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Updated by Jelena Cekic on Mar 30, 2018
Headline for What Does it Take to Build a Chatbot That Has a Personality
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Jelena Cekic Jelena Cekic
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What Does it Take to Build a Chatbot That Has a Personality

Most people think that chatbots have to be lame and boring but this is actually not true.

1

Intro

Imagine a hairy creature with eight legs and just as many eyes. A way to make it adorable? Draw a cartoon version, infuse it with a boyish flair for mischief, and name it Lucas the Spider. With over 18 million YouTube views and around 95,000 Facebook followers, this nasty little arachnoid can teach us a few tricks when it comes to building lovable fictional personas that tug at people’s heartstrings.

What can be scarier than spiders? Human-like robots, perhaps?

Being the first of many artificially intelligent tech innovations, chatbots still spark some controversy among the regular folks. On one side, brands reap enormous benefits from employing them; on the other, they risk alienating traditional consumers. It’s kind of a catch-22 situation that must be solved.

Hence enters Lucas the Spider, a recipe for turning the unfamiliar into amiable. Be that from the perspective of conversational UXs or from the standpoint of customer acquisition, a chatbot’s personality is a foolproof way of telling your customers: Come closer, it won’t bite. In fact, it will help.

2

Storytelling: the Who, the How and the Why

Storytelling: the Who, the How and the Why

Lucas the Spider is a perfect example of how scary notions can be transformed into charming characters through great storytelling. Humankind has been using this method since the dawn of time, befriending non-human creatures and objects by distilling them with human-like characteristics.

It’s what happens every time when you take a strange concept and translate it to a human language in the broadest sense of the word. It’s why our pets are given names, why animals in folktales and movies talk, and why even sci-fi aliens possess human traits. In our minds, they are not what, but who?

Their unique personalities are what makes us curious about who they are.

Now, imagine your bot as a leading character in a story. What would he do? How would he talk? What quirks would separate him from his fellow robots? Would he be kind and friendly, or professional and uptight? Which words would he use to describe his perfect day? Maybe he wouldn’t be a he at all?

Building a chatbot’s personality is the same as building a story character. It’s an opportunity for you to be creative and devise one’s life from scratch. Think about his backstory, and all of his personality traits, mannerisms and quirks will reveal themselves to you accordingly. And then, write it all down.

Oh, and figure out what your bot’s job is. Is he a generalist like Alexa and Siri, or does he specialize in a single area of work? You’ll have some great times imagining your bot as he carpools and shops for groceries, but try not to get carried away too much. You’ve made him up to do a certain job, after all.

3

Expanding the Brand

It may help you to think of your chatbot as you would of your brand’s mascot. Essentially, that’s what an engaging digital assistant ought to be. Every brand strategy, be it for raising awareness, for product launch, or for something third, relies on the same thing – your company’s core value and the way it’s being communicated to your target audience. That’s why chatbot personalities are a marketer’s job.

4

The Audio-Visual Approach

The Audio-Visual Approach

Personality building is all about personality development; as long as the foundation for your character (his backstory) has no weak spots, his persona will be able to grow on its own. You’d ask yourself “What would he say in this particular scenario”, and get the answer from his authentic life history.

The key, as always, hides in consistency.

A hillbilly could never talk like a Wall Street businessman, right? Our personalities determine our idiolects, our highly individual, distinctive and unique uses of language. The same applies to chatbots, which is why character backstories are essential for creating fitting dialogues informed by personality.

But the tone of voice is still just one part of a bot’s persona. As your digital assistant, the bot needs to reflect your brand with how it sounds and how it looks at the same time. Visual identity is just as important as conversational quirks, so make sure to pick an avatar that represents who your assistant truly is.

5

User Needs, Wants and Preferences

Of course, you cannot dismiss your audience’s needs, wants and preferences. They are the ones who are going to be in indirect contact with your chatbot, and the reason you’re employing this solution in the first place. It may not be a bad idea to make your chat bot’s personality very close to that of your ideal buyer persona. In order to do that, however, you need to establish a trusty feedback cycle.

6

The Human Algorithm

Never expect personality development to happen overnight. Not only does this part of the chatbot building process require plenty of time, but it also requires continual testing. When we add to that the technical side of creating a digital assistant, it’s quite obvious that you need a sturdy bot platform.

Every chatbot can develop a personality, but only a few of them actually succeed.

Their “character traits” depend on their ability to learn with each new interaction and to mirror human beings, which essentially falls down to two advanced fields of computer science – deep learning and natural language processing. They both go hand in hand with the current state of artificial intelligence.

Simply put, a reliable bot-building tool is a prerequisite for creating human-like algorithms that reflect human-like personalities. At the moment, SnatchBot is hailed as the best free chatbot platform around, boasting both sophisticated machine learning and NLP tools, and a directory of bot templates.

What does it take to build a chatbot that has a personality? A robot that’s not what, but who? Nothing much, really: a speck of imagination, some strategizing, plenty of testing, and a solid bot-building platform to tie it all up. Most importantly, a bot personality needs what we all have – a good story.

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    Jelena Cekic is a creative writer and blogger at Podroom Creative with a Master’s degree in Serbian Language and Literature from the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Novi Sad. She is passionate about topics like lifestyle, art, travel and gastronomy. Her latest writing attempts include works of fiction.

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