Technology is always evolving, but it seems to have catapulted to the forefront the last several months. Emerging tech such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are powerful tools that can drive engagement and have a positive impact on companies’ bottom lines. According to one Cisco report, the use of virtual and augmented reality will realize a compound annual growth rate of 82 percent, increasing 20-fold between now and 2021.
With AI, businessowners can automate mundane, redundant tasks so that employees can focus on mission-critical projects, potentially cutting costs and increasing productivity. Companies are already using AI for things such as sifting through college admissions applications, screening resumes and scheduling meetings. Imagine what it could do for content marketing?
Ultimately, we don’t create content just for the sake of creating content. Our goal is to move a prospect through the path to purchase. To do this, we create relevant content for audiences at each stage of the marketing funnel. Could AI make this process faster and more efficient?
The ubiquity of content marketing (91% of B2B marketers, and 86% of B2C marketers are using it according to CMI 2018 stats) makes it much more difficult for brands to stand out. As marketers, we know the impact that great content can have. Companies have been trying to replicate the incredible success of content like LinkedIn’s Sophisticated Marketer Series for years.
According to Content Marketing Institute (CMI), businesses that publish 16+ posts a month get almost 3.5 times more traffic than businesses that publish only up to four articles. For most companies, though, publishing one blog a week, much less one every day, just isn’t realistic.
I’ve always said that as writers, we’re pretty much just glorified researchers. Sifting through data is something we spend a great amount of time doing. But if bots could handle the research—collecting and organizing facts and spitting out statistics—would that change the game for writers? Does it allow us to get back to the craft of writing, leaving the research to a robot?
The journalism industry thinks so. Heliograf is an AI agent that is helping to change the face of the industry and is freeing up reporters to focus their time and attention on substantial storytelling.
While someone controls the narrative, an algorithm might put the facts together. Heliograf sifts through data, and pulls together a story that is then turned over to humans who provide editorial judgement (something we can’t automate, yet). It’s not much different then tasking a junior level writer with an assignment—they can get the story about 80% of the way there, then a seasoned writer can put the finishing touches on before it’s published.
Pick of the Content Litter
Writers are typically stretched thin, so being able to decide which topics they take on, and which they’ll leave to the bots is a smart play.
Jeremy Gilbert, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Washington Post, said in a recent NPR interview, “Our writers don’t necessarily want to write stories that are derived solely from data, they want to ask the right questions, they want to gather the right quotes, they want to observe the right scenes. Those are the kinds of stories we don’t want to write algorithmically, those are the kinds of stories we need to send journalists in the field to do. And if anything, we don’t want our journalists doing the stories the machines can do. Because then they can’t do the stories that they want to do and that our audience really wants.”
As it turns out, machines have been automatically generating content for years for companies such as the Associated Press, Yahoo, and Fox. You’ve probably even read content written by an algorithm without knowing it. But, much the same way having spell check doesn’t mean we don’t need editors, using AI agents doesn’t mean we don’t need writers.
Facts and Figures Rule Content
According to Curata, marketers can use AI to automatically generate content for simple stories such as data updates and industry reports. Imagine you have an editorial calendar made up of thoughtful, human-written blog posts, but supplement that with blogs, tweets, Facebook posts – even graphics of stats for sites like Instagram. What would that do for your Google rankings, your engagement levels, and your brand’s awareness?
And if you did have the resources to publish daily, using a tool that not only freed up your writers, but saved time and resources, imagine what that would do for your bottom line. If brand marketers do decide to take advantage of AI, how can content marketing agencies survive, and continue to thrive? Content strategy is not something a bot can do (at least not yet). Your agency’s intellectual property and experience are what set you apart from the rest. Writers—whether full-time employees or freelancers—who have honed their voice and their craft to near perfection will still be a valuable commodity.
Remember that while AI agents might look like a time saver to many, someone has to write the code and develop the statistical information that informs that AI machine.
The Science (and Art) of Storytelling
The truth is that while storytelling is, in fact, a science, the strongest stories humanize a brand, capturing not only audiences’ attention, but their brains. And when people connect a positive emotion with a brand, they’re more likely to remember it. Consumers say they feel most emotionally connected with brands that come across as caring about people like themselves, according to recent research from CustomerThermometer.
And until a machine can generate emotion and tell a story that compels a reader to act (click, try, buy), we’ll still have our day jobs. When AI and bots starting churning out content for brands of all sizes, it’ll be just another marketing trend. The bandwagon will become super crowded and the few that jump off – standing out with human thoughts and emotions – will win. Just like content marketing now, just like experiential marketing before it, and direct mail before that. The best we can do is to hone our craft and keep learning, providing thoughtful discourse that moves the conversation forward.