We’re entering a new world in content marketing. A world of algorithms, datasets, automation, machine learning, predictive analytics and, of course, that misnomer catch-all – artificial intelligence (AI). Many of us are excited about this new adventure, many are anxious, most of us are just plain bewildered. What does it do? What does it mean? What’s my job going to be like—if I even have one?
According to the 2017 Economist Intelligence Unit report, which surveyed more than 200 global business executives, 75% said they would implement AI in their companies within the next three years. 79% believe AI will make their jobs easier and more efficient. According to Gartner, the artificial intelligence market is set to surpass $100 billion by 2025.
So we all know that we need to start planning and preparing for this, but we’re just not sure for what.
At this stage in our evolution as content marketers (and a species), artificial intelligence does not (yet) mean almost-sentient systems of semiconductor synapses that are going to put us all out of jobs.
“Artificial Intelligence” is, at its essence, a shiny short-hand for super-sophisticated organization—the creation of layers of information and the use of technology to understand the relationships between those layers of information. Understanding those layers lets us intuit future relationships, and allows us to prepare for future engagements our customers might have with our brand.
By looking for patterns and combining this information with smart, modular and semantically rich content, we can deliver more authentic communication, more relevant messaging, a better customer experience and thus more sales and more loyal customers.
Segmentation and targeting.
Artificial intelligence systems represent the next frontier of personalization, with the ability to create thousands of tailored content experiences that will enrich your relationships with your customers – albeit only if that personalization allows for more relevant information to be sent their way.
Offer selection and pricing.
The more we know, the more we’re going to be able to guide our customers (and crucially too, people who behave similarly to them) through their experience with our brand. We’ll be able to offer them additional information and provide alternatives, suggestions and upsells. We may even, if we want to take that risk, charge different people different prices dependent on our perceived sense of their future value.
Customer service and support.
And we’ll be able to offer more personalized support – support that is there at the right time and that addresses the right issues. We’ll be able to provide customer service that delivers loyalty and ongoing dialogue.
Necessity of a Human Connection.
But we’re not all going to be swept away (or aside) by big data and automated content. The Washington Post’s experience with automated story-telling technology can help illuminate why. Their proprietary tool, Heliograf, is used to cover areas such as the weather, local political results and high-school football games in the Washington DC metro area and, in so doing achieves two things. Firstly, it enables the Washington Post to deliver more highly localized news easily and efficiently. More importantly, it allows the rest of the news team to focus on more in-depth reporting where a human touch is needed. The most important stories require depth, intuition, nuance and empathy. Heliograf can’t do that; all it can do is provide (admittedly needed) cover for humans to make their best pieces even better.
So, while it’s estimated that in 2018 20% of all business content will be authored by machines, that human touch is always going to be needed. Because, the art of brand storytelling is going to become more, not less, important.
If your brand is going to be successful in a world where people are ordering and engaging through a smart speaker, a smart phone or a chatbot, your brand needs to be the one consumers ask for by name. They will only do that if they feel a connection with you; a bond. And while we can deliver automated content efficiently, we can’t yet deliver automated content that is emotionally rich, that resonates and that has the clearly articulated values which create that bond. That sort of content still needs the craft of a storyteller – a human being.