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

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By Joren Wouters Updated on

In this SMS chatbot tutorial, I will show you how you can create an SMS chatbot or text message bot in 2024.

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

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

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

Let’s dive in!

What is an SMS Chatbot?

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

SMS bots or text message 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.

There are lots of different SMS chatbot builder tools you can use. But, before I get into that, let’s look at how these messaging bots work.

How do SMS messaging 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 or text bot, it 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 an SMS Chatbot in 2024

Creating a SMS or text message 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.

How to Add AI to your SMS Chatbot

Up until now, we automatically replied with a chat automation when somebody messaged us with a specific keyword.

But we can actually take it one step further, we can add AI to our SMS bot.

By adding AI, we can train the chatbot on our own data and the chatbot or text bot can automatically answer questions about it.

This is great, because:

  • The chatbot automatically trains itself on your website or internal documents
  • It can answer any questions automatically, without needing to create new chat automations
  • And the AI learns from the conversations it has. So the more it talks with your customers, the better.

Unfortunately, Manychat has no built-in AI feature, so that’s why we are going to use Chatbase.

Chatbase is an AI tool that train itself on your data, such as your website and documents. And it already starts at $19/month, which is extremely cheap.

So just click on the button below to create your Chatbase account:

Create Chatbase account

In Chatbase, I created a chatbot that is trained on this document:

Example of a knowledge base document for a productivity coach.

This document contains information about the productivity coach.

So I trained Chatbase on this specific document. And inside Chatbase, I can ask questions about that document:

Chatbase chatbot that can automatically answer questions

So what we need to do now, is that every time someone asks a question in our SMS chatbot, we need to send the question to Chatbase.

Then, Chatbase gives the answer to the question and we send the answer back to Manychat.

And to do this, we are going to use Make.

Make is an integration platform you can use to connect two applications without any code. And we will use it to connect Manychat to Chatbase.

If you haven’t used Make before, just click on the button below to get 30 Days Make Pro for Free (only if you click on the button!):

Get 30 Days Make Pro for Free

This might sound like a lot, but I actually have a step-by-step tutorial on how you can set up the integration between Manychat and Chatbase via Make:

So let’s create this in Manychat.

In my template, you will find a automation called Default Reply SMS (you can download the template below!). That looks like this: 

SMS Default Reply in Manychat with AI

There are a few important thing with this automation. First, the automation starts when someone asks a question with a vowel in it. This makes sure it basically triggers on every message:

Trigger an automation for message contains a vowel.

Next, we save the Last Text Input to a user field in Manychat (called “Chatbase – Question”).

And then, we send the question to Chatbase via Make.

In Make, our integration looks like this:

Manychat and Chatbase integration via Make

And it works in four simple steps:

  1. First, the scenario starts when we send the question from Manychat
  2. Then, we send that question to Chatbase
  3. When Chatbase gives the answer, we store the answer in a custom field in Manychat (called “Chatbase – Answer”)
  4. And then we send a Manychat flow

And the flow we will send to the user is the “Chatbase – Answer” flow in my template:

SMS Default Reply in Manychat with AI

This flow gives the answer from Chatbase and then asks if it answered the question from the user.

And if it didn’t answer the question, it will send the conversation to a human agent.

Now, you only have to click on Set Live and your AI SMS chatbot is working!

Free AI SMS Chatbot Template

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

If you want to get started quickly, just fill in the form below and get FREE access to my SMS chatbot template:

sms-chatbot-template

Now It’s Your Turn

Now I want to turn it over to you: Are you going to create SMS messaging bots?

Or did you already create one?

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

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some of the best SMS bot builder softwares?

There are lots of SMS bot builder softwares out there. However, what I’ve found is that Manychat, Flow XO, and Freshchat are some of the best options for creating an SMS bot online.

Can I create a free SMS bot? 

Yes, creating a free SMS bot is entirely possible. You can use different SMS chatbot builder softwares that come with a free plan to create a free SMS bot. My recommendation is that you stick with Manychat since it’s really simple and easy to use.

How can I get a SMS bot number? 

To get a number for your SMS bot, you’ll need to create an account with a software company like Twilio that allows you to send and receive SMS messages.

Can my customers text an ai bot?

Yes, your customers can text an ai bot. Once you’ve created an automation for the messaging bots, they will automatically reply to the text they receive from your customers.

What is a text bot? 

A text bot is a program that sends automatic messages or replies to users who start a conversations with the bot. 

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