What is an Alexa Skill?

Raise your hand if you have an Amazon Echo device. You know, the one that everyone calls Alexa.

Okay, put it down, no one is actually looking at you right now. 🙂

Raise your hand if you’ve been frustrated with Alexa not knowing how to get her to do what you want her to do.

For example, “Alexa, play songs by Logic” returns a result of “Songs by Logic not available with Amazon Prime; would you like more information on purchasing Amazon Music?”

This is frustrating at first, but while it may seem like Amazon is just trying to sell you more stuff, they’ve actually opened up a whole world in the Alexa app, called Skills.

Now, raise your hand if you actually know what an Alexa Skill is.

Yes, there is an actual thing called an Alexa Skill, and it’s fairly common for the average Alexa user to have absolutely no clue what one is.

Think of Skills as apps, as in the Apple App Store on your iOS device.

Think of the Alexa app as the App Store.

For example, with the Spotify Alexa Skill enabled, you can change what you ask Alexa to: “Alexa, play songs by Logic from Spotify,” and she will begin playing songs by Logic in the order in which they appear on Spotify.

If you own an Echo and don’t really use it because it’s not acting the way you want it to, you can customize it to your liking, just like you did your first iPhone in 2008.

You do this with Skills.

Top skills include:

Jeopardy!, Show of Hands, Question of the Day, Morgan Stanley, Prudential Retirement and more.

Skills are applications, and some are extremely robust, using heavy algorithms to return an amazing audio user experience that can result in everything from learning Spanish to telling you how to invest your money based on your risk tolerance.

Enabling and using Skills drastically enhances your Alexa experience.

There's even "gamer" skills like Cyberlife for Playstation.

But there’s also a kind of Skill that many content companies and media companies use that is much simpler and more common during this infancy of Voice.

And as you can imagine, these have my attention. These Skills are called “Flash Briefings.”

Top Flash Briefing skills include Wall Street Journal, Cheddar, CNBC and Fox News.

But even brands like the NBA have Flash Briefing skills.

What’s cool about Flash Briefings is that, as a user, you can customize your own.

For example, mine could be “weather in Spring Hill, Tennessee,” “Top Tech News from TechCrunch.,” “MLB Schedule Today,” and “Gary Vee 365.”

You customize your own by heading to your Alexa app, tapping the hamburger menu then, Settings, then Flash Briefing.

You can add Flash Briefing Skills from the Alexa app then add them to your Flash Briefing.

Then, every day, say “Alexa, play my Flash Briefing,” and it will play you your news, in the order in which you have it selected in your Alexa app.

So that’s cool and all, but what really fascinates me, and why I’m really into this stuff, is that any business can create their own Skill, or Flash Briefing Skill and and instantly be on the Alexa Skill Store to download and become part of people’s daily routines.

Think about this for a minute. Then think through what you could tell your audience every day that might be valuable or entertaining to them.

Feels like what we say about social media strategy, doesn’t it?

The audio version of that is here. It’s early, but the audience is growing fast. Your audience’s attention will be there tomorrow if it isn’t already today, which means you’ll want your business to have a presence.

Email me at for more information on getting your business an Alexa Skill or an Alexa Flash Briefing Skill.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Paul Hickey, Founder / CEO / Lead Strategist at Data Driven Design, LLC has created and grown businesses via digital strategy and internet marketing for more than 10 years. His sweet spot is using analytics to design and build websites and grow the audience and revenue of businesses via SEO/Blogging, Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Facebook and Instagram Ads, Social Media Content Marketing and Email Marketing. The part that he’s most passionate about is quantifying next marketing actions based on real data.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.