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Creating a Facebook Messenger Chatbot for your Museum

This week I came across something on a marketing blog that I think could be really useful to museums, Facebook Messenger Chatbots.

My first thought was that this was going to lead to a huge amount of spam flooding through Facebook Messanger, but digging into the subject further I discovered that shouldn’t be the case and these bots could be very useful to museums.

Why a Chatbot for Facebook Messenger?
Facebook has more than 2 billion monthly active users as of June 2017, that is a huge audience and any museum will find most of their visitors on the social network. If your museum has a Facebook page, you can now install Messenger chatbots on your page allowing the public to have automated conversations with your museums through Facebook Messenger.

Once someone has clicked to message you, they are guided through automated options, to answer their questions. This is perfect for ‘frequently asked questions’ like opening times and what’s on.

These are the main drivers for people to visit museum websites. What if instead of going to the website, I can instead send a message to the museum on Facebook and get an instant response telling me what exhibitions are on. This would be message that had been pre-set by the museum and it would be available 24 hours a day.

Getting started with a Chatbot
Facebook first announced that they were opening up their messenger Platform in April 2016, but it’s relatively recently that services have appeared to make it possible to create Chatbots at little expense without programming knowledge.

The service that was recommended to me was ChatFuel. This comes with tutorial templates which allow you to add in a little information and launch your Chatbot on your Facebook page within ten minutes (that was certainly my experience).

Chatfuel allows you to set up FAQ, but also to add in some AI (Artificial Intelligence) to teach your Bot phrases, for example ‘What’s on today?’ or different versions of this question.

It’s also possible for you to add payment functionality into your Chatbot, so in theory people could buy tickets for an exhibition inside Facebook messenger. Chatfuel does this through Stripe integration, so I’m not sure how that would work with your standard museum box office, but this kind of Chatbot integration could be something that we start to see in ticketing systems.

Anne Frank Museum Chatbot
One of the first museums to use a Chatbot is the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Visitors can receive personalized and instant answers to questions 24 hours a day. The bot is designed to inspire people to not only absorb visitor-related information, but also to discover educational information about the life of Anne Frank.

Ronald Leopold, managing director Anne Frank Foundation: “We want to share the life story of Anne Frank with as many people as possible. People from all over the world can now receive instant answers to their questions about Anne Frank, her family, Anne’s diary, and the era they lived in. With this bot, Facebook Netherlands offers us an innovative possibility to reach a big audience, especially youngsters.”

This shows the kind of imaginative ways in which a museum might use a Chatbot. knowing the talent and imagination of those working in museums, I suspect that we’ll see an explosion of brilliant museum Chatbots over the coming year.

The technology is easy to implement and can make information about a museum more accessible to Facebook users and even lower the burden on staff in the real world.

Museum Chatbots will be one of the subjects covered at MuseumNext Tech in 2017 and I’m sure they’ll be a hot topic in digital and marketing teams in museums around the world. It will be interesting to see how they develop.

Are you considering adding a Museum Chatbot to your Facebook page?

About the author – Jim Richardson

Jim Richardson is the founder of MuseumNext. Having run a creative agency focused on the cultural sector for sixteen years, he now splits his time between running MuseumNext and consulting with cultural and tech organisations around the world.

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