BET made a Facebook Messenger bot for its summer festival

BET will debut a Facebook Messenger bot to serve as a companion to BET Experience, a four-day festival in Los Angeles that culminates in the BET Awards, which air June 25.

The bot, created in partnership with startup Conversable, is designed to answer common attendee questions about things like directions and set times. It will also serve up content like GIFs and other media that come out of the event’s moments as they happen, sharing the assets with bot users first.

While plenty of publishers leapt on Messenger bots as a way to get their content in front of readers, the returns on those early moves have been mixed. Plenty of publishers have since scaled back their investment in Messenger. Those early returns kept BET on the sidelines. “We didn’t really see the promise in many of the examples that were out there,” said Kenneth Gibbs, vp of social media marketing strategy for BET Networks. “But this offered us a great opportunity to assist our visitors in a physical environment.”

The potential audience for the Experience bot is small — 165,000 people came out to last year’s festivities, up from 150,000 the year before — but Gibbs said the bot is more of a way to add to the experience. The bot will also send out a few calls to action to tune in to the broadcast of the BET Awards, as well as some messages after the event concludes.

While publishers and brands both believe long-term opportunity exists in chatbots, they’ve cooled on them due to the current limitations of natural language processing and user familiarity with bots’ purposes. That’s pushed brands and publishers to try their hands at using bots to do things like manage customer relationships.

“What we’re seeing now are companies trying to build a targeted use case,” said Conversable CEO Ben Lamm. “If it’s not adding value to a user, it’s just a gimmick.”

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