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When it comes to building a powerful web presence and online brand, content marketing is king. However, getting people to write that content can be a blessing or a challenge depending on the industry and specific business needs. What if it were possible for artificial intelligence to handle some of your needs? Could AI programs write content, edit it, handle complicated concepts like SEO research, or do other functions for content marketing?
Indeed, they could, and you could even get started today if you wished. While still in their infancy, the options already available may shock you, let alone what’s on the horizon. Let’s take a look at both while considering what this blossoming element of the content marketing world could mean for your business.
One of the greatest concerns to people with experience in content marketing is that artificial intelligence is not creative, and thus a poor fit for making quality work. This does not have to be the case thanks to a relatively new concept called Natural Language Generation, or NLG. NLG is the capacity for an AI to create convincing written content. Think of it as the Turing test for copywriting: prose that people assume was written by a human.
While still in its early stages, NLG is effective for content creation tasks that are simple and repetitive, such as short descriptions for a company that sells many iterations of a product. An artificial intelligence could analyze the data provided in an organized matter, such as a spreadsheet, and automatically generate engaging, concise descriptions through a skeletal framework. For example, imagine that a company that sells floor mats needs product descriptions. An algorithm could read the stats of each product and compose randomly generated, unique descriptions for each.
Image via Flickr by UC Davis College of Engineering
The prospect that written copy will start to be delegated to machines may be an unpopular idea among copywriters, or anyone else who values human involvement and autonomy. However, this is missing the empowering side of the issue. Imagine mundane and repetitive work or complicated SEO matters phased out of the expected human skillset, allowing content creators to focus only on the tasks that require true human brilliance. Beyond even that, there’s the potential for new positions in the content marketing world that fit somewhere between programmer and copywriter.
Let’s consider NLG again. While it can produce work far more efficiently than humans, an intelligent algorithm still needs to be made and tweaked to produce quality work. It would take an intelligent and creative human, with both artistic skills, marketing know-how, and an understanding of computer science, to compose these algorithms. Jobs like these are one of the most exciting prospects. Put simply, machines may take over the grunt work, but they need lots of maintenance and development by humans who decide what the machines should be able to do.
One of the most exciting things about content marketing AI is that it can vastly expand the potential output of a brand’s content. Consider a task like sending personalized emails to hundreds of thousands of customers recommending blog posts. With humans, the only real option is to craft a single email showing off the most recent post when it’s published, and sending it out to everyone.
Consider this alternative: an AI analyzes the browsing information of those hundreds of thousands of customers. It then crafts personalized emails that not only recommend which posts seem most likely to satisfy each customer, but provide a natural-sounding introduction to them and even a friendly explanation of why that one was recommended, even using whichever one of several tones and personas seems most appropriate. This is stuff that could all sound perfectly human, and yet the AI could do this on a scale that would require an implausibly gigantic team of people.
Think AI still can’t make important content? Associated Press releases thousands of news articles every year that were created with an algorithm. Naturally, these articles stick to the facts and don’t perform more difficult functions of journalism, but if this is happening now, what does the future hold? A world where most content marketing is handled by artificial intelligence is not a world where humans have no role in the content. There will always be a certain standard of creativity and individuality that machines can’t keep up with.
While the AI handles everything else, human beings will have far more room to create brilliant, personal content and handle other human functions of a business. Instead of creating a single e-book to gain leads, business AI will compose e-books regularly with the latest knowledge, while humans optimize the AI’s writing skills and learning capabilities. There will still be room for large-scale entry-level work for humans as editors, who go over the mountains of content produced by an AI and correct its mistakes, helping it learn and providing feedback for the programmers.
Artificial intelligence can already handle tasks like scheduling social media posts. UPS relies on it for calculating delivery routes and Amazon’s Alexa listens and answers questions like an actual person. Considering all of that, imagine a not-too-distant future where AI can find you the hottest keywords, create ideas for blog posts, write sharable content, test landing pages, deliver easy insights from analytics, and perform other work currently delegated to humans. This means that this future isn’t exclusive to the biggest businesses of the future.
Things won’t change overnight, but hopefully you see the empowerment that comes from the intersection of artificial intelligence and content. Keep in mind, however, that people are naturally good at detecting something fake. Today is not the day to trust your most important, one-off work, such as white papers or important blog posts, to robots. A skilled copywriter can apply the human touch to a piece and make it far more powerful, so always trust a human to handle your high-priority content needs. That’s how it works today, and that’s how it will work in the future.