Twitter officially opens direct messages to chatbots

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“Bot” is a tricky word when it comes to Twitter. Maybe that’s why, for all the hype around chatbots on platforms like Facebook Messenger, Kik, Slack and Skype, Twitter’s own chatbot efforts have stayed somewhat under the radar. But maybe that’s about to change.

On Thursday, Twitter officially opened up its developer tools so that any business or individual can create a chatbot that can send and receive direct messages through the social network, like they can through Messenger.

The move steps up the rivalry between Twitter and Messenger to be the social platform of choice for brands to handle private communications with customers and firmly steps Twitter into the chatbot market that it has been toeing since last year.

Last November, Twitter began testing options for some brands to automate their direct message conversations. It introduced welcome messages that would automatically greet people starting a DM thread with a brand’s Twitter account and added menus of pre-formatted reply buttons that people could tap to communicate with a brand. Messenger had introduced bothfeatures earlier in the year for chatbots on its platform as something akin to training wheels to help break in bot-to-human interactions.

But since November, Twitter’s automated DM features had primarily only been available to brands with approved access or that used marketing software from approved companies like Spredfast, Sprinklr or Sprout Social. Not any longer.

Now anyone registered as a developer with Twitter can create programs that plug into Twitter’s automated DM features to do things like set or customize a welcome message, as well as automatically send and receive direct messages, including the pre-formatted quick replies.

About The Author

Tim Peterson, Third Door Media’s Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat’s ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar’s attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon’s ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube’s programming strategy, Facebook’s ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking’s rise; and documented digital video’s biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed’s branded video production process and Snapchat Discover’s ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands’ early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo’s and Google’s search designs and examine the NFL’s YouTube and Facebook video strategies.


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