automation, chatbots, data journalism, Interactivity, journalism, social media

5 easy tools to create Facebook Messenger chatbots

The number of chatbots has rapidly increased on social media platforms such as Kik, Telegram and Facebook. Even though some of them are just a news feed or linear conversations such as ordering a pizza, humans look for plain language when communicating with computers.

Shawar and Atwell define a chatbot system as a “software program that interacts with users using natural language. And their purpose is to simulate a human conversation.”

Developers started to use keywords and images to simulate these conversations. But from those who don’t have coding skills, here are 5 easy and friendly tools to build chatbots:

 

1. Api.ai

This tool creates an Agent (bot) composed by intents, that match user requests to actions, and entities, which group words and synonyms into natural phrases:

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You can create as many intents as answers you want your chatbot to have. They are formed by a context of the topic, what user says, the action that the bot has to take and a speech response.

Intents and entities might seem complicated in the beginning, but the website has a testing section and it also allows the user to see if it works on Facebook in private before sending the chatbot to Facebook developers for approval.

What I like:

  • Keywords. They make conversations more flexible setting up answers for generic topics with similar words
  • Default answers when the user runs away from the conversation
  • Entities gather synonyms under the same umbrella and avoid multiple intents with similar meanings

What I don’t like:

  • Links don’t include previews
  • Cannot upload images

2. Botsify

It presents an easy dashboard with two main blocks: design and develop. The first one creates the welcome text, buttons, and templates for the messages. The second column transforms these messages into interactions.

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What I like:

  • Easy to upload images
  • Links and previews work
  • Easy templates for the messages

What I don’t like:

  • Conversations are less flexible and more linear
  • Templates only allow a limited number of characters

3. Manychat

This platform requires logging in with the Facebook account to choose a page that we manage.

It has an easy dashboard to create default text, keywords, schedule posts or set up source channels such as Twitter or RSS links to auto post messages.

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Bots on this platform can be build in two or fifty minutes, depending on the complexity and the information that you want to display.

What I like:

  • Autoposting channels
  • Easy to set up keywords 
  • Possibility to schedule posts

What I don’t like:

  • Linear conversation
  • Difficult to connect replies and topics

4. Botsociety

A user-friendly platform that presents the information on a mobile to see how it will look like.

Messages are not complicated to run and they can contain images and buttons. The free plan includes a link to preview the conversation while the premium one includes a video and a GIF that summarises the bot features.

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What I like:

  • Easy to upload one or more images
  • Buttons and links
  • Share the link with other users to see how the bot works

What I don’t like:

  • Cannot set up keywords
  • Linear conversation

5. Wit.ai

This is the only platform that allows users to log in with the Github account and seems to be focused on people who have some coding skills.

Bot replies include functions, variables, and commands that give the conversation more interactivity.

Moreover, this conversation can be stored as an API and the data can be shared or downloaded.

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What seems more complex in the beginning makes a better result when the chatbot follows the conversation with the user.

What I like:

  • More ‘natural’ and flexible conversations
  • API feature to store and download the data
  • Entities and keywords
  • Recipes to solve problems and manage the app
  • Easy to fork apps from other users

What I don’t like:

  • Variables and functions seem confusing in the beginning
  • Cannot upload images 

 

Nieman published last year Automation in the Newsroom, a report on how algorithms are helping journalists to cover news and reach audiences. It concludes that the main challenge is how to solve technical rather than content errors:

Like any human reporter, robot journalists need editors. But the challenge of editing automatically generated stories isn’t in correcting individual stories; it’s in retraining the robot to avoid making the same mistake.

Do you have more examples? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @mcrosasb

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2 thoughts on “5 easy tools to create Facebook Messenger chatbots

  1. Pingback: How to build a Facebook Messenger chatbot with API.ai | dinfografia

  2. Pingback: Chatbot Watch: August 2016 Roundup – Chris Drinkut

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