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Using AI in Digital Marketing (A Guide for Beginners)

Apr 12, 2022

Learn how your marketing team can easily utilize AI for everyday tasks.

You’ve likely heard the buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) and big data. They’re popular topics of conversation, especially considering the dramatic rise in popularity of chatbots and virtual assistants.

When we think of AI, we often imagine those green Matrix numbers rolling down the screen, but in reality AI software is a lot less complicated than that. A good example of everyday AI use is when you start to Google something and autocomplete helps fill in the rest of your search. In one way or another, we all use AI more often than we think.

Because AI is assumed to be highly technical, it can be difficult for marketing teams to consider how it applies to their work. But artificial intelligence is quickly becoming more and more accessible to marketers across all business sizes, skill levels, and budgets.

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In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of AI, including:

  1. What AI is
  2. How AI works
  3. Easy ways that you can use AI technology in your marketing strategy

What is artificial intelligence?

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are often used interchangeably, and although they are related, they aren’t the same.

AI is the field of computer science that aims to replicate human intelligence in machines. It’s a vast field that covers everything from programming computers so they behave like humans to developing systems capable of learning and problem-solving.

Machine learning is a subset of AI technology that is responsible for making sure computers adapt and learn every time they receive new bits of data. Essentially, machine learning ensures that computers are more efficient when it comes to problem-solving.

In its earliest stages, AI was an attempt to make machines perform simple tasks that required human intelligence. In modern times, AI has become part of our everyday lives. From self-driving cars and smart home devices to facial recognition, intelligent personal assistants, and social media platforms—all of these are powered by AI.

How does AI work?

Artificial intelligence sounds post-apocalyptic, but really it’s quite simple (in theory, that is; actually building AI technology is very complicated).

AI essentially works by providing a computer with an intended outcome, then programming the computer to find the best way to achieve that result. Over time, the more data the AI tool is able to process, the more efficient it gets at achieving said outcome.

Let’s think about a real-life example.

Netflix has developed its own internal AI to help market movies and TV shows. In this case, the intended outcome is for a user to watch more content on Netflix’s platform. Netflix’s AI processes a user’s data, compares it to similar customers, then—using predictive analytics—suggests a movie or show for the user to watch.

The more content the user engages with, the more data the AI receives, and the better the AI marketing gets at recommending content the user is interested in.

The way Netflix markets its shows and films is similar to how other companies market products (interpreting customer data to make similar or related product suggestions that encourage additional purchases).

You might be thinking: “That’s great, but Netflix is a multi-billion dollar company with its own complex internal AI system and I’m a small business! AI marketing still seems pretty inaccessible.” And although you’re definitely right about the multi-billion dollar part, there are a few AI solutions that can be utilized by small businesses with limited budgets.

What are some easy ways to implement marketing AI?

Artificial intelligence has developed significantly over the past few years, and AI marketing has evolved along with it. AI marketing has become easier to use, more accessible, and more affordable.

Marketing teams have started to realize the massive potential benefit of using an AI solution for some of the heavy lifting associated with their work.

Here are a few ways you can easily integrate AI into your marketing efforts:

Utilizing social media platforms’ built-in AI marketing tools

Every social media platform (and we do mean every platform) uses its own internal AI processes to deliver the best customer experience to users and advertisers. Facebook, TikTok, LinkedIn—all of these platforms sift through user data to show them content that is highly tailored to their personal tastes and ads that are likely to convert.

But following Apple’s release of iOS14 that allows users to control third-party tracking/cookies, you may be wondering if it’s even worth investing in social media advertising when targeting can’t be as tailored as it once was.

However, because these apps still have access to first-party data (information directly collected in the app), they actually still have a pretty good idea of what their users like to engage with and what advertising will compel users to convert.

If you’d like to learn more about the death of third-party cookies check out this article.

So how do you use social media’s internal AI to your advantage? The short answer is you just let it do its thing. When you set up a marketing campaign on an advertising platform, you select a goal. After you set up the age bracket, location targeting, interest targeting, and creative, the platform’s AI will kick in and start delivering the ad to the users who are most likely to convert.

A saved audience using location, age, and behavior filters in facebook ads

A saved audience using location, age, and behavior filters in Facebook Ads ( Source )

The more time the ad has to run, the more efficient the platform gets at achieving the goal you selected when you set up the campaign. After a few tweaks here and there, it’s entirely possible that you can run the same creative for up to a year if it’s converting well.

AI chatbots

Installing an AI chatbot is perhaps one of the easiest ways to utilize AI in marketing, and it’s usually not that expensive. The way an AI chatbot works is by feeding the software responses to common questions. Then, over time, the bot becomes better at answering customer queries.

Chatbots enable a better customer experience for users who engage with your site. Not only do they allow you to respond to inquiries outside of business hours (which is particularly helpful across time zones), but they also help move users along the customer journey.

AI for SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an iterative process that requires consistent attention, and can be extremely labor-intensive for your marketing team. Not only is the research stage data-heavy, but implementation of good, SEO-focused copywriting can take time.

Many businesses see the inherent value of SEO, but few actually understand that seeing results from optimization can take anywhere from three to 12 months. For some, this investment is difficult to justify considering the reward is only realized after a lengthy period.

AI technology can help reduce the time and effort it takes to produce well-written, SEO-driven content, which means digital marketers can produce more content at a faster pace, putting them at an advantage when their site does start to see results from their SEO efforts.

There are three main ways that AI can help with search engine optimization:

1. Site hygiene

The last thing you want is to put significant effort into making your site SEO-friendly only to find out you’re being penalized because you have a few HTTP pages lurking in the sitemap somewhere or a bunch of missing metadata. Luckily, there are a lot of (affordable!) AI tools out there that automatically crawl your site for you to make sure it’s in tip-top shape.

2. Keyword research

Keyword research can be incredibly labor-intensive and overwhelming, just based on the sheer amount of data available. SEO tools can sift through the data to provide a better idea of the keywords you should target to attract customers.

The AI in these tools can also look at your website and provide related keywords and questions, which is useful for identifying gaps in your content.

An important thing to note is that many tools that offer site hygiene also offer keyword research, so even if you’re reaching for the paid version you’re still likely to get some good value for money.

3. Content creation

Developing good content can take ages, so having an AI tool to do some of that heavy lifting can significantly cut down turnaround time for you and your team. The faster you can create content, the more content you can put on your site, and the better it is for SEO.

These tools aren’t perfect, but with a little human editing, AI-written pieces can be just as effective as those written by a copywriter. (In fact, a large chunk of this article was written by an AI tool.)

Hire a digital agency that specializes in AI

While this is the most expensive way to integrate AI into your digital marketing in this article, it’s also the easiest. Hiring an agency that specializes in AI means the agency can take care of setting up all of the above, and will often include the costs for all necessary tools in their service fees/charges.

Their experience also enables faster turnaround times, more refined campaigns and projects, and frees up your marketing team to take care of more important things than sifting through keyword data.

Let artificial intelligence do the heavy lifting for your marketing

There is absolutely a place for artificial intelligence in today’s digital marketing solutions, and not enough businesses are capitalizing on it. From utilizing existing AI on advertising platforms to AI chatbots, artificial intelligence has truly progressed to the point where novices can start using it in a meaningful way to help their businesses achieve success.

Hopefully, this article has provided you with some easy ways to start integrating AI into your marketing strategy. If you’d like to continue learning about how AI relates to digital marketing, check out these additional articles.

Are you interested in becoming a guest writer for Capterra? Reach out to guestcontributors@gartner.com for details.

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