Community Managers are the swiss army knives of digital customer communications:
- Answer this question here
- Connect a customer with that resource over there
- Develop a strategic relationship with an influencer
- Write an article for the company website
- Post a funny, clever, relevant meme on Facebook
Some of these tasks are simply procedural; they involve little more than processing what someone said and then connecting them with the information they need. Even R2D2 could handle that just fine.
Some tasks, on the other hand, are relational. In other words, they’re what puts the social in social media and, for most community managers, this is where the real magic happens online for both the audience and the manager...
...which makes humdrum procedural tasks all the more insufferable. They take precious time from the much more important relational work we could be doing otherwise.
Sigh. If only we could get someone or something to take the boring procedural stuff off our hands.
Enter the Chatbot
For those of us old enough to remember chatting with SmarterChild on AIM, the chatbot isn’t a new idea. The technology, however, has come a long way in the last decade. Just compare that aforementioned digital purveyor of lame jokes and horoscopes with Alexa or Siri. It’s like comparing neanderthals to modern humans.
What Chatbots Can Do Today
Here’s how it works. Chatbots begin by processing vocal inputs through an algorithm that’s programmed to recognize key words and phrases. Each of those vocal elements triggers a complex retrieval process which collects relevant data and spits it back to the user in audio and/or visual form.
Though not quite as sophisticated as Alexa or Siri, businesses are increasingly developing chatbots of their own in a variety of brand-specific applications. They’re also becoming a common feature in customer service automation. Pretty nifty, huh?
What Chatbots Can’t Do … YET
In their present state, chatbots are driven by pre-programmed linguistics. The problem is, AI has a language problem. Bots can recognize words and expressions only if they’re programmed to do so. So if you speak in unfamiliar terms, the bot simply won’t know what you’re talking about.
More fundamentally, chatbots can’t make human judgments. While they may be able to tell when someone uses specifically angry words to ask a question, like: "I'm mad at you because my XYZ isn't working", they can't tell when customers subtly convey anger, such as: "I was led to believe that my software would do XYZ.”
Nor can they develop human connections. A community of bots is a disembodied community; you may go there to get information, but you won’t go there to experience any level of human connection. Unless you’re into that kind of thing. I don’t know a manager out there who would be satisfied with that type of community.
Why This Matters for Community Managers
Artificial intelligence still has a long way to go, but it’s already making a huge impact on community management nonetheless.
Here are two of the most important ways it helps community managers improve their daily work-lives:
Big Benefit #1 : Offloading Procedural Tasks – Even a rudimentary chatbot can cover your most menial tasks. Rather than spending your precious time looking up FAQ’s for customers or sharing links to items they very well should have been able to find on their own, a simple community chatbot will give them what they’re looking for based on simple keyword information. This will free you up for more important relational work. Sound nice?
Big Benefit #2 : Open Up Space for Genuine Human to Human Communication – The value of AI is not so much that it will lower your overall workload, but in that it will allow you to focus your workflow. Let your bot take care of the procedural stuff while you concentrate directly on connecting your brand with people and your customers with one another. It’ll also give you time to create and find better content for your community. You know, the interesting things that got you into this field in the first place.
If artificial intelligence is the future of community management, then chatbots are on the leading edge. If you’re a community manager, it’s time to start preparing now, before everyone else gets on board and you find yourself struggling to catch up.
Have you experimented with AI in your community? I’d love to hear how that's working for you.