Miss Piggy, international journalists and personal shoppers are not the kind of people you expect to speak to on chat apps. Whatsapp is just for sorting meetups with your mates, right? Not any more. With three out of the five biggest global social media platforms now chat apps, savvy brands are getting in on the action and enabling a huge range of unexpected conversations to take place on your phone.

Thanks to our amazing speakers from Nattr, BBC World Service, Kik and Quartz at our #ChatApps101 event, we now know a whole lot more about the potential for chat apps in business. For those who couldn’t make it, here are four things we learned at #ChatApps101.

Chat apps can bring fictional characters to life… almost
Sadly for Scarlett Johansson fans, the technology isn’t quite ready for a real life Samantha just yet. But fictional characters are starting to appear - and interact - in our personal chat feeds. Kik’s Anthony Green explained how horror movie franchise Insidious 3 used the platform to create a Quinn chatbot, who shared creepy stories with chatty fans. Meanwhile, in Australia, Australian vlogger Jamie Curry morphed into a zombie in real time on Snapchat to promote Pride+Prejudice+Zombies.

It’s not all death and horror though - Miss Piggy is in on the act too on Facebook Messenger to promote the Muppet Show. It has never been easier to bring fictional worlds to life and enable consumers to interact with them to drive a new level of engagement.

Insidious 3 chatbot

Chat Apps can save lives
During the Ebola epidemic, BBC World Service mobile editor Trushar Barot spent many a sad hour in his hotel room adding new subscribers to the BBC Whatsapp Ebola service. Why? To create a two way dialogue with people in West Africa which enabled the team to source insights, find out exactly what people on the front line needed to know, and share the very latest, critically needed safety information. It was a Whatsapp user’s question which prompted the team to create a special package on whether Ebola could be transmitted via mosquito bites.

As Jason Karaian explained, dedicated news app Quartz goes one step further. It’s a dedicated app which uses personal conversations with the user to deliver a tailored news agenda in a conversational format. Not only does Quartz deliver news on the topics that interest you, it also allows you to query their reporting, double check specific details and ask for graphics. They even create a topical Haiku at the end of the day when the markets close.

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Dating is getting a whole lot more complicated
Does your Tinder profile represent the ‘real you’ - the one with greasy hair and glasses slobbing out on the couch with a hangover? Or is it the perfect, glossy, thinnest you from last summer, carefree and smiling from a good angle in a hipster beer garden? Well, fear not, it has just got easier to maintain that perfect image, thanks to Nattr’s text crowdsourcing technology.

Nattr’s Laura Rusty explained how the app enables anyone suffering from anxiety about ‘what to text back’ to crowdsource clever text responses and impress would-be lovers. Users can screenshot their text conversations and access the advice of thousands of users who will help them craft the most appealing chat.

On a less creepy level, Nattr is expanding to become a source of advice on a number of topics, from choosing outfits for a big meeting, to closing a business deal. Stuck for words? Just use someone else’s.

Online shopping getting personal
Anthony Green from Kik believes 2016 is the year of the bot - but his plans aren’t all as dark as the app’s Insidious activation. Kik’s chatbots offer guided chat between brands and users which are already live with fashion brand H&M. Instead of simple online shopping where you put a jacket in your basket, Kik’s H&M bot gets the shopper to rate a series of outfits to understand their personal style, before suggesting items that might interest them. A lot more impactful than a bored shop assistant telling you it looks great while rolling their eyes.

H&M Kik Bot

We Are Social has a packed calendar of free, insightful events on topics including travel and artificial intelligence. If you’d like to stay in the loop on what’s coming up visit our EventBrite page or drop us an email to join our mailing list.