The Ultimate Guide SMS Chatbots

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By Joren Wouters Updated on

This is the ultimate guide to SMS chatbots in 2020.

In this guide, I will cover:

  • What SMS chatbots are
  • Why you should use them
  • What chatbot software to use
  • And how to create a SMS chatbot yourself

So if you're looking to use SMS chatbots in your marketing, you'll love this new guide.

sms-chatbots

Chapter 1: Intro to SMS Chatbots

In this first chapter, I will provide an intro to SMS Chatbots. So:

Let's start.

intro-sms-chatbots

What is a SMS chatbot?

A SMS chatbot is an automated conversation partner via text messaging.

It facilitates a conversation between a person and a computer.

Usually, you will have a conversation with another person via text messaging. But with chatbots, you are not talking to a human, but to a computer.

Why use SMS Chatbots?

In my opinion, SMS is one of the most underestimated channels out there.

Over 5 billion people send and receive SMS messages globally.

sms-5-billion

That’s a lot. And you can reach all of them by using SMS.

But that’s not it.

SMS has a huge open rate of 98%.

sms-open-rate

And the best part: your competition is not using it.

About 61% of marketers still don’t use SMS. So if you start now, it’s very likely that you will be one of the first ones in your industry.

So, now I hear you thinking “Okay, SMS is an interesting channel. But why use chatbots?”

Good question.

Well, apart from the ten most important reasons why you should use chatbots, SMS has a huge advantage over other channels if it comes to chatbots.

Facebook has some strict policies if you want to use chatbots, and WhatsApp has even stricter rules.

But with SMS? There is no policy you must follow and there are no specific rules.

(Of course, the user must start the conversation or you must have consent to message them, otherwise, you can get intro trouble)

Want to broadcast a message to all your customers? No problem.

Is there a ’24-hour window’? No, there isn’t.

Must we be approved before we can use the channel? Absolutely not.

And this is a huge benefit.

So in short: You can reach anyone, at any time and your competition is not (yet) on this channel.

That’s why you need to use SMS chatbots.

NOTE: The SMS regulations can differ per country. But in general, you must have consent from the user or the user starts the conversation. For example, in the United States, there are certain rules written down in the TCPA.

How does a SMS chatbot 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?

Chapter 2: How to create a SMS chatbot with Twilio and SilFer Bots

Now, we know what a SMS chatbot is and why we should use it.

So it's time to create one ourselves.

I will show you how you can create a SMS chatbot in just a matter of minutes, by using Twilio and SilFer Bots.

Let's dive in.

create-sms-chatbot

Set up your Twilio account

Here is a video explaining all the steps you need to do to create your own SMS Chatbot:

Or you can follow the same steps that I will describe below.

To deliver the message to the user via text messaging, we are going to use Twilio.

Therefore, you need a Twilio account.

So, in case you didn’t have one yet… Create one!

Log in at Twilio, go to your dashboard and click on Get a Trial Number:

twilio-get-trial-number

Then, Twilio will automatically provide you with a free number you can use:

twilio-free-trial-number

When you click on Choose this number, you should get a screen that looks like this:

twilio-number-successful

So now we got are own phone number for our SMS chatbot!

That’s great, because it allows you to first test your chatbot on a test number, before it actually goes live on your normal number.

Before we move on to SilFer Bots, we need to one thing.

Go back to your Twilio dashboard and under “Project Info”, you will see your Account SID and your Auth Token. You need to copy these (we need them later on):

twilio-authorization

We’re all set now, let’s go to SilFer Bots.

Connect SilFer Bots to Twilio

While Twilio makes sure that the text message is actually delivered to the user, SilFer Bots handles the chatbot part.

So, in case you don’t have a SilFer Bots account yet… Create one!

If you have one, go to your SilFer Bots dashboard and click on Settings in the menu:

silferbots-settings

On the Settings page, click on the Integrations tab and scroll down until you see Twilio (between Integromat and Clicksend):

silferbots-twilio-integrate

Once you click on Connect, you should get a popup that looks like this:

silferbots-twilio-authentication

Here, you fill in your Account SID and Auth Token (the ones we copied before), and the phone number would appear automatically.

Now, select the right phone number and click on “Continue”.

You are all set! Let’s start with creating our actual chatbot flows.

Create chatbot flows for your SMS chatbot

Now, let’s create a really simple welcome message flow (just to show you how simple it is to make a SMS chatbot).

Head over to SilFer Bots and click on Flows in the menu:

silferbots-flows

Then, you should see your Welcome Message in the list of flows. Click on the dots (on the right side) and select on Edit:

silferbots-select-flow

Now, we are in the Visual Flow Builder of SilFer Bots, which should look something like this:

silferbots-standard-message

By default, a “Message” element is selected as the first step.

But, we don’t want that, because we first want to check whether the user is using SMS. So let’s add a Condition:

silferbots-add-condition

Then, set this condition as the starting step of our Welcome Message flow:

silferbots-set-start

Now, change the condition that we check if the user is currently on the SMS channel:

silferbots-channel-sms

Once, you made this condition, let’s connect this message to the first message:

silferbots-connect-elements

Instead of sending a general message to everyone, we can first ask the user name of the user. In SilFer Bots, we can do this by using the User Input element:

sms-ask-question

NOTE: Make sure that the Message Type is set to “SMS”. Otherwise, it will not send a text message!

Before we go further, click on the Click to edit button.

Here, we can select to which Custom Field the answer is saved:

silferbots-save-user-input

Then, in the second message, we can use that custom field to create a more personalized experience:

sms-welcome-second-message

We can connect the first second message with the second message, so the final flow looks like this:

silferbots-sms-final

And how does it look like on your mobile phone?

Like this:

sms-chatbot-example

NOTE: Those “Sent from your Twilio trial account” messages are only showing when you use the trial of Twilio 😉

Pretty awesome, right?

I know this is just a really simple example of a SMS chatbot flow and there are many more possibilities.

But this is just to show that it is extremely simple to create a SMS chatbot yourself in just a matter of minutes.

Chapter 3: Which chatbot software for SMS?

Now we've seen how we can create our own SMS chatbot, it's time to look at the different chatbot builders that support SMS.

So, which chatbot builders can you use to build your SMS chatbot?

And how much does a SMS chatbot cost?

sms-chatbot-software

How much does a SMS chatbot cost?

The pricing of your SMS chatbot depends on the chatbot software that you use.

Some chatbot builders use a native SMS solution (like ManyChat and MobileMonkey) and others make integrations with services like Twilio (such as SilFer Bots).

Because we already covered Twilio, we will first go over their pricing. And then compare it with ManyChat’s and MobileMonkey’s pricing for SMS.

Twilio pricing for SMS Chatbots

The benefit of Twilio is that they serve the whole world.

With Twilio, you pay for two things: a phone number and the number of messages you send and receive per month.

But these rates differ per country.

So, here are the prices of some countries on Twilio:

Country Phone number per month Price per message
United States $1 $0.0075
India $1 $0.0175
Canada $1 $0.0075
Australia $6 $0.0550
United Kingdom $1 $0.04

ManyChat SMS pricing

ManyChat is one of the most popular chatbot builders in the world. And they also offer SMS as a channel.

In total, they offer SMS to 9 countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Belgium, Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, Mexico and Brazil.

ManyChat charges $0.01 for a normal text message and $0.02 per multimedia message.

MobileMonkey SMS pricing

MobileMonkey only serves two countries as it comes to SMS: United States and Canada.

If you want to activate a phone number, it will cost you $9 one-time.

Moreover, they don’t offer seperate pricing for SMS, but it is part of their pricing plans. With every plan, you get a certain number of credits. Sending a SMS is 10 send credits each and sending MMS is 20 send credits.

This comes down to $0.11 per text message and $0.22 per MMS message.

SMS chatbot builders

Here is a list of chatbot builders that offer SMS as a channel:

[chatbot_reviews_sms]

Now It's Your Turn

So that’s how you can use SMS chatbots in your marketing.

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

Or did you already create one?

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

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