Why chatbots matter

Chatbots were one of the main themes at this year's SXSW festival. What are they and what can they mean for the music industry?

We live in strange and exciting times at the same time. On the one hand we live in the days of video. Everything has to move, Facebook wants us to upload video, Instagram likes dynamic images. But at the same time we live in the times of text. Chat is one of the most important present forms of communication. We use Facebook Messenger, we use Snapchat, we use Telegram.

When you have a story to tell, you want to be where your audience is. So when you're a band, a label or a club you connect on Twitter and you build a following on Facebook. But on both platforms it is getting harder and harder to reach your crowd. Due to changing algorithms and due to change of usage by the users.

Build a database

So what can you do? For example make sure you have a database of users and fans. Collect e-mail-adresses, because what ever people say, newsletters still work very well. And when you have something valuable to offer in your newsletters, don't worry, people will open them!

Another thing to do, is to play a role in the chat apps. Give people the option to add you to their contact list and ask questions. Join the conversation. But do you want to join a million conversations when you are really popular? Not really ...

Automated conversations

That's where chatbots come in. They are automated conversations. For example a fan could ask a club bot 'What time does the support act start tonight?'. And because the bot understands this question, it would look in the database of the hall and would come back with the anwer 'Support act X starts at 20.30 hrs. Doors open: 20.00 hrs.' Or a fan could ask 'Are their still tickets left for Y on saturday?', the bot would dive deep in the data and come back with 'Yeah, sales are going fast. Buy your ticket now online or - if there are still left - at the door for Z euro.' A chatbot can work really well when you have a dataset to work with.

You can use a chatbot to answer the questions people have, but you can use it as well to send data. For example, when you're an artist or label, it gives you the opportunity to inform fans direct on new releases or new concerts. And you can direct them to the shop where they can buy your stuff. The bonus of a chatbot is that chats with new messages end up on top of your chatlist. So it is a really good way to get attention from the people that are interested in you. Try that on Facebook without paying ...

Still early days

The title of this blog is 'Why chatbots matter'. They matter because they help you to get as direct as possible to your fans or customers. But we have to be honest as well. It is still early days. Because a chat is a conversation, we need computers that can talk like humans, that understand what we say or ask. Of course you can feed a computer with a lot of data, but we still see a lot of stupidity talking to machines as well. But that will get better in time!

We've been focussing on Facebook Messenger in this post. Not only because that is very popular, but as well because it has possibilities WhatsApp doesn't have. The way WhatsApp has been built, it doesn't allow third parties in the conversation. Telegram has more options, but compared to the others, not a lot of people use the service.

Interested in the subject?

[Picture Jochem Koole]