I recently read an interesting article sharing insight on Facebook’s future chatbot plans. This chatbot and live chat which Facebook is working on has huge implications for the future, and savvy business-people with foresight will already be planning ahead for this development and how they can use it.
Basically, it allows small businesses who usually wouldn’t be able to develop their own automatic chat bots which answer customer queries to use some developed by others on Facebook’s own messenger platform which can now be used to communicate with Facebook pages. If successful, this would allow a huge change in terms of the interactions customers have with different businesses, where phone calls are still incredibly common for simple interactions – a costly use of staff time in many instances. While email had the potential to change this, it has never really taken off for these interactions because of the ridiculously long waiting time of 1-2 working days for most businesses to answer basic questions that we often demand instant replies for. For example, even though I’d personally way rather digital text communication for simple questions to businesses rather than calling a business where I may potentially wait on the line, and then exchange in pleasantries before getting my answer; I still continue to call only because I know I can get an instant reply rather than waiting 1-2 working days.
Facebook pages has already been changing this by reporting the speed at which Facebook pages reply to messages they receive – something which scares every Facebook page owner, including myself, into answering more quickly, that it’s quite usual for popular Facebook pages to answer within an hour. That’s obviously already an impressive improvement over email, but it’s still not satisfying enough for many people, or at least myself, to use instead of phone calls. Chatbots with instant replies could be a game-changer though in that I’d definitely prefer them over a phone call for basic questions.
So, how can one use new insights like these to maximise their impact and value they can provide to the world? Many people might think that investing in Facebook would be a great way to capitalise on this. While that may or may not be true, this is far too indirect – Facebook is already doing a huge amount of other things (After all, they also own and run Whatsapp, Instagram, Oculus, and a lot more companies that the general public doesn’t even realise) which also affects their stock price, and that the media attention of both the company and its founder/CEO Mark Zuckerburg receives means that this has little effect on the overall share-price.
However, there’s still a tonne of ways to use this insight effectively. One thing to do would be for example approaching small businesses offering to set up these basic instant chatbots for their Facebook pages once the developers have launched the relevant APIs for the Facebook Messenger platform. Most businesses are slow to react which means there’d be plenty of time to do this, and one could charge a reasonable fee for this service as long as you explained to the business how this would add value and reduce their costs. Another option would be investing in the developer companies building the Messenger Platforms themselves who are more directly involved with this new platform (just like how successful investing in Zynga and other gaming companies when Facebook games were introduced would have been). Yet another option would be investing in sales companies who spend a large amount of resources for staff on phones who would benefit the most in the long term with these chatbots – the contractor companies who handly Vodafone or Spark’s call-centres for example comes to mind. As you can see with this style of thinking, the opportunities are limitless once you find them, and takes building your ideas muscle to get good at this entrepreneurial thinking.
Finally though, this post wouldn’t be complete without talking more about the legend Mark Zuckerburg himself, one of the most influential people in the world and justifiably so. While many people have a fixed mindset perspective that Facebook is just “too big to fail”, the reality is Facebook still exists and thrives so much today thanks in large part because of Mark Zuckerburg’s leadership and vision of the company. After all, the social space remains fiercely competitive, with Google having attempted Google+, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat and a raft of other companies all of which compete for social interaction. Facebook could have just as easily left the scenes as MySpace and Bebo did if it weren’t for Zuckerburg, and while network effects are definitely in Facebook’s favour, they by no means guarantee Facebook’s success. Zuckerburg’s strategy of continuing to improve Facebook, its various products such as Pages, Groups and Messenger independently, as well as its acquisitions of key companies in the sector at a relatively early stage (e.g. Instagram and Whatsapp. Snapchat on the other hand refused its acquisition offer) to retain its dominance in the sector.
Off course this together gives me confidence that Facebook will continue to grow far more under it’s great leadership, and Mark Zuckerburg remains an incredible role model for creating value for the world and gaining influence which can later be used for positive impact. Keep it up Mr Zuckerburg, and may you continue to inspire youth on maximising their positive impact in the world.
UPDATE: Facebook later announced the full details of its Chatbots and it definitely has the potential to be a game changer