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As more news organisations are turning to chatbots on Facebook as a way to make editorial content go further, you might be wondering how to get started yourself.

Here is a guide to show you how to set up a Facebook chatbot account, a few ways to get audiences to subscribe to messages, how to set up manual broadcasts.

To get started, head to www.manychat.com where you will be asked to sign in with your Facebook account and connect to your Facebook page. Note: you will need admin status to go any further.

You will need to submit some business information around your role, the size of the company, level of experience and the purposes of signing up - you can tick that you are trying it out as a dummy run.

Once you are signed in, you will be faced with a typical dashboard. Pay close attention to the left-hand menu with the options: audience, live chat, growth tools, broadcasting, automation, flows and settings.

Growth tools and growing your subscribers

The first thing you need are subscribers, so head into growth tools and hit widgets. Then you will see a blue box in the top right-hand corner that says '+ New Growth Tool'. Click that and you will find many different types of widgets.

Widgets are designed to drive your website's readers and Facebook followers to your Messenger account. Here are your choices of widgets:

Overlay, embeddable and other growth tools as Widgets

Overlay and embeddable widgets work as JavaScript snippets of code that is inserted into your articles to appear when a condition is met and drive readers to your Messenger chat.

Style wise, you can choose from a bar (at the top of the screen), slide in (customisable location), modal (pop-up window) or a page takeover (overlay on website). You also have button and box options that simply sit on the webpage.

Selecting one of the overlay options will enable you to customise the colour, text, position, display condition (immediate, scroll depth, time, exiting article) and its next appearance.

An example of what a slide-in growth tool could look

After tailoring an initial and submitted box, you will need to ask your reader's consent to subscribe once they are taken to your Messenger chat.

Here is an example from our Journalism.co.uk media jobs board chatbot.

Constructing messages

You will find a default opt-in message which you can use to ask your readers to opt-in and a way to unsubscribe too. Alternatively, you can also customise that message though by hitting 'edit' or click 'replace' to chose from any already you may have already done.

Here, you can change the text, add in other forms of media including a gallery of images, audio and video if you so want. If you are sending multiple messages or media, you can separate these with a 'delay' timer as if the bot is typing.

Publish once you are happy with your message. Under set-up you will find the code to place into your article, where you can also limit the websites it can appear on and whether it supports web and/or mobile devices.

Back on the widget menu, there are more useful ways to drive people to your Messenger, including generating a URL link, or by using Facebook Comments.

Here you can correspond a live post - or a scheduled post - to a set of keywords to invite audiences to subscribe. See this handy example below from our Journalism.co.uk media jobs team.

This can allow you to reach out to all of your Facebook followers and fans to subscribe. A post like the one above is not keyword specific, it is a blanket invite so all the audience has to do is make a comment.

They will then receive a message in their inbox asking them to subscribe. However, the Facebook Comment widget does allow you to set specific trigger words like 'subscribe' or to exclude certain phrases too. You can also control whether that message comes immediately or after a set period of time.

Broadcasting

Once you have built up a subscriber base, you will want to make good on your promise and sent out updates periodically. You can do this manually and automatically.

Head to broadcasting on the main menu, and select 'broadcasts'. This will allow you to design a message that will go out to your subscribers. For a round-up of stories for example, you could add a gallery or a list of images with URLs to the corresponding stories.

Your other option is to hit 'autoposting' under 'broadcasting' which allows you to link your Messenger account to an RSS feed, or a Twitter, YouTube or Facebook account to autopost whatever is shared onto those accounts.

Playing around with Manychat

These are just the basics to setting up an account, growing a subscriber base and pushing out content. There is more you can do with welcoming messages, sequences and rules - and these can be useful for promoting and soft-selling other parts of your website over a longer period of time.

Want to find out more about our media jobs board? You can start receiving updates in your inbox by clicking here, or find more opportunities here.

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