Artificial intelligence takes on Social media


For about a decade into the 21st century, every time someone uttered the words “Artificial Intelligence”, half the listeners’ minds drifted to Stephen Spielberg’s 2001 sci-fi box office hit with the same name, and further on to titles from Terminator to Blade Runner to The Matrix depending on your age. But the idea is, it was all in the alternative world of “the movies”, and before we knew it, it was part of our everyday life.

Today, we have AI powered driverless cars that can anticipate crashes before they occur, smart fridges that display their contents on your phone while you’re grocery shopping, and automated homes that regulate temperature, lighting, pet security and more with minimal intervention from their owners.

In recent news, Libratus, The world’s best A.I. Poker Computer took away $1.5m worth of chips from four of the world’s best players of the game in Pittsburgh. And on a much darker note, visionaries from Elon Musk to Stephen Hawkings continued to warn us of the Artificial Intelligence arms race.

But in late 2015 and throughout 2016, we found AI enter our world of digital and social media in its latest most obvious forms; Chatbots.

Chatbots are exactly what they sound like; artificially intelligent robots that would have a conversation with you over the internet.

Historically (by that I mean from about 2010 till today), you could message most brands on Facebook and get a reply from a customer service representative to help you with your query. Today, hundreds of brands around the world, from Burberry to KLM Airlines, have replaced those social media reps with AI powered Chatbots. 

This has quickly extended beyond Facebook Messenger, into Twitter and other messaging platforms. By the end of 2016 there were nearly 40k active Chatbots on Facebook Messenger alone.

If you’re wondering where this will go next, you need only to look at Japan and China where this technology is about three years ahead of the Western world. Messaging platforms such as Line in Japan and WeChat in China have had tens of thousands of active brands and hundreds of millions of users interacting with Chatbots for different types of services from e-commerce to grocery shopping to taxi ordering, and most importantly money transfers. In 2016, more than half a billion people in China used messaging platforms to send money.

So what does this mean for you and how do you prepare for it? Here’s what we think:

  • Not every shiny new technology is fit for every business. Learn more (or ask us) before you decide.
  • Before moving to the one-to-one communications, ask yourself, are you doing the one-to-many right? Do you have a successful, well established social presence?
  • Chatbots are here and can be built via different easy platforms, but the challenge is not building them, it’s the on-going management and evolution of services provided by them to your customers. Think of the dilemma you once had when you first thought about having a Facebook page. It’s not seasonal or temporary, it’s always-on.
  • A Chatbot is the tool, not the strategy. Take a step back and think of your communications objective with your consumers on Social. Once the goals are set, you can determine what tools will get you there.

In a nutshell, like 2016 before it, 2017 is racing head-on toward more virtual, augmented, alternative and artificial ways of communication that compete for valuable eyeballs in a saturated attention economy. This is not a short-lived trend, but a full scale shift in both people’s behaviour and expectation of what they deem engaging and interaction-worthy.


 Mike Adly - Social Strategist @Culture - The Social Agency

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