Twitter joins bot battle with automated messages in DMs

After Facebook lit up Messenger with customer service bots, Twitter lets companies set up automated greetings and replies in direct messages.

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Twitter is adding automated customer service features when you direct message certain companies.

Oscar Gutiérrez/CNET

The next time you "direct message" a company on Twitter, the reply could be so instantaneous it doesn't even seem human. Maybe, that's because it's not.

On Tuesday, Twitter said it was rolling out the ability for companies to set up automated customer service messages in DMs, like welcome greetings and replies meant to direct you to a quick solution.

In April, Facebook unveiled a big bet on bots, which are software powered by artificial intelligence that can perform simple tasks, like routine customer service queries. Facebook's bot army is mostly focused on its Messenger app.

Twitter's initiative isn't nearly on the same scale. The company doesn't mention the word bot once, for example. But its new features -- automated welcome messages and quick replies -- replicate the basic effects of Facebook's strategy, even if they don't employ the same technology.

The automated welcome messages let businesses greet people and "set expectations as they enter a Direct Message," without requiring people to send the first message, Twitter said in a blog post. Companies can set multiple welcome messages and link directly to a specific greeting from Tweets, websites or apps.

Quick replies let businesses prompt people with the ways to reply to a DM, whether by choosing from a list of options or prompting users to enter specific text values. Twitter said the tools can reduce wait times.

If you use the latest version of Twitter's app, you can test out the automated interactions in DMs with companies like @EvernoteHelps, @PizzaHut, @AirbnbHelp and @SpotifyCares. Twitter's own @Gov account is participating, too.

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