By Evan Varsamis, founder/CEO at Gadget Flow

With social media being one of the major platforms for audience engagement, it's becoming more and more challenging for brands and businesses to figure out ways to improve their interaction response times. In my experience with social media, the more we engage with our audiences on time, the higher our chances are of being named a more interactive brand. Facebook even has a small alert to tell you that you can earn a badge if you respond faster.

Be it our users or customers, the number of responses we get on social media has grown significantly over the years. This level of interaction can be a great form of customer or user retention if you channel it the right way. My company chose to do it with chatbots. By integrating these artificial intelligence-infused sequence-structured responsive systems on Messenger, we can interact with our users in a more engaging way without sounding too spammy or pushy.

The process of setting up a chatbot is challenging, as it requires a lot of brainstorming in order to figure out the correct response for every sequence we design. You need to determine the goal of the interaction, whether it's acquiring new users or engaging with those who comment often on your page, in order to be effective. Chatbot integration will also save you a lot of time in terms of keeping up with the amount of engagement on your page. They respond faster and offer an instant response to queries.

However, the utility of your chatbots depends on the purpose for which you would like to use them. There are clear benefits to using chatbots in three areas of mainstream business -- for e-commerce, sales and SAAS, and pre-crowdfunding.

Chatbots in E-Commerce

One of the challenging issues most small- to medium-size e-commerce stores face is maintaining a minimum response turnaround time for customer queries. With emails, comments and messages, it can be difficult to keep up and you would need a dedicated customer support team to deliver fast turnaround. Chatbots simplify this process and are a more cost-effective solution to handling queries on time. In fact, you can use them to convert more customers with a proper Q&A structure.

For example, if a user comes with a query regarding any specific order, set up a sequence on your chatbot software to show them the tracking status instantly. From there, the chatbot can take the conversation further with new product suggestions or discount offers. You can also set up a specific chatbot sequence for giveaways. In this case, the idea would be to grab users on Messenger and use the chatbot algorithm to send periodic messages regarding your shop or products. The giveaway page can link to Messenger directly so anyone who enters gets subscribed to the chatbot sequence instantly.

More and more people are using social media rather than phone and email to contact brands As a brand, you'll have higher click-through rates and open rates with chatbots to help your business grow.

Chatbots in Sales and SaaS

When it comes to sales and SaaS, the sequence setup is a bit different. In this scenario, your concern is primarily about retaining your leads and converting them into customers through a bot conversation. To set up this type of conversation, create a range of conversation sequences with a step-by-step flowchart of the questions and corresponding responses. When someone messages your brand, you can start the sequence and expand the conversation from there.

This makes lead retention easier and less time consuming for small teams. Additionally, by linking your chatbot with platforms like Intercom or any other live-chat integration, you can create a proper sales funnel and keep track of your conversations with ease.

Chatbots in Crowdfunding

Those about to launch a crowdfunding project can leverage chatbots. Primarily during pre-launch, use chatbots to engage with initial subscribers and collect their email addresses for further conversation. To do so, redirect all users commenting on your Facebook fan page to a corresponding chatbot message via Messenger. Ask them to directly subscribe to your newsletter so you can provide them details about your campaign including your launch date, secret perks and special offers.

Artificial intelligence is taking over every field of tech today. While it's unclear how consistent chatbot usage will be in the coming years, they are the future of communication. Whether or not they will be effective for brands is still the question, but they are worth a try.

Evan Varsamis is an entrepreneur and founder/CEO at Gadget Flow, as well as an investor and marketing advisor at Qrator Ltd.

Published on: Nov 28, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.