What is SMS Chatbot and How To Create It in 2024?

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By Joren Wouters Updated on

In this tutorial, I will show you how you can create a SMS chatbot in 2024.

And I will guide you step-by-step, so I will cover:

  • What SMS bots are and how they work
  • What chat automation tools you should use
  • And how you can create your own SMS chatbot, without writing any code

I will even give you the template for FREE, so you can just copy and paste it.

Let's dive in!

sms-chatbots

What is a SMS Bot?

An SMS chatbot or text bot is a computer program that can automatically reply to text messages.

SMS bots work 24/7 and can have multiple conversations with several people at once. They often send notifications, automatically answer questions and promote marketing campaigns.

How do SMS bots work?

A SMS chatbot works really simple.

Just like you send a text message to a friend, you can send a text message to a chatbot (I will even show this later on in this guide).

When you are sending a text message to the chatbot, the chatbot will try to answer that message, just like any normal person would do.

So let’s say:

  1. A user starts a conversation with a SMS chatbot of an automotive company. The user asks “What Ford occasions do you have?”
  2. The chatbot understands this message and recognizes the words “Ford” and “occassions”
  3. Based on those recognized words, the chatbot will look in the car database for “Ford occasions”
  4. Finally, the chatbot will send a message back with all the Ford occasions in the car database.

Pretty simple, right?

How To Create a SMS Chatbot in 2024

Creating a SMS bot in 2024 is super simple, here’s how you can do it in 5 steps:

Step 1: Choose your chatbot platform

The first step to creating your SMS chatbot is deciding on the chatbot platform you are going to use.

In general, I recommend going with no-code platforms, because these platforms allow you to create chatbots without using any code.

This is great if you want to get started quickly and don’t want to be reliant on developers.

For this tutorial, I will be using two platforms: Manychat and Twilio.

Manychat will be the “brain” of our SMS chatbot, taking care of the chat flows we are going to create.

I use Manychat because it is:

  • Easy to use, you can get started even if you have zero experience with chatbots
  • No-code platform, you can create chatbots without writing any code
  • Cheap, they offer a free plan and their paid plan already starts at $15 a month

Twilio is used for sending and receiving text messages.

So, the first thing you need to is create a free Manychat account:

Create free ManyChat account

Then, click on Get Started Free:

manychat-get-started-free

And Continue with Facebook to sign up for your free Manychat account:

Continue with your Facebook account to log in to Manychat

Step 2: Connect your Twilio number to Manychat

The next step is to get a number from Twilio and connect it to Manychat.

Twilio is a software company that allows you to send and receive text messages all over the world.

And they are really good at this while keeping very low prices.

You can just click the button below to create your free Twilio account:

Create Free Twilio Account

Here, you can click on Start for free in the top-right corner:

Create a free account on the Twilio website by clicking on "Start for free"

And fill in the details for your new account:

Fill in your log in credentials when creating your free Twilio account.

When you sign up for Twilio, you get a trial account with a $15 balance to test it. If you’re satisfied, you can upgrade to a paid account later.

Once you are signed up to Twilio, the next step is to get a phone number.

Click on Get a trial phone number to get your free number:

Screen showing your trial phone number in Twilio

Once you get your number, you need to scroll down and copy the Account SID, Auth token and Twilio phone number:

Screen showing the phone number information in Twilio.

Then in Manychat, go to Settings, select SMS and click on Connect:

Connect a number to the SMS channel in Manychat Settings.

Click on Connect again:

Click on connect to connect your Twilio phone number to Manychat for SMS

And paste the Twilio information to Manychat and click on Connect:

Paste the phone number information from Twilio and connect it to Manychat

Now, your Twilio is connected to Manychat and you should see the following screen:

Screen you see when you have connected your Twilio phone number to Manychat

Step 3: Add your number as a verified phone number

If you have a trial account number, only specific phone numbers can text it. These are known as verified phone numbers.

To text your Twilio number, you must add your phone number to the list of verified numbers.

To add your number, click on the verified phone numbers link under “Account Info”:

Click on the link "verified phone numbers" to add verified phone numbers to your Twilio account.

Click on Add a new Caller ID:

Click on the button "Add a new Caller ID" to add a verified phone number to Twilio.

And fill in your own phone number:

Fill in your phone number to add it as a verified phone number to Twilio

Now, Twilio will send a verification code to your phone number. You can just fill in the verification code in Twilio and your phone number is verified!

Step 4: Create the Chat Automation in Manychat

Once you have connected your Twilio number to Manychat, you can get started with creating the chat automation flow.

Let’s say we are a productivity coach and we are giving a free 5-day challenge.

So they can sign up for the 5-day challenge in our SMS chatbot.

And once they are signed up, we are going to send them one message per day over 5 days, with tips on how they can improve their productivity.

First, we are going to create a registration flow so people can register for the challenge.

In Manychat, select Automation and click on New Automation:

Add a New Automation in Manychat

And as a starting step, we are going to add a trigger.

A trigger is an event that activates this flow. And in this case, we want to activate the flow when someone messages us a phrase with the word “challenge” in it.

To create a new trigger, click on New Trigger:

Add a new trigger to a Manychat flow

Now click on SMS and choose Contact sends a message with a keyword:

SMS keyword trigger in Manychat

Then we can set it to the message contains “challenge” and click on Create:

A Manychat keyword where the message contains "challenge'

Now, every time someone messages us a phrase with the word “challenge” in it, we automatically reply with this automation.

Next, we need to add a message to our automation. So you can just click on SMS.

And before we let them participate in our challenge, we first want to know their first name and email.

So in the first message, you can remove the first text block and add the User Input element:

Add the user input to the SMS block in Manychat

By using the User Input, we can ask a question and store the answer in a Manychat field.

And then we can also use the Manychat field in our automations.

To get their first name, we can ask:

Hey there! Thank you for requesting our 5-Day Challenge. To let you participate, we need some information from you. What is your first name?

And you must set the Reply Type to First Name:

Ask for someone's first name inside your SMS automation in Manychat

Then, we can connect this message block to the next one. And it’s important to understand that if someone doesn’t reply to this question, they will never get the next message.

In the next message, we will ask for the email of the person.

So we will add the User Input element and set the Reply Type to Email:

Ask for someone's email inside your SMS automation in Manychat

Now, Manychat will automatically validate the email. So if it’s not a valid email, it will send a Retry message.

To change the retry message, scroll down below. Also, remove the Skip keyword so people cannot skip this question:

Retry message of a user input element for the SMS channel in Manychat

Lastly, we will connect this block to the next block with a confirmation message:

Now you are successfully registered for the challenge!

In about 30 seconds, you will get your first productivity tip.

Registration confirmation message in your SMS automation in Manychat

 

Step 5: Set It Live and Test It

Once you have created your chat automation in Manychat, you can set it live by clicking on Set Live (top-right corner):

Set your automation live in Manychat

And then you can preview your automation by clicking on Preview and selecting In Messengers:

Preview your Manychat flow in Messengers

If you click on Preview again, it opens up a pop-up where you can fill in your phone number:

Input your phone number so you can test your Manychat flow

And Manychat automatically sends the chat automation flow to your phone number!

Now, you can test it and check whether it is working correctly.

Create a SMS Sequence with Manychat

The next step is to send a productivity tip through your chatbot for 5 days.

And we are going to do this by using a Sequence.

A Sequence is a series of messages with a time interval in between.

So we can send them a message and then wait 1 day and then send them another message after 1 day, and so on, and so on.

And this is a perfect way of structuring your challenge because then you can send them one specific message every day.

In Manychat, go to Automation, select Sequences and click on New Sequence:

Create a new sequence in Manychat

And give your sequence a name, for example “SMS Sequence > 5 Day Productivity Challenge”:

Name your sequence in Manychat and click on Create.

Now, we need to add our first message to the sequence and we will send this message immediately.

To add this message, click on + Message:

Add the first message to your sequence in Manychat

Then, click on After 1 Day and set it to Immediately and Save & Update Schedule:

Update the schedule of your Manychat Sequence.

Next, we can determine the message by clicking on Create New Reply:

Create a new reply in your Manychat sequence

This will open up a new Manychat flow and we will add the first productivity tip to it.

So here is our first productivity tip:

{{first_name}}, you need to set goals on a daily basis.
Here is a link with more information: https://chatimize.com

First SMS message in your Manychat Sequence

With SMS, we have a 160-character limit per message so Manychat automatically shortens the link for us.

Once you added your message, just click on Set Live.

Then, if you go back to your sequence you need to repeat this process five times (one message per day) so you eventually have a sequence that looks like this:

Example of a full sequence in Manychat on the SMS channel

Important: Don’t forget to enable every message in your sequence, otherwise it will not work!

Lastly, we just need to add an action to our Registration automation so that if someone registers for the challenge, they are added to this Sequence.

So go back to the Registration Automation, and add an action as a last step:

Add an action to your SMS registration automation in Manychat

Then, select Automation and choose for Subscribe to Sequence:

Subscribe to Sequence action in Manychat

And enter the sequence you just created:

Fill in the name of your sequence in Manychat

And that’s it! Now if someone signs up for your challenge, they automatically get the messages in your sequence.

Free SMS Chatbot Template

So that’s how you can create your own SMS chatbot.

If you want to get started quickly, you can just click on the button below to get my free template (no email required):

Get SMS Chatbot Template

Now It’s Your Turn

Now I want to turn it over to you: Are you going to create an SMS chatbot?

Or did you already create one?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment below right now.

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