Sure, Rome wasn't built in a day. But you can still accomplish a lot in 24 hours. When it comes to Messenger bots, the 24 hours after a user's last interaction with it is a magic window of time. ✨ It's the period during which Facebook policies say your business can contact bot subscribers with as much promotional content as you want, for free. Chatbot sequences are an indispensable tool to help you make the most of this golden window. Use them to:

  • schedule content to send over the next 24 hours instead of bombarding users with all of it at once
  • send follow-up messages reminding users to complete a process if they abandon the conversation before finishing

What a sequence is, exactly

Normally, your chatbot will send messages instantly in response to the user as part of a live, back-and-forth conversation. But you may want to space out the information you send them, or bring them back to complete an action if they leave too soon. So a sequence is a group of chatbot messages scheduled to be sent over the next 24 hours, so you can keep sharing valuable information and keep bringing users back to your bot to convert.

🙋🏻‍♀️ How many messages make up a sequence?

  • As few or as many as you like. Sequence technically implies a series of messages, just like an email drip campaign implies a series of emails. However, in some cases, one follow-up message is enough. Most sequences, though, consist of two or three. Sending more than that in a 24-hour window runs the risk of annoying the user, and causing them to unsubscribe or even block your bot.

To put it another way, sequences are chatbot message(s) that you can set to send to certain users at specific times after they leave a conversation with your bot. They're like an email drip campaign, but condensed into a 24-hour time frame.

❗️Note that there are a few rare exceptions to the 24-hour rule. You can set up a sequence to send outside the 24-hour window if:

  • One of Facebook's four message tags applies. However, most messages with these four tags would be triggered by an outside event instead, like making a purchase. So there aren't many situations where messages that fit these tags would be part of a sequence.
  • Your page has been approved by Facebook to use subscription messaging.This permission is granted to eligible news publishers only, and you must apply first.
A sequence of messages that fit the use cases for these tags can be sent outside the 24-hour window.

Since these two situations are relatively uncommon, it's best to think of sequences as messages that will only be sent within the 24-hour window.

🙋🏻‍♀️ What about sequences linked to sponsored messages? Aren't those outside the 24-hour window?

  • You could also set up a sequence in the flow that you link to a sponsored message. Sponsored messages can be sent outside the 24-hour window, yes. But once the user engages with that initial message, the window reopens. That means any sequences that will be triggered in that flow will follow the 24-hour rule.

The goal of a chatbot sequence

24 hours is a short amount of time to guide a user down the entire sales funnel. For most brands, it's not realistic to turn a prospect from cold to converted lead in that time. If it does happen, great—but it's not necessarily the goal. Instead, the idea is to send a highly engaging sequence of message(s) that get users to interact with your bot again.

Why? Because when a user responds, they reopen the 24-hour contact window so you have even more time to interact with them.

So the goal of sequences is to prolong the valuable window in which you can send promotional content to subscribers. That way, you have more time to sell them on your product(s) or service(s), or share otherwise valuable information with them.

But note that the window won't reopen if a user only views your message. Facebook says that the user has to interact with it in one of the following ways to renew the 24-hour standard messaging window:

  • By sending a message to your bot (this includes sending free-form text, tapping a button or quick reply, etc.)
  • By reacting to a message from your bot (by holding down on the message and selecting a reaction emoji)
A user reacting to your bot's message with an emoji will reopen the 24-hour window. However, it won't move them along in your bot flow.

The problem with a user simply reacting to your message is that it won't trigger the next step in your bot flow. ⚠️ The conversation will be stuck there, which defeats the purpose of reopening the window to send messages that get users to convert. That's why you should design your sequence of messages to invite users to respond by actually sending a message.

Examples use cases for sequences

Should your brand set up a sequence to reengage users before the 24-hour window closes? It depends on the goal of your chatbot.

If your bot's only purpose is to answer FAQs, for example, a sequence may not be necessary. If a user gets the answers they need from your chatbot, there's no reason to entice them to come back for more.

However, if your bot's purpose falls under one of these other common categories, a sequence can help improve your conversion rate.

  • Lead qualification. ✅ Let's say you run a marketing agency, and your bot asks five questions to qualify new leads for your services. If the user gets distracted after question three and leaves, a sequence of messages sent later could invite them to come back in finish. The first could go out three hours after the original interaction. And if that doesn't get them to engage, another could go out 20 hours later. The end result: You get complete lead information from more users.
  • Making a purchase. 🛒 Let's say you're an ecommerce merchant. Imagine that a Facebook user has added one of your products to their cart on your website, but left without purchasing. If they opted into messages from your brand via pop-up, your chatbot can send them a sequences of messages reminding them about their abandoned cart. The first could just encourage them to come back and purchase. The second could include a coupon code to make them even more likely to complete the transaction. The end result: You earn more revenue, because more users buy from you.
  • Onboarding. 👋 Let's say you've built a chatbot to help improve the mental health of your users. You could use a sequence to introduce them to helpful habits. A message two hours after their first interaction could encourage them to share something they're grateful for with the bot. A message eight hours later could advise them to choose one self-care activity from a list, and commit to practicing it that day. A message 22 hours later could encourage them to join your Facebook community for support. The end result: You get users to trust your bot so they'll come back and interact with it more, and you get more members in your Facebook group.

How to set up a sequence

There are three key steps in the process:

  1. Choose the timing for the message(s) in your sequence .
  2. Create the content of each message.
  3. Set up a way to subscribe users to the sequence.

#1. Choose the timing for the message(s) in your sequence.

In the left panel in Chatfuel's Automate tab, you'll see a button that says + Add Sequence or Group. Click it, and select Sequence. Three blocks will appear, which represent three messages in a sequence.

You can have as few as one, or as many as you like (there's no limit!). If you want to add more blocks to your sequence, click the + button. If you want fewer, you can delete any of the blocks by clicking the three dots and selecting Delete.

You can have as many messages in your sequence as you want. Simply add (+) or delete blocks to adjust.

Once you have your desired number of messages, decide when you want each one to deploy. Your options are: Immediately, or Seconds, Minutes, Hours, or Days later.

❗️Note that any messages set to send days later must fall under one of the exceptions we listed above: messages that fit the new tags, or subscription messages from qualified news publishers.

Options for choosing when each message in your sequence will send

The timing for each message in a sequence is relative to the message before it. Let's say a user's last interaction with your bot was at 10am. So if you had the first message in the sequence send After 2 hours, it would send at 12pm. If you had the next message send After 4 hours, it would send at 4pm—four hours after the previous message in the sequence.

#2. Create the content of each message.

Next, you have to add content for the messages in your sequence. Compose the text for each one, and add images, buttons, quick replies, or any other elements you want—just like you would for any other block.

You'll also need to make sure each message is appropriately tagged. In most cases, Standard Messaging is the correct tag. But if you're using one of Facebook's four other tags we discussed earlier, be sure to select it.

The Standard Messaging tag will be the right choice for most cases.

#3. Set up a way to subscribe users to the sequence.

Finally, decide where in the flow you want to subscribe users to this sequence. Then, add the Subscribe to Sequence plugin at the start of that block, and the Unsubscribe from Sequence plugin at the end of it. You'll essentially use these two plugins to bookend the content you want the user to consume completely.

  • 💡For example: Let's say you want to send a reminder sequence to users who don't complete the last question of your lead-qualifying flow. Navigate to the block that contains the final question, and insert the Subscribe to Sequence plugin before the content there. Then, insert the Unsubscribe from Sequence plugin after all the content there. That way, users who don't make it to the very end of the block will, over the next 24 hours, receive the sequence of reminders to come back and finish. Those who do reach the end of the block will trigger the unsubscribe plugin there, meaning they won't receive the reminder sequence.
To subscribe a user to a sequence, use these two plugins to bookend the content you want them to complete.

You can also add filters to either of these plugins to control who will trigger them. You can restrict them based on:

  • certain user attributes
  • certain segments of users
  • users who have/have not received a certain sequence already
  • users who have/have not received, seen, clicked, or blocked a certain block
You can subscribe only users who have certain attributes to your sequence, if desired.

👋 🛒 If you want to create a sequence of abandoned cart reminders for your ecommerce store, the setup process is even easier. Navigate to the Grow tab in Chatfuel and locate the Cart Reminders app. Connect your Shopify store by entering its URL. Design the opt-in message that will appear on your website, then create the reminders themselves. After that, sit back and watch the abandoned-cart revenue roll in!

Tips and best practices for effective sequences

Follow these tips for efficient setup and best results.

🔗 Make sure your bot is connected to a page. Sequences won't fire properly if your chatbot isn't connected to a Facebook page. So even if you're simply trying to test your sequences, your bot must be linked to a page. And if you test them once, make some changes, and they don't fire when you try to test them again, there's an easy fix. You'll need to unsubscribe yourself from that sequence in order to receive it again.

🎁 Tell users why they should act on your reminder. Most sequences are reminders for the user to do something. To increase the likelihood that the user will take the action you want them to, use the message copy to highlight what's in it for them. For example, consider these two different sequence messages you could send to remind users to finish filling out the home-buyer questionnaire for your real-estate business:

  • Hi again, {{first name}}! We noticed you didn't finish the home-buyer questionnaire. Would you like to complete it now, so we have all your information?
  • Hi again, {{first name}}! We noticed you didn't finish the home-buyer questionnaire. If you take a sec to complete it now, we'll send you a listing of beautiful houses in your target area instantly!

The value the user will get from completing the questionnaire is much clearer in the second version of the message. As a result, those who saw the second message would probably be more likely to go back and finish answering the questions. The customer-first approach is always the most effective!

📊 Monitor stats and optimize each message in your sequence. This one is easy. You'll be able to see at a glance how many times each message in your sequence was sent, viewed, and clicked. Simply hover over the block for these statistics to appear.

If you notice a drop-off on, say, the third message in a sequence, make a change. Perhaps you could adjust the copy or add a GIF in that message to make it more engaging. Or maybe three messages is too many for this sequence, and users would respond better to just two.

Hover over the block for a certain sequence message to view its stats.

You could even create two different variants of a sequence message, then use the A/B Test plugin to send some users to one and some users to the other. It's another easy way to optimize the messages in a sequence so they can be as effective as possible.

👯‍♂️ Use the Copy feature for easy cloning. Clicking the three dots in any block in your sequence will reveal the Copy option. It'll save you time if you want to reuse an entire sequence or a specific block from a sequence:

  • for more than one group of users
  • or in more than one bot

Once you hit Copy, you'll be able to choose which bot and which group you'd like to add a duplicate of that message to.

You can copy and reuse entire sequences or parts of sequences.

🙅🏻‍♀️ Give users the option to unsubscribe from your sequence. If a user who is receiving your sequence decides they are no longer interested, you must give them the option to unsubscribe. If not, they might resort to blocking your bot. Facebook receives this action as negative feedback, and could punish your page if it happens too often. Learn more about setting up an unsubscribe option in your chatbot.

Add more value and get more conversions with sequences

Sometimes consumers need a little nudge to follow through on an interaction with your brand. Whether you're encouraging them to finish answering questions, complete a purchase, or take some other action in your bot, sequences are the way to go.

If you’re new to Chatfuel, sign up for free today to build a Messenger chatbot—complete with sequences—for your business. For advice and inspiration from other Chatfuel bot builders, join our Facebook community. Agencies: Learn how you can get access and support for using this feature for your clients with our Premium Agency Plan.