Over the last 10 years, social media has provided brands, big and small, a platform to infinitely scale. Through social media, brands can reach a large audience, go viral, foster retention and communicate core values at minimal costs. Marketing professionals understand how important social media is to their core business, understanding their prospects and customers as well as generating new leads. While social media has introduced plenty of opportunities to marketers, there are also new and evolving challenges. Keeping up with thousands (or in some cases hundreds of thousands) of daily Facebook and Twitter likes and mentions, larger brands can really struggle to meet the demands of their audience. For others, the process of A/B testing takes valuable time away from small social media teams ability to create valuable content that hits the high notes with their audience. Recently, advances in marketing technology allows for micro-targeting, slicing a broader audience into clusters, and delivering tailored messaging to these clusters through email, web, and mobile. This intersection of marketing technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is creating an inflection point in social media. Here is how marketers can supercharge their social media campaigns with the power of AI.
What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
While I will do my best not to burden you with technical jargon, I will try to explain artificial intelligence through my own experiences using it. In late 2016, I took some online courses in big data, analytics, SQL, and Python. While learning about AI, the first algorithm I put together was a simple image recognition bot. I provided the bot with approximately 2500 photos of vinyl records from my personal collection and told the bot that these are photos of vinyl records. Based on this data (in this case, the pixels which make up each image) the bot will try to find similarities, and teach itself what a vinyl record looks like. When the bot is given a new photo it has never seen before, it will determine whether this is a picture of a vinyl record or not.
While this is an over-simplification of what constitutes machine learning algorithms, it helps us understand three basic concepts of what an AI is: an AI program is an artificial neural network that teaches itself how to get better at a specific task; AI is bound by a few rules; and at least for the foreseeable future, these systems need to be told what to do. So if you are hesitant to adopt AI as part of your social media marketing endeavours over concerns a machine will take over your job, I hope this explanation of what AI is and does ease your worries. Now, lets see how AI algorithms can be given the task to present individuals with engaging content on social media.
A long time ago, in boardrooms both near and afar, marketing executives used market research to portion audiences based on their demographics, earnings, workplace environments and locations. As technology evolved, marketers began further defining these broad audience profiles to ensure the right message, appeared before the right people, at the right time. But now, channels have increased, audiences have become more diverse while attention spans have decreased. Furthermore, the data has changed and content on the internet is less dependent on numbers and text and more on visuals. This fire-hose of data makes discerning any real trends from the wealth of information available harder. True, automation does help with timing and to an extent your messaging, but AI takes it a step further. AI has improved to such a point where it is possible to present specific content, on a specific platform, at the right time, for the right people. In addition to timing and messaging, through AI’s computer-powered vision, it is possible to leverage visual data. Whether you are looking for usage of your logo (or misuse of your logo), moments of product consumption or other user-generated content, AI can help you examine thousands of relevant images on social media, and apply your expertise on which ones matter most to your brand.
Finding and connecting with the right influencer can really boost your brand. Although influencer marketing is a recent phenomenon like AI, without a doubt brand ambassadors have become pivotal to your brand’s social media presence. Thus it is important brands have the best intelligence into their association with certain influencers who will resonate the most with your ideal buyer personas. Insights from social data can help identify suitable influencers who fit your brand’s unique personality and goals. Using the power of AI when identifying influencers can help you find that special person or people who really speak to your target audience in ways that match a little stronger than pure human curation.
For many marketers, customer service remains an after-thought. However having personally been in customer service roles, as Community Manager and Onboarding Specialist for a healthcare technology company, I can see real value in turning a grumpy customers day around with top-notch support. Social media is one of the most immediate channels customers often come to when they need help. Going beyond FAQ’s or other how-to collateral, AI customer service takes self-service interfaces to the next level. These are not simply practical and cost-efficient, but the intelligence over time can learn from chat history, preferences and context and anticipate certain customer needs from this information. Customers love attentive support, and if that level of customer care can be delivered preemptively with AI, people will appreciate your actions and that will help strengthen the bond between themselves and your brand.
Just over a decade ago, when I first began to be professionally involved with digital marketing and digital advertising, I remember being on sales calls with clients and prospects, selling them on the idea of the internet as a marketing channel, let alone that of using social media as part of their marketing initiatives. Perceptions change with time and evidence, and I do feel that AI will be making waves in social media marketing in the near future. Although I have my own reservations about the technology; as a brand guardian, I am concerned with brands becoming all things to all people as micro-targeting messaging breaks apart your true brand values, overall I think the benefits of using AI in your social media campaigns certainly outweigh the risks. At the very least, your marketing team should be tasked with learning a little bit about the technology and see how it fits your overall marketing objectives. As the world of AI continues to overlap with social media, marketers must understand the creative potential AI offers your brand to communicate and connect with people on social networks.