With conversational interfaces, content has really become a huge thing. It’s not like it wasn’t before, of course. Nobody can deny it: since the boom of social networks and storytelling, this is content marketing’s golden age.

In the past few years I have worked with content quite a lot – coping with newsletters, SEO and corporate blogs. I often found myself wondering how such marketing approach could evolve in the future. And I remember the exact moment when I realized everyone had an opinion about content marketing. It seemed like a saturation to me, which led me to question the trend in the long run.
Then, I joined Monk Software. Here I had to face one of the biggest changes of our super-hectic days: the conversational paradigm. That’s a huge topic to discuss about. Though, to some extent, that can also be described as the transition from Graphic User Interfaces (GUI) to Conversational Interfaces.

Conversational interfaces: if content is king, context is god
Photocredit: Ryan Maguire via Quotefancy

A revolution? On the one hand, yes. It is a revolution. It is because of the way this is happening – just think of chatbots and voice assistants. On the other hand, not really. Conversational interfaces are just making a come-back.
A bit of history may be of help to understand why and how.

Conversational interfaces: from ELIZA to Siri

GUI (Graphic User Interfaces) were born in the ‘80s to Xerox. From Lisa on, Steve Jobs has somehow disclosed their potential. But the ancestors of conversational interfaces were there far before Xerox invented its own GUI. Just think of ELIZA, created in the ‘60s: it was so impressive it looked like it just came out of a dystopia.
Keeping it outrageously simple, one could say conversational interfaces gave way to GUIs mainly because of the medium itself. Conversations were definitely not the best way to interact with a personal computer. A screen with a keyboard and a mouse just shout “look at me” and “click here”.
A couple decades later (with a number of new technologies and approaches in the middle), smartphones industry exploded. A mass product completely different from a regular phone, and still not really a computer. Once again, the medium required a step forward – or a step behind – in UX. How to give a “hybrid phone” a user-friendly interface? The most logical answer was “conversations”. Or, at least, some kind of interface including conversations.
Sooner than we think, we will expect interacting with phones like with a concierge. Not a coincidence that 2017 is all about “AI First” to many companies .

Conversational and content marketing

Natural language processing is the new hot topic. So are artificial intelligences, especially on mobile. And this is just the start.
Still, no one can really believe consumers are going to feel totally comfortable interacting with a robot all of a sudden. There’s the need for an intermediary step, for a soft transition. Instant messaging, for example, is something in-between edge technology and old-fashioned chat models like IRC. People love chatting, they know how to do it, they do it using their natural language. Well, through instant messaging they can easily do it from their smartphones.
I know what you are thinking: what the heck does all this have to do with content marketing? A lot, trust me. Bots, instant messengers & co. are a new medium, and the properties of the medium itself are leading to the transformation of content marketing into conversational marketing. Storytelling needs to adapt to the context.
A well-designed artificial intelligence – or a chat, with or without a bot – should always tell a story, consistent with its primary purpose or with the storytelling of the company it represents. In other words, it should have a soul – of bits, but still a soul. First of all ‘cause no one has a desire for conversation with a robot that sounds like a robot. Second of all, because it’s a terrific opportunity for brands.
Let’s play a game. Take your iPhone and ask Siri “What’s the best phone?”. Strange as it may seems, her answer will state in just 3 words Siri’s personality Apple’s positioning and tone of voice.

Instant messaging as a head start

Face it: content is never going to be the same, and it’s for the better. It won’t be (or won’t just be) on HTML pages of static blogs. It won’t be only GIFs and videos, but conversation in the making. That’s the missing piece of the content marketing puzzle: conversational marketing. Here, companies are going to play their biggest games.
Any given paradigm,though, requires an intermediate step to let people get used to it. We think instant messaging is the key for companies to make this change, giving them a head start in the conversational paradigm. And we believe it’s even more important when it comes to educate consumers to new ways of interacting with brands – and to engage them, nonetheless. Our experience, so far, has proven us right. That’s why we created EIMe, our Enriched Instant Messaging. Click here to find out more about it.

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