Digital Journeys 2017: Chris Bailes, Twitter

Blog | 08 Aug, 2017

Brilliant Bots & Twitter

Chris Bailes, head of agency sales at Twitter, shares how the likes of the Economist and Patron are using bots in innovative ways for the ultimate one-on-one conversations with their customers.



My name is Chris Bailes, as you just heard -- @bailesc on Twitter if you want to tweet me. Shameless plug. I need all the followers I can get, to be honest. One of the lowest in the office. I don't know why. But, yeah. I wanted to talk to you today about brilliant bots. A fairly light session but, hopefully, something you'll find very interesting and quite a bit of ground to cover here as well. Not through the deck. I'm just looking left to right here, so I'll try and make sure I'm contacting everyone here.

But first things first, I never normally do this at the start of a presentation but why do we not just get our phones out and try some? This is always a really good litmus test as well for who's on Twitter. So if you are on Twitter and you want to follow some bots, good for you to start trying. Let's start having to look at these four and explain why. So @furni is actually our development bot, so it's run at San Francisco. It's run by Twitter. That's where we put all our new content. So you can go in it, give it a try. It will tell you a joke if you want…or, at least it did last time I looked at it. Sometimes, a little bit buggy so apologies. But if you do want to start playing with bots, if this is your first time hearing about the bots or learning about them on Twitter, then it's a really, really good place to start.

@VWMiddleEast as well, it's not a bad place to be looking as well. I'll explain a little bit more about that in a second, as I will with @Patron as well. One of my favourites. If you're a tequila drinker, you will love this one. It's a really, really smart bot. And, also, the Economists as well. So kind of covering all elements there as well. But, I guess, why would a brand, why would brands want to start using bots on Twitter?

For us, it's a way of being very, very personal but personal at scale, okay. So Twitter, 320 million users globally, 23 million in the UK according to the latest place comScore figures. So massive scale, growing scale as well. Great momentum across the last five quarters as well, growing out daily active users, people spending more time in the platform. And bots are a really, really good way to kind of reach that audience but reach them in a personal level.

So we all know Twitter is a great place to hone your interest as well, to find out what's going on. We say it's the pulse of the planet. It's the first place people go to find out news, entertainment, film news, food news…whatever your passion may be, whatever your interest may be. But more than that, it's almost like a native behaviour if you like, for our audience to be engaging with brands. Eighty-two percent of our audience have engaged with the brand in the last year, that's our global audience. So it's very, very natural for them to do it. And I guess the killer stat here is, 65% of the audience have actually engaged in a one-to-one conversation with the brand.

And some of that, obviously, would've been with bots as well. And that's growing. So what we've seen in the last couple of years is a 91% growth in, actually, the mentions of customer service handles as well. So clients and users are seeing that it's been a really, really valuable platform. So valuable they see it as being much more easier to use or less frustrating than the phone. And you can…everyone in this room can probably appreciate that. How many times have you had to go and find a quiet room in the office to shout, "yes," down the phone? Or, "Number three?" I don't know what I was dialling at the time but, yeah, number three was the option and it is pretty embarrassing. So this chart just kind of says it all for us, at the moment. Twitter is the place that people like to come and engage with brands and get the results that they actually want as well.

And I guess something that Twitter's done over the last few years and something that Facebook did a few years ago as well, we're just trying to make it really, really easy. Really, really easy for brands. Really, really easy for users. And our DM bot experience does exactly that. And we're growing it, we're changing it all the time. So a couple of good examples of those that we've done over the last couple of years. Anyone lucky enough to go to CAS will know that its absolutely incredible. It's vast. Very, very tough to get around. Tough to see the right things that you want to go and see. Again, we built a bot for that. To look at the top hashtags, you can go and look…find the best exhibitors based on your interest, find a speaker that you want to.

And this bot would basically detail all of that for you. So we look to the most asked questions at CAS/the most searchable content and actually build that into the bot.

Next up The Economist. This is a really, really smart one. If you're a fan of The Economist and you're not following them on Twitter, please do so and hit the message button at the top now. Have a go at it, now. It's really, really smart. You can look at the latest charts in there, the latest culture news, whatever your desire is, you can go and actually look at the news and it will be sent to you in a DM in a bespoke form on a daily basis as well. So a really, really smart bot that was built there.

And, lastly, probably one of my favourites, Patron Tequila. So these guys, here, have got…rather than bot-tenders they got bartenders -- Steven and David. Nice original names there as well for your bartenders. But they do a bloody good job, these boys. You can basically pop in wherever you want your party to be. So they'll ask you, is it a pool party? It's very American. Apologies. Yeah, I don't have many pool parties over here. At least, not the ones that I attend, anyway. What sort of cooking are you doing? Smokey? Spicy? What sort of barbecue are you having? And it will match the cocktails for you, for your party. Brilliant, right? Very American but brilliant.

And, again, it then leads you onto their website as well. So it will take you on to the Patron website where you can actually go and purchase the product. Also, get the recipes as well. And then it allows you to go and share the content as well. So this is just an example of some of the bots and how that actually work on the platform. But you're probably thinking, "Oh, okay. That's great, Chris. I can probably do this in multiple places. What actually makes Twitter unique?" And it's three things that make this very, very unique in market.

Firstly, we think we can deliver the fastest experiences based on our data. Okay, so we use real-time data signals. So when you think about running, for example, we know that there's 200,000 mentions of running just in the UK, every single day. We can go and target those runners, those people who are absolutely interested in that with a DM experience and push them into a bot. Exactly what we're trying to do with Adidas, at the moment, as well. So it works very, very easily. Very, very simple to be the fastest responders. That's what we pride ourselves on.

Secondly, the move from public to private as well. So using our data, we can create really, really unique customer experiences around that. So a lot of it will revolve around data. We bought a company called Ganip about four years ago, now. Those guys have over 10 years of Twitter data. We see 500 million tweets a day, a billion tweets every two days. That is a lot of data for anyone questioning that. And we can tap into that and make these bots super, super smart.

And then, lastly, brand receptivity. And I kind of touched on this at the start. The good thing, here, is when people come into Twitter…we've done a ton of research around this. They come with a discovery mindset. It's very, very different to coming into other platforms. This is like…so Snapchat and Facebook, both amazing platforms of what they do. But people are different when they come into Twitter. They come in a discovery mindset and that's why they follow brands. They're ready to be engaged with brands. And they kind of expect it as well. When we interview our users, when we do the research, they expect it to happen on Twitter as well. So we can actively engage our users in this conversation and it doesn't feel weird.

So just a couple of examples about that. I'm going to touch on Starbucks in a second, anyway. But they decided to create a flash pass in this instance. So you could DM. They would get a DM ad for a coffee or for any sort of good throughout the day, which is really, really smart.

Public to private-based, it's a really big unique thing on the platform. Because not only do we use the data, we make it quick, but it's seamless as well. So we're not sending you off to another part of Twitter. It's all done within the app. So this is a really, really crude example of that happening, right? Pizza Hut.

They simply look for people and listen to people who are tweeting, "I would like a pizza. I'm really, really hungry. Give me a pizza." They hit them up with the DM experience and, guess what? You can order your pizza by a DM. Use your location settings and it will be sent to you. That's it, in its absolute crudest form. But they're not moving. We're not sending you off to Messenger or anything like that. We are keeping you within the Twitter experience, so super seamless on that front.

And then brand receptivity. Definitely, follow these guys. It's a really, really smart bot. Based in the Middle East, you can actually go. If you're a fan of Volkswagen, these guys know that they have super fans around the world of their brand. And if you're a fan of their vehicles, you can go and check them out. Look at the various models. See where they are. Then it goes down to your showroom level, where's my nearest showroom? Abu Dhabi. Then it will ask you for your phone number and you'll get a call back within a couple of hours to go and test drive the vehicle. So, again, very, very simple but very, very effective. And for brand receptivity, it really, really works.

So what's some of the key features around bots? What's some of the key things that you should be, I guess, looking for? Firstly, quick replies. I mentioned speed is the absolute essence of our platform. And, I guess, with bots on Twitter, you have the drop down option. So you'll see with Furni, one of the examples I said in our test example. It's very, very simple. There's quick links at the bottom. They'll get you the answers, instantly, that you wanted. It's really, really smart on that front as well. But you definitely want to be adding those to your bots.

Custom profile is a really, really interesting point as well. So rather than kind of signing off with your initials, which, obviously, we see a lot of brands still doing. With this, we can actually build you a custom profile so it looks human, even though it doesn't…even though it actually isn't, in some cases. It looks human. It could be somebody who works on the company, somebody who works on the customer service team who's actually providing that response for you as well.

Location sharing is something, again, that we're really, really trying to install in brands. Works brilliantly for car dealerships, brilliant for retail outlets, any sort of restaurants, that kind of thing as well. Works fantastically well. And just allows you to then drive in store. We just launched OSI as well. So if you start partnering this up with the OSI opportunity as well, you can truly measure the offline sales impact as well. And, again, the power of bots being able to save money but still drives sales at the back of that. And we'll look at some…a brand who's done that a little bit later on.

Also, rich media -- the video bubble is never going to burst. It's just getting better and bigger. And, also, GIFs as well. So the opportunity there, the engaging formats that we can have within these bots are growing. Profile history is one that we absolutely love as well. And, again, we're using this with a sports brand at the moment. So if you bought a pair of shoes from this particular brand, you can actually…they will recognise the fact that you bought them if it's in this bot experience in the past. And they will know that when you're going to go and order a new pair, you probably want them in the same size unless you've grown overnight, which can't happen.

But the profile history is really, really smart. So it keeps that data there for you so you can have a much richer but, again, back to speed -- a much quicker experience. It's super, super efficient. And thinking back to the chart where we showed how annoying the phone was. Again, that's why Twitter really, really works for this experience.

Then, lastly, outward messaging. So we'll see this with Starbucks. They do a brilliant job with it. How many people get the tube in the morning? Wow, only a handful? Amazing. I get the central line. Absolutely, I have no interest to anyone else. Apart from TFL who do some brilliant updates, namely, that I'm going to be late most evenings and most mornings. But it's still a brilliant bot in that sense. The outward messaging they provide is really, really smart. So you can see why it's been disruptive. You can click the options below. Set the quick replies, below. So saying give me an update now. If you've seen the news, literally, 20 minutes before. Still, haven't had an update. I can tap it now, I'll now if it's worth leaving the house or not. But it's a really, really smart way of using the platform.

Next up, entry point. So you might be, "Okay, this is brilliant. I understand what I need to put in the bot. How am I going to get it to market?" And this is one of the key things where some brands fall down. People just don't necessarily use it properly. You need to be using all of these, I'm sure. But, firstly, the promoted options.

So Patron have done this brilliantly. So in here, literally, just asking, what's your perfect summer party? What's your perfect summer moment? And, literally, driving you into that experience straight away. This will take you straight into the bot experience but it's simply promoted way. But this is how you get your users. This is how you start engaging with your audience. And engagement with super fans if your VW. Or just engaging with people who are talking about tequila in its most crudest term, in this sense as well.

Next up, obviously, popping the actual message. So all of the ones I've just showed you to play around with, today, just popping this message, within your profile allows users to go straight into that bot experience, straight into that DM, that private messaging experience as well, okay? Without any sort of hassle -- it's seamless. And then Furni, you can see a little example here, as well. Just organically tweeting. And then, lastly, popping the message on your website or in your mobile site. It sounds very, very basic. But popping this message button really, really works as well, especially if you've got high volumes of traffic from your website.

So kind of just to wrap up, I wanted to take you through some recent creative implementations that we've seen as well. Firstly, Starbucks, then Optus…any Aussies in the room? I love the brand. Well, maybe hate the brand. Actually, I shouldn't even say that. But a decent mobile brand over there. AURoper, Xbots, and Wendy's.

So Wendy's, first. How many people are familiar with college basketball? Great, I've got a handful of people, here. I might need you to help me out here, guys. Wendy's basically started sponsoring the college basketball.

It's phenomenal over in the U.S.. A massive, massive event. Probably bigger than the NBA itself, on some levels, especially around March Madness it goes crazy. There's a lot of gambling going on, betting around who's going to win. But the key thing is, here. Wendy's is a sponsor. They want Joe Public, basically, to get involved. They're not worried about people putting tons of money at it. They want people to build their own bracket. And a bracket is basically just a fixture table. Is that a fair enough way of describing it? It's a fixture table of teams. And we made it super, super simple. So by giving the options…there's about 63 different options, here. And you can build a bracket within minutes by deciding, which team do you think is going to beat which team. And it will build your bracket for you. It'll build your fixture list for you. So, anyone…literally, anyone could get involved. And it's perfect for Wendy's as well. Perfect for their brand. And what you end up with is this lovely chart, here. This lovely bracket that's actually put there on You can share it with your friends so all your pals can see it. You can talk about it in the weekend, and you can see when you're being knocked out. And, again, they got a ton of great trade press off the back of this. Really, really great work. And it's something they're going to be doing again as well. So a good example of a brand who you wouldn't have thought would be getting involved with bots but have actually done a brilliant job of it.

The couponing experience is a really, really simple one. But, again one that we absolutely love. So Starbucks did a fantastic job, here. Signing up for a flash pass. Their CSR journey has got so much, so much more…it has so much more depth to it, over the last few years. And this is a great example of them kind of taking it to the next level. Really trying to understand their customers in order to offer them timely offers. So simple, again, the speed at which this works. So that was just a promoted tweet that the user would've clicked on there. You're just a few clicks away from signing up to Twitter offers. Are you up for that? Yeah, I want the weekly exclusive deal. And this will be given, dropped into your phone sometime during the week.

So on that cold November day, when you're sad in the office, you get an advert for baked good. And it works. It works brilliantly for anyone who likes croissants. But it works brilliants. A very, very simple version of this. But you can take that code in-store and then get the…and actually redeem it that way as well. Great way of understanding your audience and a super quick way of keeping them engaged, especially for people who you know who loves Starbucks. These are the guys who are engaging with this as well. And you could also send that, promote a tweet out at the start to people who are simply tweeting about coffee or people who simply tweeting about croissants, or simply tweeting about Frappuccino’s on a hot day. It's super simple but you're pushing them straight into the bot experience so they feel like they're having a meaningful conversation with the brand.

Next up, AURoper. This has to be one of my favourites. And there's a lot of brand starting to copy this, now. So you'll see Delta are starting to do it as well. I flashed up on their versions at the front. But these guys do a fantastic job. I'll play the video and let you see exactly what they do. 

Chris: Probably one of our biggest success stories when we're talking about bots on the platform. It just works phenomenally well. And, again, they're really pushing boundaries working with us, third-party data providers to provide a really, really unique experience.

Next up, the game experience. Now, apologies. I'm not a huge gamer but I do know that Halo is massive. I've been living under a rock for years. So Halo War…Halo War, sorry, was being released. And these guys brought it to us. Microsoft bought it to us. Wanted to do something really, really new that…a different type of release. So this is the first ever game run in a DM bot, where you had multiple options: how to challenge your...put a challenge up here. You can use, basically, different weapons. Hornet, Scorpion…I'm not familiar with all of them, apart from the creatures, obviously. These and those. And you could actually face the fight to actually…play, actually, the Halo game on the Twitter experience through the Twitter bot. So a really, really smart way of doing it. And the smart thing about this as well…this is, literally, just a quick cut of it. But what they managed to weave into this was the incredible graphics from the game, the ease of use. They got people excited about new characters and new weapons within the game as well. And it all played out in a really, really slick but quick way as well. And, again, back to what I'm saying at the beginning, that's what the difference is about Twitter. It's simple. It's fast. It's easy. And it's data-driven as well. And the data element of this is really, really exciting as well.

So what the guys did is worked with us in Ganip. And we looked at anyone who had mentioned Halo over the past seven years. And we're able to target them on the platform with the DM experience. And the end-game for them was, actually, getting this exclusive skin code, so they could go online and actually play a better version of the game before it even came out. So it's a really smart way of going to reach super fans of your brand.

Lastly, Vinnie. He hasn't seen the locker room for a while, has he? But Vinnie Jones did an amazing…was the front of an amazing Optus partnership that we did. Now for anyone who's obviously been to Australia, lives in Australia -- Twitter isn't…that's not our biggest market. But the results here are phenomenal. I mean really, really use this as a global example of excellence.

What I love about this case study, it kind of brings everything together that I've talked about today. The ease of use, the speed of use, the validation, the sales uplift as well that you can get from using these. And just this really, really smart activation that Optus decided to use. So I'll let him tell you the story.

Man 1: I know you all have concerns about how you're going to be able to watch the Premier League. Rest assured, my friends. I've had a little chat to the guys at Optus and they're on point to clear up the confusion.

Man 2: Optus acquired the broadcast rights to the English Premier League Football. Anyone wanting to watch EPL would need to be an Optus customer. Millions of Australians and competitor networks were faced with the prospect of acquiring a second mobile or internet service provider if they wanted to watch. And MOBE and Twitter had a thought. If we could get none-Optus customers to indicate that they on a rival network but interested in the EPL, they were strongly indicating that they were open to having a conversation with Optus about getting access. It was a direct and dynamic customer acquisition tool. To do this, we created a world-first mechanic on the platform. A custom video ad unit acted as a trigger to unleash the private message capabilities of the platform.

First up, a user indicated whether they were on Optus or another network. This triggered a personalised response from Optus Sport, delivered as a notification to a user's handle. Users were then seamlessly directed into a private conversation with the sales team who took over from there. The benefit for Optus was knowing in advance whether they were talking to an existing customer or a subscriber on a competitor network. The campaign achieved 1.3 million video views and 4.3 million impressions. Sixty-two percent of participants were non-customers. And, overall, Optus made a 2.2 times return on investment. Twitter directly generated sales using this world-first mechanic. Engagement was so high, it created a backlog of Twitter users wanting to talk one-on-one with the sales team.

By leveraging three unique features of Twitter: the public nature of the platform, the power of an engagement between a user and a brand, and the effectiveness of a personal private message conversation. Optus used Twitter to drive direct sales of their EPL packages. And, importantly, acquire new customers.

Chris: So that's it. I hope I've inspired you about bots in its most basic form and about using them on Twitter. If you got any questions, feel free to tweet me. And thank you very much for your time, today.

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