When I first started building chatbots 11 months ago, I tested all available tools on the market. I even started learning how to code.

I was quite delighted to find Chatfuel. I was able to build basic flows with it and could understand what was going on without having to “mine” my text out of a swarm of {><.[] characters.

Having said that, Chatfuel might be not the best fit for you, but there are many other great builders out there (especially since last year). If you’re still unsure which one to choose, read my article about the best chatbot builders available.

My first chatbots were very experimental. Facebook opened Messenger as an ad platform in November 2016, and I looked at the bots as extensions of FB ads. I needed a way to automate the first messages after the post, create segmentations and be able to retarget users. Ideally, they would be easy to create and duplicate so I could test and quickly implement the working concepts for other FB pages, niches, products.

Chatfuel was not only able to provide these functions but has been constantly improving and adding more each month ever since. Unsurprisingly, they managed to add publications such as Techcrunch and ABC news to their portfolio.

In this review article, I’m going to go over some of the things that I think can be important to review before putting your trust in Chatfuel.

Setting up

The setting up of Chatfuel is very straightforward. Just log in with your FB (which is just a click if you’re already logged in to Facebook). You have to give Chatfuel necessary permissions to manage your messages.

What I don’t like is the compulsory FB page connection to your ‘first bot’. Anyway, setting up a FB page is very easy and Chatfuel directly offers this option.

chatfuel start

When you’ve done that, the dashboard looks like this. This is where you will see an overview of all the chatbots that you’ve created/cloned.

chatfuel dashboard

The tutorial templates can help you explore some of the functionalities and use cases to make sure you glean more from your Messenger bots.
Tip: Click on the ‘View All Templates’ to see the template I’ve created for Chatfuel, especially if you’re interested in Event Chatbots. 😉

Chatfuel’s Features

This is where Chatfuel really shines. Some of the functions you won’t need. Some of them are easy, such as creating a message or adding an image. Some of them enable more advanced Messenger flows and can be quite complex to set up. In my course, Bot Mastery I explain these in detail so anyone can do it for their business.

If you’re starting out with chatbots, I would recommend starting rather slow, or on a test FB page, so you give yourself enough room for inevitable mistakes.

In this section, I’m going to expand on the following features:

  1. Blocks
  2. Artificial Intelligence
  3. Growth Tools
  4. Sequences, Broadcasts
  5. Plugins

Blocks (Messages)

This is the most straightforward part, so I’ll start here. These are the basics of the chatbot. The user engages with the FB Page, and Chatfuel answers with a block, which can have more messages in it.

So what elements can messages have?

chatfuel cards

Cards are probably not the best name here, but you see what’s going on here.

Text –No matter how many fancy other elements we have inside the chat applications, text is always the cornerstone of communication.

chatfuel messages

You can add up to 3 buttons after every text you create.

The best way to create the flow of messages is to connect different blocks together. Admittedly, the easiest way you can do that is by adding buttons (max 3) under the text.

Image – very straightforward; you can communicate with images. Unfortunately, there is no drag and drop or link function

Gallery – This type of Messenger element is a great way to combine images, texts and buttons. Moreover, you can stack them together, so users can just swipe to find their ideal option. It’s great for offering menus or different products to buy. Also, you can choose from 2 extra functions for your button (Share, Buy).

chatfuel gallery

People can share or buy your stuff directly from Messenger.

 

List – Somewhat similar to the Gallery option, but here you list the items vertically. People are more used to scrolling upwards, but it takes up more space in the conversation.

Chatfuel tends to focus on available features, so what Messenger enables, they try to offer us eventually. I was somewhat surprised when it took quite a while until the element became available.

Quick replies – These horizontal buttons offer yet another great way to connect blocks with each other. It is also possible to save the clicks as attributes. You can use them directly under the elements listed above, but not the following ones.

Audio – A great way to add variety to your messages. Supports up to 25 MB and has to be linked (hosted somewhere). I recommend Dropbox to keep things easy.

Video – Same spiel as audio, but adds an extra visual element. This is where the 25 MB limit can be more restrictive. Bigger videos can take quite a while to load, so the limit is somewhat useful.

Typing – A great way to send delayed messages and show your user that they should stay there for an incoming message. 20 seconds is the max, but you can add more afterwards.

User Input – The best way to:
1. Capture information
2. Carry on the conversation without buttons

chatfuel user input

You can also validate the user input, to make sure you get the type of data you’ve asked for.

Share Location – This is a special type of user input. A very precise location can be sent to the chatbot with just 2 clicks of a button. This comes in very handy when you want to display directions to your physical

This comes in very handy when you want to display directions to your physical business, or create segments based on the cities and countries the users are located in.

As I already mentioned (and suggested), you can trigger (and also connect with each other) these blocks through button clicks. But there are also other ways the users can reach the certain blocks. In the next two sections, I would like to mention them.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) aka Keywords

When people first learn the concept of chatbots, they think about chatting with a machine. They naturally just want to type in their answers and have the chatbot understand their intent. In practice, however, it often doesn’t work out that way.

Actually, Facebook even took a step back in March and encouraged the usage of buttons even more. I’m not saying you should disable the user input, but with Chatfuel, you will rarely provide a great experience if you don’t guide your audience.

In most cases, I suggest you only mention certain keywords for users but try to cover as many expressions as possible, without causing trouble… (see images below)

It’s great that you can set up a random answer in case it’s often used.

chatfuel keyword options

Make sure your chatbot is not boring by giving more canned answers.

Chatfuel’s Keywords tool is more than just keywords. It is capable of grabbing the user’s intent, even if it does not match 100% the AI setup.

For example, if you add “What’s the time?” to the tool, it will still recognize the question if the user asks “what time is it?” Unfortunately, it can also be a negative experience.

chatfuel keyword recognition

There should be a different intent behind ‘no’ and ‘no problem’.

Growth Tools

This is an area where Chatfuel has improved a lot over the last couple of months. Of course, there is still huge room for improvement, but we’re well equipped with a good basis for luring more users into our Messenger funnels :).

I believe there are 3 very powerful methods to acquire customers and Chatfuel offers them all:

– Comment auto reply method

– FB ad with Messenger as ad destination

– Landing page with a button to the bot

 

Comment auto reply method

You can find more information in my Facebook Comment Method article , so I’m not going to go into further detail here. You can acquire new users just by leaving a comment on your post.
The setup is straightforward, let this picture do the talking:

chatfuel autoreply comment method

You have to setup a new rule for every post that you want to use.

Facebook Ads

There hasn’t been much help regarding this from Chatfuel’s side, but fortunately, FB made it easier over the last couple of weeks. So there’s no real reason to use the JSON anymore.

You can just set up buttons to point to specific blocks.

Landing Page with a button to the bot

This is a great addition by Chatfuel. They automatically create a landing page for your bot when you connect it with a FB Page. There’s a great showcase of the welcome message there which you wouldn’t have any other way. This also gets rid of the friction with the “Get Started” button.

chatfuel landing page

Standard Landing Page is provided for every page by Chatfuel.

Sequences, broadcasts

Being able to send out messages based on certain criteria is hands-down the biggest selling point of Messenger Marketing. You will experience open and click-through rates that are unheard of in email marketing within the last couple of years.

You can select the subset of users you’d like to send messages to based on the information that Facebook provides or you’ve collected with your Messenger bot.

Also, you know the time zone of the user, so you’re able to time the messages to certain hours no matter where the user is located in the world. I’ve built a bot with educational content that sends out messages on a regular basis.

regular broadcast chatfuel

You can select the days, time, and time zone of a repeat broadcast.

Sequences help you send messages based on a trigger in the chatbot. You can set up messages for every new user for 7 days to learn more about your company or send them reminders if they didn’t complete an action. There are a lot of opportunities here to optimize the customer experience.

Overall, you have fewer plugins to work with in the broadcast section, but you can always link to certain blocks with buttons.

A very recent addition to Chatfuel is that it also tracks the link clicks of the broadcast messages.

chatfuel broadcasting

Sending out messages in the users’ timezone is not always possible via email…

Plugins

I’m going to go over some of the plugins that Chatfuel offers. There are more, but these are the most common used ones.

Chatroom

You can put users of your chatbot together to chat with each other if they want. Users can see each other’s name, but they cannot talk privately unless they search for each other.

chatfuel chatroom groupchat

Me casually chatting with myself via a group chatbot…

While users are actively using a chatroom, the chatbot won’t send messages to them (unless it’s a broadcast message).

Attributes

You can set up attributes based on the answers or button clicks of the user.

You can put your users into different baskets and communicate with them accordingly. You can ask them if they want to receive weekly or bi-weekly updates from you. About Bitcoin or Etherium. In English or German. There are no real limits here. You can also track the progress of sign up or challenge by adding attributes.

You might want to ask explicitly for certain information and save it, such as age or email.

Go to block

The ability to create different pathways for different segments or buckets is what makes chatbots so powerful. One of the first examples I used was splitting the audience according to gender, as Facebook provides. But you are free to use any information you’ve already collected. When you understand this part, you will religiously set up attributes for your messages.

 

Limitation, Issues

Chatfuel does a great job at providing as many possible features as possible without completely overwhelming the user. Therefore, this section is going to be rather short, but there are still some things I’d like to point out.

Comment autoreply

For me personally (and for others as well), there were(are) quite a few issues with its reliability, so I switched back to FB Auto reply, which also provides more advanced options (read about it here).
The first message can’t contain attributes, which isn’t a big deal, but would be great to have.

To trigger the first block after they answer, the first message is only possible via a keyword. This way, it isn’t so easy to track people. It also may interfere with other parts of the chatbots. In many cases, you’d want to use an easy word that increases the likelihood that the new users will type.

No live Messages

Without coding knowledge, it is not possible to change attributes for individuals or to see the conversations inside Chatfuel. If there’s something to fix or add or note, you have limited opportunities. The collected data (attributes) is also hidden in the conversations unless you track it in a sheet or some other system. I’ve already seen plans for this and eagerly wait for the release of this function.

Zapier 1 way communication

This could help the previous issue. Sending information or messages back to Chatfuel via Zapier could add a completely new range of possibilities. Imagine someone is attending a webinar of yours and it is automatically marked in your chatbot, so you can follow up accordingly.

Button Click Data

When you link out to a web page or provide a phone number for the button action, you have no information about whether the user clicked on it or not. For that, you would need some advanced settings or find workarounds, which makes it less likely for you to properly track the clicks.

 

Price, Support

Price

Since I started to use Chatfuel, the topic of removing their branding has always come up quite frequently. Their business strategy apparently concentrates on acquiring as many new users as possible in the early years of chatbot builders.

 

Two indicators for that:

  • The free accounts come with a mandatory Chatfuel button on the first level of the persistent menu.
  • Pro accounts can only remove the branding (or the entire persistent menu) and don’t have anything else to go with them.
chatfuel branding removal

This is how the ‘Create a bot on Chatfuel’ looks like. Taking up much of your Messenger ‘real estate’

Prices start from $30 for the first 1000 (reachable) users, go up gradually from there, and adjust each month.

Just a couple of milestones for you to get a rough estimate:

1500 users $48
2000 users $72.
3000 users $102
5000 users $150
10000 users $275

From 100,000 users ($2525) custom solution is needed.

chatfuel price calculator

The price can go up quite significantly if your chatbot gets traction.

All the functions are the same, so unlimited messages and requests are included. You can only reach users if they messaged the page after it was connected to Chatfuel.

Also, note that the subscription is tied to the Facebook page, so you can freely clone and add new versions to your page as your chatbot evolves.

Support

I’m in a unique situation and have the ability to talk directly to staff.Having said that, every time I come across an issue I do a quick search in the community forum. In many cases, someone has already had this issue, desire or experience, so no extra messages are needed.

The staff and moderators are frequently on the community forum and communication is fluid between team members.

In some cases, there is a bigger time bridge until an answer arrives. In these cases, the status page (http://status.chatfuel.com) comes in handy.

Balint Pataki with Dimitriy Kachin - Chatfuel

With Chatfuel’s Head of Partnerships – Dimitriy Kachin

 

Conclusion

 

Chatfuel is one of the earliest bot builder platforms that put its focus on Messenger. Providing a big range of functionality without branding removal, backed by a great team and investors (among others) made Chatfuel not just one of the biggest, but one of the best general chatbot builders.

Personally, my favorites are the attributes combined with “go to blocks” and the ability to add integration.

If you want to start quickly with a great range of functionality, you can’t really go wrong with Chatfuel. It’s not a coincidence I cover Chatfuel in detail in my Bot Mastery course and build many bots for clients on their platform.

If you want to learn more about Chatbots and Messenger Marketing, join my free webinar.

Hope you’ve liked my review about Chatfuel, let me know in the comments if you have anything to add or have a question.