10 minutes

How to choose the best channel for your bot: the ultimate cheat sheet

When creating a bot, the question of channels has to come up. All channels do not offer the same services. What bot are you creating? An in-game reward bot for addicted gamers, a moderation bot to supervise your streaming channel, or an sales bot to guide your clients through your products? Well, depending on your target, some channels are a better fit than others. Here’s an analysis of a few to help you figure everything out.

Everyday-use channels

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Messenger

Description

Messenger is one of the most famous channels in the world with more than one billion users.

Audience

Messenger targets all, from multinationals and startups to students, you’ll reach a lot of people on Messenger.

Why it’s cool

In a lot of ways, the revolution of chat messaging comes through an efficient user interface.

– Messenger integrates a lot of attachments:

– buttons guiding users seamlessly through the conversation

– quick replies, pre-written for the user to improve the flow

– persistent menu, allowing the user to anchor up to 5 buttons that are easy to access at any point during the conversation

– cards and lists, to display any kind of information, images or buttons. Some cards are already pre-programmed and available for travel or retail bots. Messenger is a precursor in this domain.

– They have recently added analytics, allowing you to monitor your bot usage and performance!

– Messenger currently supports payments inside conversations, however that feature is in beta and only available in the US

– While all of this might be overwhelming, Messenger’s documentation is very well constructed and will help you get a quick hang of it.

Limitations

– Bots can just speak to one customer at a time. You can’t add a bot in a group conversation, or add people in the bot’s conversation. Facebook puts an emphasis on one to one interactions with clients.

– Messages are limited to 320 characters. You can therefore manage by writing small paragraphs.

– Cards remain limited for the time being. They are not highly customizable and you have to stick with a given template.

Getting started

– Quick start on Messenger 

– Recast.AI starter kit 

Newest Messenger features 

Slack

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Description

Slack is a real-time messaging app for modern teams

Audience

Slack targets teams in rather young companies

Why it’s cool

– Slack operates by channels, making it very prone to bots: put your bot in a channel, and everybody in the channel will have access to the bot

– They support cards with buttons, pictures and alerts

– Their SDKs are really well done, so enjoy them

– Slack has a really good documentation, especially because the platform was created in a bot-friendly spirit. Everything is done to make bot creation easy.

Limitations

– Slack does not support quick replies

– If the platform supports buttons, they can be tricky to configure

Getting started

– Slack for developers 

Sitepoint tutorial on creating a bot on Slack 

Recast.AI’s Slack starter kit 

Kik

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Description

Kik is an instant messaging application for mobile devices

Audience

Kik is majorly used by american teenagers.

Why it’s cool

– The platform is really easy to use and is a great place to build a first bot

– Kik supports quick replies

– Displaying content can be done with Wubbles (web bubbles), a clever way to display webpages entirely inside the conversation.  

– Bots on Kik can be integrated in group conversations by pinging the bot.

– Kik also has a major bot store called Bot Shop, where you can browse all bots available on the app https://bots.kik.com/#/

– the documentation and API are really great, so it’s really easy to make a simple bot

Limitations

– If you’re targeting a European audience, Kik might not be the best fit, as their audience is mainly american

– Cards or carousels are not supported, but Wubbles are a great alternative.

Getting started

Kik’s documentation 

Medium tutorial on how to build a pizza bot on Kik 

Recast.AI’s Kik starter kit 

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So, let’s take a step back and think:

Clearly, Messenger is more targeted to general audiences. Whether you’re a developer making an entertainment or productivity bot, or a company reaching out to your customers, Messenger is a great channel.

Slack is a great platform to add work related and productivity bots. Meeting room booking, agenda management or food ordering bot all find their place in Slack.

Kik is the place to be if you’re developing bots on TV shows, cinemas, social interactions or going out. With a huge teenager and students audience, you’ll have a good chance of getting lots of traffic. Also, creating a bot is extremely easy on Kik, so it’s a great place to start.

We’re aware that there are many more channels used everyday, but we couldn’t cover them all. Here is a non-exhaustive list:

– Telegram is a widely used mobile messaging app (fun fact, the onboarding tutorial is a bot, so that’s cool)

– Line is a conversation group app, and is largely used in Japan

– WeChat is the messaging reference in China

– Twilio is a SMS based chat application

– WhatsApp is one of the most widely used app and would be a great fit but sadly, they don’t support bots.

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Gaming channels

Discord

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Description

Discord is the new place to be for gamers. It’s a platform similar to Slack designed for gamers. It has text and voice chat available, with a really good user experience.

Audience

Gamers

Why it’s cool

– There are a lot of bots on this platform, because chats are organized in channels based on similar interests (usually per game). Therefore, bots relevant to specific games are great for all participants.

– In addition to text chatbots, Discord gives you the opportunity to create audio bots, opening a new dimension. They’re as simple as textual bots to make, so it’s a great way to learn something new!

– The API is really easy to use and is very complete.

– There are development channels available specifically for developers to discuss the API and various bot projects. The community is really open to chatbots and willing to try them out.

– Discord also has a non-official bot store, like Kik, called Carbonitex

– Overall, the Discord team is very active and releases new features at an impressive pace. There’s a lot of opportunities there!

Limitations

– You can only add a bot on a channel if you are the moderator

– They don’t support cards or quick replies yet 😉

Getting started

Discord’s documentation 

Tutorial on how to create a bot on Discord

IRC and Twitch

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Description

IRC is a textual communication protocol on the internet, used mainly on Twitch, the biggest streaming platform in the world.

Target

All gaming streamers

Why it’s cool

– IRC is a good place for command bots. They’re often used for moderation, promotion or in-game rewards on streaming channels.

– IRC’s SDKs are really well made. They’re great to get started with your first IRC bots and are quite similar to Slack’s.

Limitations

– Be careful when creating natural language bots, because bots are sometimes frowned upon by the community and have to be extremely specific and controllable to be widely used. That’s why most bots are still command based.

Getting started

Twitch for developers 

Node IRC Client library

How to roll out your first IRC bot  and another tutorial on the same topic, just to be sure!

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So, let’s regroup:

– Discord is your way to go to explore with bots on your favorite games and reach to a wide community of gamers.

– Twitch is not as open to chatbots as Discord, but they can find their place as extremely efficient moderators of in-game notification assistants.

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Business channels

Intercom, Zendesk, Help Scout, Front

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Description

Intercom, Zendesk, Help Scout and Front are channels allowing you to easily reach out to your customers

Audience

Businesses, from startups to large corporations

Why it’s cool

These channels are quite similar to one another.

– You can add any kind of bot, but people mostly like to implement FAQ chatbots to lighten their workload or improve and fasten the user experience

– Being customer support softwares, it is possible to redirect the bot conversation to a human in case of trouble.

– All these channels have all great APIs with a clear documentation, so it’s easy to make your own bot.

Limitations

– Most do not support quick replies or cards, but offer a good experience of textual messaging

– Switching from a conversation with a bot to a human is awesome, but requires coding expertise. Luckily, their documentations are well written. 

Getting started

Intercom for developers 

API documentation of Help Scout

Zendesk for developers

Frontapp for developers 

Skype

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Description

Skype is the most famous video chat application

Audience

Both professionals and individuals

Why it’s cool

– Bots on Skype are usually quite simple, either command activated or capable of understanding natural language

– Skype teams are working on developing a Skype bot platform allowing developers to create textual and video bots, with the support of Cortana. Keep an eye on that!

Limitations

– Skype doesn’t yet manage cards or quick replies

– The documentation and tutorials on Skype and bots integrations are not at their top yet

Getting started

Skype’s bot framework documentation 

Microsoft for developers

Cisco Spark

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Description

Cisco Spark is a corporate messaging application used by teams around the world

Audience

Corporations, with an emphasis on well established businesses

Why it’s cool

– Cisco Spark being similar to Discord and Slack, it works with channels. That means integrating a bot in a channel allows all participants to talk to it!

– They easily support both command bots or NLP bots

– The documentation is well constructed

Limitations

– Their bots are 100% textual, meaning they don’t yet support cards or quick replies

Getting started

Cisco Spark for developers 

Recast.AI’s Cisco Spark starter kit

Tutorial on how to build your first bot with Cisco Spark

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Let’s get a clear view.

– Client support softwares are usually open to chatbot integrations. If you’re looking to lighten the workload of your team by having a chatbot answer FAQ, or would like to optimize your business development, these channels are what you’re looking for.  

– Skype is currently a great place to add productivity and business logistics chatbots, and will be the place to be for video and voice activated bots. Stay tuned.

– Cisco Spark is your guy if you want to enhance the processes of your teamwork by implementing efficient chatbots for everyday tasks.

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All channels are different. That’s why it’s important to know what bot you want to create, what problems you’re looking to solve and who to address before choosing your channel and starting your development.

While Messenger is the most famous, it might not be the best fit for your specific case! And while Discord is a great platform, if you’re not targeting gamers, your bot won’t have the impact you hoped for.

Plus, channels are not equal in terms of features. Always think of your user experience before making your decision. Cards? Quick replies? CRM integrations? The more prepared you are the better, because once you’ve adapted your code for one channel, it won’t necessarily work for another one!

If that’s an issue you’re trying to tackle, don’t worry, our teams are working on the ultimate Bot Connector, your one API to connect bots to any channels. We’ll keep you updated!

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Bruno Gantelmi – Recast.AI

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