options:

  • Informational bots
    As the name suggests, these bots provide users with a new format of information consumption. For example, breaking news bots send developing stories as the information becomes available. TechCrunch has a bot of that nature
  • Utility bots
    These bots are automated to complete tasks and answer questions. In other words, they solve a user’s problem or inquiry via a chat transaction. Customer service bots might immediately come to mind here, but a growing number of utility bots are being built for purposes like booking appointments or shopping online. One of our personal favorites is TacoBot: Taco Bell’s still-in-development bot that allows people to order food via Slack.

2) Decide what messaging app your bot will live on.
Earlier, we provided examples of bots that live on Messenger and Slack, respectively. And while those are two very popular options, there are many more available — for example, Kik and Viber.
Your chatbot’s “home” will largely depend on who’s using what. You’ll want to aim for the apps with an audience that matches the one you’re trying to reach. Slack, for example, tends to be more business-focused, so productivity bots are particularly helpful there.
Sephora is a great example. While the brand has bots on both Messenger and Kik, each one functions differently. The Messenger version is used for customer service, feedback, and booking makeovers.

3) Create your bot’s personality.
Remember when we mentioned the importance of matching your bot’s home with the audience you’re trying to reach? Well, we have a similar guiding principle for your bot’s personality: It should match your brand.
One of our favorite examples here is Pegg, a financial assistant designed for startups and small businesses — but speaking as someone who recently returned from vacation, it’s helpful for anyone trying to track their spending. And while finance isn’t something that’s usually associated with a fun, playful voice, Pegg’s bot, HelloPegg, flips that connotation on its head with a cute logo and friendly voice.

The 5 Best Messaging Apps for Marketing in 2017

Remember only being able to send 1,000 texts each month?
My mom definitely remembers our phone bills when I doubled that amount every week in middle school.
Thankfully, companies created messaging apps to provide free and unlimited messaging, which was a refreshing solution for rigid text message limits and their lofty costs.
Click here to download a free, 5-part kit to help you grow your mobile audience.
But messaging apps refused to be just another form of text messaging. They kept innovating and evolved into apps for almost every digital interaction possible.
Now, within a single app, you can chat with your friends, communicate with brands, make calls, play games, consume content, buy products, and even call a cab.
These added functionalities make messaging apps sticky. They draw users to the app more often and keep them there for a longer time. Today, messaging apps have over 5 billion monthly active users worldwide.
Most messaging apps also let businesses market to their massive, engaged user bases. Marketers can now use chatbots to provide customer service, send content to users, sell products, and advertise.
Naturally, different countries and age groups prefer some apps to others. Read on to learn how you can tailor your messaging app marketing for five different global messaging apps.

5 Best Messaging Apps for Marketing in 2017

1) WhatsApp
Monthly active users:1.3 billion
Most Popular Regions: Latin America, Europe, The Middle East, Southeast Asia, India, Russia, and Africa
Age Group: 25-44

Marketing Features:
WhatsApp doesn’t sell ads, prohibits third-party bots, and limits its broadcast message feature and group chats to 256 people. How are marketers supposed to leverage the most popular messaging app in the world then?
Since WhatsApp isn’t conducive to large-scale content distribution, marketers must take advantage of its one-to-one messaging capabilities. And by interacting with WhatsApp users like a normal user would, marketers can execute hyper-targeted and personalized campaigns.
In 2014, Hellman’s Brazil created WhatsCook, a live recipe service that connected people to real chefs. This wasn’t a service that just recommended recipes, though. It created recipes with the ingredients users already had.
After signing up for the service on their website, users would send a picture of their refrigerator’s contents to WhatsCook. Then a chef would whip up a unique recipe using the person’s available ingredients and teach them how to cook it using pictures, videos, and other WhatsApp features.
Over 13,000 people people signed up for WhatsCook and each user spent an average of 65 minutes interacting with Hellman’s chefs. The service also received a 99.5% approval rating.
WhatsCook is a prime example of creative WhatsApp marketing. By attracting users with a helpful service, they engaged thousands of more people than they could by blasting content through a broadcast or group chat.
To start a service like WhatsCook, you just need users’ phone numbers or they can add your number to their contact list.
Fortunately, WhatsApp offers a click-to-chat link that you can embed in your website, email signature, or social profiles, allowing you to effectively promote your service.

2) Facebook Messenger
Monthly active users: 1.2 billion
Most Popular Regions: North America, Europe, Australia, The Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa
Age group: 16-44

Marketing Features:
Facebook messenger offers brands a stockpile of marketing features.
For instance, you can serve destination ads in people’s newsfeed to drive them to your messenger and spark a conversation, send sponsored messages to people who’ve messaged you in the past, integrate messenger bots like Chatfuel and ManyChat to interact with customers, and more.
At HubSpot, we use chatbots to automate Facebook conversations with people. Whenever someone messages our Facebook account, our chatbot will message back with a menu of options.
People can then search and subscribe to our content, check out our software, look at job openings, ask for customer support, and manage their Facebook messenger blog subscription.

Explore Vancouver Mountain

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]During the summer my wife and I got to go on an amazing road trip in Vancouver Mountain with our good friends Samuel and Hildegunn Taipale. Norway is just amazing landscapes after amazing landscapes. Definitely a place worth visiting if you ever get the chance! Thanks to Visit Norway for making our trip possible.
Now that the weather is warming, we can’t think of nothing better than the two-hour ride up to Hudson for the weekend. For a truly special stay, Haviland House checks all the boxes for a trip upstate: a comfortable stay in an elegant home with dreamy interiors.

“Thought to be the first structure on Fifth Street, the house was built in 1825 and later named for its original owner, Steamboat Captain John T.”

Today, the three-bedroom vacation home sleeps six and is filled with gorgeous antiques, original wide plank flooring, multiple wood-burning fireplaces, and a screened porch and backyard that is perfect for dining al fresco. One of the best draws to the house is its close proximity to all of the city’s wonderful restaurants and shops.[/vc_column_text][tm_spacer size=”lg:20″][tm_heading tag=”h4″ custom_google_font=”” text=”LOVE WHAT YOU DO. DO WHAT YOU LOVE” font_size=”lg:18″][tm_spacer size=”lg:20″][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][tm_heading tag=”p” custom_google_font=”” text=”Talbott & Arding and Hudson Wine Merchants are both within walking distance — the perfect spots to pick up local provisions and wine to take back to the house. And although the house comes with a fully-equipped kitchen, if you would prefer to dine out, we recommend Fish & Game, one of our favorite farm-to-table restaurants serving seasonal food in a former 19th century blacksmith shop.”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][tm_heading tag=”p” custom_google_font=”” text=”Haviland House is available to rent throughout the year from Red Cottage, a boutique rental agency with a curated collection of beautiful vacation homes upstate with properties ranging from cozy cottages and rustic cabins to airy farmhouses and palatial estates.”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Discovering Paris

Paris is one of the most beautiful cities on earth, a truth easily appreciated on a stroll that could yield one stunning vista after another, from the epic Eiffel Tower to the regal Jardin des Tuileries to the petite cafés bursting onto the sidewalks. Beyond the city’s visual appeal, the cultural riches of the French capital are unsurpassed. Whether you opt to explore the historic, fashion-conscious, bourgeois, or bohemian and arty sides of Paris, one thing is certain: the City of Light will always enthrall.

On spending more time outdoors

Being outdoors, walking, with my phone tucked inside my rucksack, made me realise just how much time I spend online. How I have slipped into iPhone-dependancy over the past few years; waiting at the checkout in the supermarket? Time to dip into Twitter. Once you start to realise how much time you spend online, you then start to think about all the things that you could be doing with that time instead, and then in turn how much you have missed.

Spending time alone, in nature, without any distraction, is a really good opportunity to reflect on ones priorities, to re-assess. It’s also a good chance to focus on the changes in environment around you.

Focusing on the changes in the environment around me closely has really helped me improve my photography. Being out in the forest in Winter far has been far removed from styling a photo full of pretty flowers and props, it challenges you to really look at your surroundings and look for the fine details. I’ve found myself becoming more and more in tune with subtle colour differences, the light and weather – and start to appreciate how different conditions offer different benefits and challenges.

The realisation of how much time I was spending online, did, in turn, make me realise how that I haven’t been the best role model for my children. ‘Too much screen time’ is something that like many parents, I try to keep at a healthy balance for my children. I’m really glad that I’ve had the chance to be offline, and realise just how many small moments in a day that I spend checking my iPhone – because these seemingly small moments are actually passing on a strong message to my kids. I’d like to be a better role model, so I’m making that happen.

Tomato Pie

Here’s one of the best loved recipes on the site—tomato pie! Perfect at the peak of summer tomato season.

One of the great things about going on vacation is I get to hang out with my friends, and sometimes meet their friends, who sometimes have OMG-this-is-so-GOOD dishes that they bring over. This tomato pie recipe is a result of one of these encounters.

The first time I heard of it (“tomato pie”, hmm, oooookaaaay) my brain suffered a little cognitive dissonance (never heard those two words, tomato and pie, joined at the hip like that before). Seconds after taking a bite however, I was begging for the recipe.

It’s a savory pie, not sweet, filled with fresh garden tomatoes, sprinkled with basil, and held together with a mixture of mayonnaise and shredded cheese. The egg in the mayo acts as a binder to help hold the filling in place.

Many thanks to Diane Connolly (aka Lady Di) who graciously wrote it out on some post-it notes for me at the dinner table. It is the first thing I cooked when I got back home. Think pizza meets cheesy bread and they make-out in a pie crust.

The recipe lends itself to estimates. Handfuls of this, handfuls of that. I measured, but you could eyeball it and it would still work out. Feel free to change the cheeses around, play with the spices. I made a homemade pie crust, but for this recipe a good quality prepared crust would work fine.

You could also bulk it up a bit more with a cup or so of fresh corn, or some small diced eggplant that has been lightly browned on the stovetop first.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

What is one sign of a good taqueria? The salsa, of course! Or I should use the plural and say “salsa-s”. Any decent Mexican dining establishment north of the border, whether a taco truck or full on restaurant will offer a variety of salsas to its patrons—tomatillo salsa verde, red chili salsa, and my favorite, a fresh tomato salsa otherwise knows as Pico de Gallo or Salsa Fresca.

It’s easy to make, you just need chopped up fresh tomatoes, chiles, onions, cilantro, some lime juice, and seasonings. Use it as a dip for tortilla chips or serve it with tostadas, tacos, or my favorite, alongside steak and pinto beans.

Because this particular salsa is made with fresh ingredients, it will last as long as you would expect cut fresh tomatoes to last. It’s best eaten right after you make it, chilled it should last about 5 days or so.

When using fresh chile peppers always taste first before adding! Some peppers are hotter than others and you really can’t tell unless you taste them. Just take a very small taste. You’ll be able to gauge the heat of the pepper and will be better able to judge how much you need.

Ingredients
2-3 medium sized fresh tomatoes (from 1 lb to 1 1/2 lb), stems removed
1/2 red onion
2 serrano chiles or 1 jalapeño chile (stems, ribs, seeds removed), less or more to taste
Juice of one lime
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of dried oregano (crumble in your fingers before adding), more to taste
Pinch of ground cumin, more to taste

Method
1 Start by roughly chopping the tomatoes, chiles, and onions. Be very careful while handling the chile peppers. If you can, avoid touching the cut peppers with your hands. (I often use disposable gloves or hold the peppers with a plastic sandwich bag.) Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling and avoid touching your eyes for several hours. Set aside some of the seeds from the peppers. If the salsa isn’t hot enough, you can add a few for more heat.
2 Place all of the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse only a few times, just enough to finely dice the ingredients, not enough to purée. If you don’t have a food processor, you can finely dice by hand.
3 Place in a serving bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the chilies make the salsa too hot, add some more chopped tomato. If not hot enough, carefully add a few of the seeds from the chilies, or add a little more ground cumin.
Let sit for an hour for the flavors to combine.
Serve with chips, tortillas, tacos, burritos, tostadas, quesadillas, pinto or black beans.

Baked Chicken

September always catches me unawares. It seems that one day we are wilting in the heat while neighborhood kids shoot hoops well past dusk (how can they see in the dark?). The next day a cool breeze comes in, the block is eerily quiet, the kids back at school.

Even though summer isn’t officially over till later in the month, for all practical purposes, it’s gone. Playtime has passed. We put on our worker bee wings and get ready for the fall.
This baked chicken dish is made for busy days. It takes all of 10 minutes of hands on time, and 45 minutes in the oven. Cherry tomatoes can still easily be found at the market, or in your garden in many parts of the country. A few cloves of garlic, a couple sprigs of rosemary, some balsamic, salt, and chicken thighs are all you’ll need.

The chicken and tomatoes will produce plenty of juice, which you can use for dipping crusty bread, or reduce further and serve as a sauce over the chicken.

My mother and father stopped by the other day for lunch and I served them this chicken. They both gave it two thumbs up for taste and my mom gave extra points for simplicity. Enjoy!

This dish produces a lot of flavorful liquid. You can use it for dipping crusty toasted bread. Or, you can remove the chicken, tomatoes, and garlic to a serving dish and pour the strained liquid into a small saucepan and boil until reduced to a thicker sauce. You can pour this sauce back over the chicken or pour it over rice or pasta.
The recipe calls for bone-in thighs. If you make it with boneless thighs you may need to reduce the cooking time by a few minutes.
The recipe calls for skin-on thighs. If you make it with skinless thighs, try to cover the thighs as much as you can with the tomatoes, to help prevent the meat from drying out. If you make it with skinless breasts, do the same, and reduce the cooking time to 25 minutes.

Ingredients
2 pounds (900 g) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups of cherry tomatoes (a heaping basket or 25 to 30 cherry tomatoes)
6 whole cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon dry rosemary)