Texting and messaging friends tends to bring out our inner foodies, and the Food Network has used a Facebook Messenger bot to join that conversation.
Food Network has invested in its chatbot since it first launched in November 2016, even after the initial hype dropped off.
While other brands and publishers had difficulties being conversational with users, Food Network prefers it.
“Messenger enables frequent interactions with our customers and users of Food Network by removing as much friction as possible and making it easy to go back to,” said Liesel Kipp, SVP of product and design at Scripps Networks, which owns Food Network.
For instance, the pub added a feature to its bot called “Meal Match” in September that presents dinner ideas – and users can easily start using it while engaged in a Facebook Messenger conversation with Food Network.
“The bot fits fluidly with those conversations and makes it easier to connect with people where they are,” Kipp said.
Food Network created the “Meal Match” feature because people interacting with its bot weren’t looking for specific recipes, Kipp said, but instead wanted a more serendipitous experience.
That observation was the polar opposite of how Food Network expected customers to use its bot, which initially focused on building a unique mobile search experiment – for example, it would send pumpkin recipes after a user typed in a pumpkin emoji.
Certainly, some users searched for specific recipes, but many sought entertaining content around food.
“We wanted to bring a lot more personality into the bot,” Kipp said. “How they can find that moment of delight while sitting in a car in the school pickup line with a daily notification and a fun tip on food.”
In addition to the option of daily notifications, Food Network added a “Surprise Me” button to the bot, for users who might be looking for food inspiration but don’t know where to get started.
Food Network is also thinking about ways to continue a conversation with those readers once they find a recipe they like.
“We are looking at ways to engage with bots, so it feels less transactional and more conversational,” Kipp said. “If you give someone a recipe, do they need something to go with it? We want to pull them in in a more natural way.”
To date, Food Network is focused purely on building a Messenger audience. It hasn’t run any ads through the platform.
Audience growth picked up this year when Facebook added two key features. Its M assistant suggested bringing in Food Network to conversations about what to cook for dinner, for example. The chat extension product lets users add Food Network to conversations themselves.
“[The features] make it easy to invoke Food Network in a conversation with a friend and be there at that moment,” Kipp said. By first building an audience – and knowing how to engage with them via bots – Food Network will lay the groundwork for future advertiser integrations.
“We want to deliver a great experience back to users, and we are always looking to make sure we have a great experience for the advertiser as well,” she added.