How to create a Facebook Messenger bot as a non-coder
I like to call myself a fake geek. It’s true that I’m not a person who “engages in or discusses computer-related tasks obsessively or with great attention to technical detail”, but I have a lot of interests in anything innovative and technology related besides my lack of coding knowledge.
I first heard about bots by reading some articles on Medium. At first it seemed like a trend that wouldn’t last, but seeing the success of some bots developed on Slack and Telegram, I started thinking about how they could have some value at my personal level, especially for this blog.
I thought creating a bot could help me develop relationships with my readers without having to put too much time into it. I also thought a bot could replace my paper business cards. Business cards are so outdated that I haven’t printed any since my first marketing consulting gig back in 2011!
Then, my quest started: how to build a bot as a non-coder?
After reading some great articles on Medium (resources at the end of the article), I was still struggling to find an easy way to create a bot without the need for coding.
Then, I found ChatFuel.
Once you’re on the Chatfuel website, go to your dashboard to create your first chatbot by clicking the “+” icon.
Then, you will have three options:
- Tutorial bot: great to understand how Chatfuel works and the different scenarios you can create.
- Blank bot: That’s the one I picked. The platform is self-explanatory and I already knew how I wanted to use it.
- Skeens steakhouse: A more complex example, great for you if you’re planning on using your bot for delivery, schedule appointment, or even manage your on-demand dog walking service.
The first card you will create for your bot is the welcome card. It gives you the opportunity to create a default message for users first interaction with your bot. The great thing about Messenger bots is that you can create cards including a navigation so it’s easy for a user to go through the different sections, which makes “basic” bots more usable.
After setting up your welcome card, think about how the different sections of your bot should interact with the navigation card.
In my case, I chose to include the following categories in my navigation card:
Blog: This allows me to share updates and drive traffic to my top posts. As you can see on the screenshot below, Chatfuel allows you to add links to a card, could it be another card or an external URL. In this case, the “Top Posts” label links to another section of my bot. The “Read more” label redirects to the blog section of my website. I thought this was a great way to keep users in the bot as much as possible, but still provide them with a way to access more content.
Resume: On this card, I added a link to my resume so you can finally get rid of my paper business cards. The second link called “contact” redirects users to a freeform card on which you can ask me anything. your answer would then trigger a noreply email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Music: Even though I don’t make music as much as I used, I thought it made sense to share all the aspects of my creative life. That’s why I included a card with links to my SoundCloud so you can listen to my latest tracks, and a link to my BandCamp in case you want to support my art by purchasing my music.
With ChatFuel, the possibilities are endless! Watch this quick video to see more cards I haven’t used for RomuBot.
Building a bot as never been so easy for non-coders. No programming and big time investment needed.
Just launch a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) like I did. Collect feedback and see if it makes for you to spend more time on it.
Separating Messenger from Facebook itself was a great move by Mark Zuckerberg. It has allowed Messenger to become a platform used by 900 million monthly active users worldwide.
Messenger could potentially replace most service apps someone has on their phone (Uber, Lyft, etc.), and creating a Messenger bot will give all of those users access to your service.
Chatfuel recently reached a special agreement with Facebook so you can publish your bot to production without needing a review from Facebook. They didn’t have that when I launched mine, and I can tell you the submission process was a pain! No more waiting days, just build your bot and launch!
Here’s how you can use their new feature:
- Just select the bot you want to publish.
- Visit the Settings tab in your Chatfuel dashboard.
- Click or tap “Show Facebook Pages.”
Make sure bots you create are in compliance with Facebook Platform Guidelines and Policy, otherwise they will be banned.
The limit to Chatfuel is that the platform doesn’t utilize natural language or machine learning so the interactions and conversations are limited. The few people I’ve shared my bot with all mentioned that as being the biggest hurdle. My work-around has been to create what they call AI cards in which you include keywords that would trigger a specific answer. Every time someone asks a new questions my bot can’t answer, I create a new card to answer it, but this is only a short-term fix.
Interesting Bot Resources for non coders
- How I Turned My Resume Into a Chat Bot: My bot is highly inspired by EstherBot. I would like to add some more AI to it to make it more conversational, and move beyond a glorified resume.
- Introducing botwick. Want a bot? Got a bot? botwick and how to roll your own … (updated): My first attempt was inspire by this post. I copied this open source Google spreadsheet and set up a Twilio account with the Dexter app API. As a non coder, it sill required some knowledge, and even though the team was responsive on their live chat, I decided to “give up” once I realized that switching to a paid Twilio account was inevitable in order to manage the number of API requests per day (limited to 10 under a free account I believe).
Other popular platforms for your bot
Have you tried to build a bot? I’d love to hear how it’s going for you!