How is Artificial Intelligence Changing the use of Social Media in Online Marketing

connecting with older consumers

What AI is (and Isn’t) in social media

We are all familiar with AI (Artificial Intelligence), we’ve seen I Robot and read the stories of how machines can be better than humans, haven’t we. Maybe you also recognize that, in some cases, science fiction is now science fact, and is evident in nearly every area of our lives. But how much do you really know about AI and what it means in terms of social media in online marketing?

I mean, isn’t having a machine engage in social media the opposite of social?

First of all, let’s consider that AI is a process of making things smarter. Robotics, natural language, visual perception, and machine or ’deep’ learning has a major impact on the ways in which AI can be used.  But what do machine and deep learning mean, and how are these technologies relevant to social media?

Machine learning is: [source]

is the scientific study of algorithms and statistical models that computer systems use in order to perform a specific task effectively without using explicit instructions, relying on patterns and inference instead. It is seen as a subset of artificial intelligence.

Another way of looking at machine learning is as a programming process that enables a system to find solutions independently through pattern recognition. In other words, using algorithms and datasets that have been fed into the system, along with rules of analysis, the AI is able to identify solutions based on patterns, that humans struggle to observe and commonly gain the ability to see through experience.

Extending this approach, deep learning is a function of AI that mimics the way the human brain works. In other words, data is processed, and patterns are created and embedded in the system for future use in decision making.  The process has developed with the digital revolution, and the exponential rise in available data, what we now call “big data”, and allows for high levels of analysis and re-structuring to support automated decision making.

social media in online marketing
Photo by Alex Knight from Pexels

Impact of AI on social media in online marketing

That’s the technical part, but what is the impact specifically of AI on social media?

Social media and its potential reach consumers around the globe already changed the face of traditional marketing, offering two-way communication with customers, and changing marketing from a passive to an active relationship with potential customers. But AI can extend this further with the ways in which machine and deep learning can make use of all that lovely customer information coming your way?

“Slack bots” are AI that is specifically developed to have conversations with users. Firms can give their “bot” a name, a personality, and the ability to encourage responses. Alexa and Cortana are examples of this type of Slack bots, but in a social media context, firms can use them to post messages, respond to comments, and compare the potential reach and engagement levels of posts by comparing to previous uploads and comments, using machine learning. This is great news for online marketers since it takes much of the guesswork out of social media such that the firm optimizes both content and timing to generate engagement and produce market returns! An interesting aspect of using slack bots is that they can be invited to other channels and forums (but also be removed – so be sure their activities are managed properly).

On the subject of managing data, text mining and analysis in social media are vital when you want to create a personalized or highly segmented marketing campaign and strategy. AI can extract relevant information and reduce the time spent considering potential audience responses as these are predicted by the AI-based on available data. A question constantly asked in marketing is when is the best time to upload a post, is it morning, afternoon, or evening, and how frequently should you post?  AI analyzes responses and engagements and predicts the best time to post information on different social media networks to gain the optimum level of engagement and interest in your products and services. So, AI has the major benefit in evaluating and analyzing all those lovely comments, photos, and responses (or ‘big data’, if you prefer) and taking some of the guesswork out of online marketing.  That’s good news for you and equally, good news for your customers!

social media in online marketing
Photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash

Improved customer engagement

The advent of social media meant that customers expect a response quickly and that the response provides positive solutions when they make a complaint or comment on an organization’s social media pages. Obviously, and particularly in a small business context, you can’t be on your social media pages 24 hours a day, but AI can. Although still evolving, and with attendant issues around the ethics and value of using chatbots or other AI to engage with customers, the use of online texting services for customer service is revolutionizing customer service engagement and reducing the time and resources needed to answer phones.

Recognizing this, online marketing can benefit from using AI to predict problems, prioritize complaints based on the language used and respond based on these predictions. The result is happy customers, quick responses, and strong reputation building for your firm, as well as potentially increasing conversion rates.

For those concerned with cybersecurity: AI can filter spam posts and spot a fake social media account, reducing the time and effort needed to identify these by your customer service team, leaving them more time to engage directly with customers (when the AI hasn’t already done it for them of course!).

Platform-specific uses of AI

There are some other factors and applications that you should also know about in terms of how AI is changing social media in online marketing, based on specific platforms and their AI capabilities.

First of all, Facebook. AI is a big thing for Facebook and they are one of the market leaders in social media for using and benefiting from the technology. Probably one of their most widely used AI applications is facial recognition – all that tagging you do for people is done with AI, and all those ads you see – are powered by AI-based on your searches, comments, and interactions.

But there’s more. Currently, the company is working to develop a hardware project called Building 8 which is working to connect Facebook to your brain waves. The current stage of the project is unclear but indications are that there will be something akin to Google Glass or Snap Spectacles, in other words, the aim is to adopt a virtual reality approach to targeting. The company wants to create a lens that connects to the brain and eyes and use these to enhance your Facebook experience.

Sound like science fiction?  Not anymore, and ignoring these developments could leave you behind in the online marketing race for customer interaction.

AI can also deal with inappropriate posts that may land on your pages, impacting the way users think about your brand. Visual recognition algorithms can identify pornographic or other questionable images and immediately remove them. Work is also ongoing to ensure AI identifies language which incites hate, racism, or prejudice.

Although the AI uses natural language processing, the underlying pragmatic context is still unclear to the program and is something that needs a resolution in the future to achieve effectiveness in filtering out issues with posts. Facebook is not alone in using AI – Pinterest uses the technology to make personalized recommendations based on previous searches and indicated interests.

artificial intelligencePhoto by Hitesh Choudhary on Unsplash

Using AI to analyze emotions

A particularly interesting application for using AI on social media in online marketing is the ability of AI to analyze human emotions.  The maturity of image processing technology means that emotions can be identified from a webcam by mapping facial expressions to known combinations of emotions and faces. This has clear implications for online marketing when considered in the context of online interactions.

Using AI, responses to ads, product placement, or even social media comments can be recorded and interpreted in real-time, and potentially modified to achieve the desired positive response (engagement, purchase, or sharing of information). Crucially if the response is not positive, or the consumer appears confused or disinterested, the images/stimulus can be modified until the desired emotional response is achieved.

Pessimists and doom merchants might call this a form of brainwashing, but it’s not so different from a salesperson having a conversation with a person and adjusting their speech, body language, and intent to get the response right. The very aim of marketing and social media marketing, in particular, is to create engagement, develop relationships, and create positive responses from consumers.

There is room for questioning whether AI will cause the death of the personal touch in marketing, and could even cost people their jobs, but individualized responses on social media in online marketing suggest that approaches in the future will be even more personal.

Of course, automating processes and analyses will remove some aspects of the marketing job but the reality is that jobs will likely change, but not eliminated.

We all know the old adage about working smarter, not harder. AI makes that possible. You can spend your time developing creative campaigns and let the AI take the hard work out of analyzing the effectiveness of your campaign. Plus you can understand and see, in real-time, how your customers respond to your social media posts and adjust your content quickly. At the end of the day, that’s what we all want from our marketing – a positive response from all our customers and AI can certainly be implemented in your business to make this possible.

This is a guest post from Ellie Richards

Author bio

Ellie Richards is an Online Marketing Manager for Ph.D. Writing company Original Ph.D. She specializes in research, content, and article writing on various topics, including education, marketing, and technology.

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