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All of that is future speculation. What you might not know is that in reality, AI is already influencing the way we live and market online. Through machine learning, some of the world's biggest platforms are taking advantage of the concept to improve their content offering.
Forget about the human threat for a second. Increasingly, entire industries are wondering whether automated, intelligent processes could replace a skilled workforce. The same is true in content marketing.
But what impact will and does AI actually have on your content marketing efforts? Do increasingly automated processes pose a threat or an opportunity for your business? A comprehensive answer can only be possible through an examination of where we stand today, and where AI and content marketing are heading in the near future.
Machine Learning In Content Marketing Today
You might not know it, but machine learning is already all around you. If you engage in content marketing of any type, you've probably already come across it, namely in the form of newsfeed and search algorithms, as well as the more recent chatbots.
The Relevance of Newsfeed Algorithms
Any digital marketer knows that in social media, chronological newsfeeds have long become a thing of the past. Instead, almost every network ranks posts by your friends, likes, and contacts according to what the network 'thinks' will be most relevant to you.
But how does a website actually think? The answer lies in machine learning. On the backend, an algorithm takes into account variables ranging from past interactions with a specific source to the content's connections to your own updates.
For the user, that results in a more relevant experience that only improves over time. For the marketer, it's an undeniable headache. Either way, machine learning is already influencing the way brands market on social media in a major way today.
The Intricacies of Google RankBrain
Search engine optimization necessarily means understanding how Google and Bing actually rank potentially relevant search results. Increasingly, that process relies less on manual updates and more on a self-learning algorithm. For Google, that algorithm is called RankBrain.
As explained by a comprehensive FAQ page on Search Engine Land, RankBrain seeks to improve searches by providing relevant results that might not include the exact words searched for. Over time, it learns connections it can then apply globally.
Searching for 'blogging' might begin to include results for 'content writing' if the terms have been used interchangeably enough times. Searching for 'wife of Obama' will result in search results for Michelle Obama.
The Brave New World of Chatbots
And then we get to chatbots, undeniably the shiny new toy when it comes to AI in content marketing today. The term describes a variation of the increasingly popular live chat, distributing automated responses that base themselves off keywords in specific questions asked.
Executed well, this feature approximates the experience your web visitors (or social media users) would have with an actual representative of your company. It learns question and response patterns, developing relevant answers to frequent questions on its own and outside of regular business hours.
As a result, chatbots have contributed significantly to improving customer experience across industries. It allows your brand to be available for questions at all hours and everyday, without having to staff customer service positions for those hours.
The Decreasing Need For Human Content Creators
Artificial intelligence has also manifested itself in more than just machine learning. Two years ago, the Associated Press began experimenting with bots that could write simple news stories without human input. That same year, Gartner predicted that by 2018, 20 percent of business content creation would be automated.
The trend is visible in the realm of content curation, an indispensable part of any comprehensive content marketing efforts. Today, automated software can find relevant content based on specific keywords and industries, and compile that content into a singular newsletter or blog post.
Both of these trends have given rise to concerns from journalists and other content creators, who worry that their art form is being replaced by a more automated, formulaic process. And we're only at the beginning of AI in content marketing.
The Potential Power Of Predictive Intelligence
Increasingly, industry experts are beginning to imagine just what machine learning could contribute in transforming content marketing as we know it today. Consider this 2016 HubSpot article on the power of better analytics through machine learning:
"Predictive intelligence is making businesses more efficient, effective and successful. B2B companies deploying predictive intelligence for marketing activities are closer to the holy grail of understanding each individual customer—and personalizing all content to their needs and interests."
Sounds pretty impressive, and it's already happening. The ideal result is more personalized marketing adjusted to each customer, along with a better selection process that allows you to understand your ideal audience before they even know they're it.
Another potentially significant impact will be in the timing of your messages. As any content marketer knows, even the best message will be ineffective if it comes at even just the slightly wrong time. Soft-selling a lead that's ready to buy can be just as unsuccessful as a sales pitch on someone who's only just found out about your company.
Through predictive intelligence, marketers will be able to not just better understand their audience, but also improve their timing. Imagine being able to dynamically compile your leads' recorded interactions with your digital content, and sending an email for more information just when they most need it. The potential is there, and some big budget brands are already starting to utilize it.
Will AI Render Content Writing Superfluous?
All of that is well and good. But what will artificial intelligence ultimately do to the people who write the content? If a recent study is to be believed, the effects could actually be positive rather than negative.
As pointed out by NPR, qualitative writers and authors have only a 3.8 percent chance of being automated anywhere in the near future. The reason is simple: creativity is not an ingredient that can easily be replaced by machines, no matter how advanced they are.
As it relates to written content, then, AI has the potential to enhance rather than replace the creation process. Better, more predictive analytics will result in more relevant content that your audience loves to read.
In addition, automation at lower levels can actually improve higher-level content as well. If a software package can perform your curation efforts for you, your expertise is freed up to write better, longer, more engaging and thought-leadership-type blog posts.
In other words, we're far removed from an environment in which content writers sit curbside, displaced by a network of computers who can do their job better than humans ever could. Highly relevant and valuable content will always matter, and at least for the foreseeable future, can only be created by skilled professionals.
AI, then, takes on a supportive role. Taking advantage of the concept means enhancing your existing marketing initiatives through better data, and an easier focus on the types of content that most speak to your audience's desires and pain points.
Look at it from that perspective, and it becomes increasingly clear: artificial intelligence is not here to replace content marketing as we know it today. If you know how to take advantage of it, though, it does have the potential to transform the concept.
Is your business ready for that transformation?