Is Artificial Intelligence the Next Step for Content Marketing?

Artificial intelligence has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, but are machine learning techniques the next logical step for content marketers?

Kira Hawker

AI and machine learning techniques are becoming more and more frequently used as a part of digital strategies. Automating the time-consuming elements of marketing frees up professionals in the industry to conduct the more existential parts themselves. But, can the creation and curation of content be automated in a way that improves upon human input, or will there always be an element of the robotic in AI output?

Successful content is interesting, relevant, and targeted. Without these three aspects, it gets lost in the ether, collecting virtual dust alongside a large portion of the internet’s reems of content. We have all seen the statistics that say 55% of all page views gets less than 15 seconds of attention (meaning you have probably stopped reading this article by now).

So, can artificial intelligence really be a game changer for content marketing in 2019, and will it have copywriters like me out of a job? Yes, and no, respectively. Let’s take a deeper look.

What Kind of Content Marketing Elements Can Be Automated?

Before we throw caution to the wind and let the robot overlords take over content marketing strategies, we need to realise that there are limits to what AI can do for us… for now.

The main way AI works is by analysing data in order to better organise what gets written and shared where. However, it is not just sorting out what has already been written – AI is actually writing the content… so, should I be worried?

AI & Content Creation

AI is already creating content online, often used by Associated Press to craft simple, statistics-based copy about things like sport and finance, where numbers and results are key. In fact, Aaron Souppouris of Engadget recruited his very own bot to write an announcement-style blog looking at the release of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone.

He did this by training his bot to write based on hundreds Engadget’s previous articles. Editing variables and using a synonym tool allowed the bot to come up with a range of different versions of the same paragraph, choosing its own variations to say the same thing. The article itself, while quite dry, still made sense and gave the reader an accurate comparison of the new Samsung phone with rival products.

Of course, there is an element of art vs science about teaching machines to write copy. There is a lack of emotion and empathy in computer-generated words, as well as a loss of the flexibility that is associated with content writing. For example, any pop culture references, which so often help us identify with a topic or ideology, will be noticeably absent from AI-generated content.

Although neural networks are developing all the time, they have yet to simulate the purity of language that comes from a human mind. Whilst number-based pieces containing easily defined variables can be created using AI, the heart of a piece still needs to come from, well, the heart.

 

Robot and human hand typing Could machines learn to write content with a human touch?

AI & Curating Relevant Content

Tailored news feeds have become another prevalent part of our online lives. Algorithms that memorise our favourite publications, news stories and general topics can help deliver us content that we are more likely to be interested and therefore read.

For businesses, content curation means trawling trending topics and news sites closely related to your industry to find articles that interest your key demographic to share. This connects you with your audience by saying “hey, we found this interesting and we think you might too!” The closer a company identifies with its audience, the more trustworthy and authoritative it become.

With AI-curated content, you are taking the legwork out of the search for relevant articles by allowing an algorithm to pick them for you. Not only that, but you can also analyse audience sentiment so content writers get to see which topics have the most potential for traction. Sentiment and context are incredibly important – it’s all well and good crafting a content piece to capitalise on a trending topic or story but being mindful of the general consensus can stop you having a PR hiccup.

Woman checking news feed AI can already can already tailor news feeds to a user's interests

AI & Real-Time Engagement

Chatbots are used by many brands that operate online. The ability to replicate conversation and give customers quick answers to the most frequently asked questions helps to solidify a positive brand-to-customer relationship – if they work, of course.

A well-performing chatbot will understand a customer’s basic request, supplying information that can be easily sourced from a wide number of ecommerce platforms. Not only can the chatbot provide customers with stock numbers and product information, but purchases could be easily completed without needing to leave the chat.

There are many brands using chatbots effectively, like Starbucks, which allows you to order and pay for your drink via a virtual barista either with text or voice commands. Many companies are using chatbots in favour of traditional email customer service. The back-and-forth emails of yesterday aren’t as effective for consumers as getting the answer to their question quickly through a chatbot. The output may not be human, but the speed and efficiency of a chatbot is in fact responding to very human needs.

Having said all this, businesses need to be mindful that if a chatbot doesn’t work, it will cause more harm than good. We all know how annoying it is when we ask Siri or Cortana a question only to be served up results for a sentence that doesn’t even make sense.

Me: “Hey Siri, show me Indian restaurants in Reading…”

Siri: “Showing results for India’s restrooms inbreeding”

No, Siri, just no.

AI & Hyper-Personalisation

Not every piece of content you compose is going to be received in the same way by every single one of your customers. Segmenting your content and delivering hyper-personalised interaction is key, whether these interactions be through your website, social media or email marketing.

Although there are some people who consider the current marketing trends a bit intrusive, the majority actually embrace the way in which brands collect information to offer a more tailored online experience, thereby making it more relevant to them. Interestingly, consumers also don’t want just the bare minimum when it comes to personalisation, with studies citing things like birthday emails or using first names in correspondence as not being personal enough to bother interacting with. Consumers want every part of their online experience to be bespoke, tailored to their unique needs and desires. It’s easier said than done, but with AI techniques becoming more and more advanced, it won’t be long until all businesses – large or small – will be expected to keep up.

Can AI Change the Content World?

The short answer is yes, it can. There are so many techniques being employed today that are exciting for both businesses and consumers. However, the foundation of any AI-based content strategy still starts with the content itself. So, copywriters like me are still safe – for now!