Has automation in content marketing gone too far, or not far enough?

The US presidential debates have shown that Donald Trump has the Twitter bots on his side – and automation can be a useful tool for content marketers too

Artificial intelligence, bots, automation – all are terms referring to software specialising in repetitive tasks and user personalisation, in so quick a time as to put the average content marketer to shame.

A recent study of online activity during the first US presidential debate has revealed that 32.7% of pro-Donald Trump tweets came from automated accounts, while such accounts contributed to 22.3% of tweets favouring Hillary Clinton.

The results of the report, which suggests no areas are off limits to these rising content robots, could have some intriguing implications for content marketing.

Rise of the robots

With their superhuman speed and content mastery, bots have a great deal to offer their content marketing masters.

There’s a clear appetite among consumers for a customer experience beyond the capacities of a feeble human. One survey found 79% are frustrated with available customer support options, while 53% of consumers aged 18-34 preferred text message over phone communication for receiving customer support.

Consumers want to minimise human interaction while maximising personalised content. This is where content marketing bots come in.

Using Facebook Messenger as a platform, organisations ranging from the Wall Street Journal to the NBA have already started making use of chat bots. Users can go to them directly and, with a simple command, access a wealth of content that would otherwise require trawling through reams of impersonal information on a different app or website.

Content marketers could gain a lot from following these examples.

Mobilising robots behind your content ensures your pre-existing followers can access content tailored to them. In addition to freeing up time that content marketers would previously have had to spend on repetitive tasks, using automation allows greater reach – ensuring content can find the right people at the right times.

With 91% of users asserting that automation is “very important” to their success across different channels, it would appear that approaches to content marketing ignoring the AI explosion are in the minority.

A word of caution

So, from a content marketing perspective, the rise of our robotic companions leaves much to be positive about. But where does content come into the equation? The outlook here, unfortunately, looks less optimistic.

The aforementioned Trump versus Clinton bot standoff suggests that getting robots to do the dirty work of humans can result in aimless information slinging with content as the main casualty, authenticity giving way to brand capital, quality giving way to quantity.

Furthermore, over-reliance on artificial intelligence is a risky strategy for the uninitiated. In theory, handing content distribution control over to algorithms leaves content marketers free to be more creative. But in practice it can often lead to irrelevant content recommendations for consumers and disgruntlement and confusion from those on the receiving end of more unusual interactions.

This may be a risk that fledgling businesses attempting to establish a reputation for high quality content are reluctant to take.

Bill Gates’ wise counsel on automation still has tremendous resonance as artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated: apply it to efficient operations and their efficiency will be magnified, apply it to inefficient operations and their inefficiency will be magnified.

For the content marketer, a balanced approach is vital to ensure that gains on the content marketing side are not being paid for by content calamities.

The rule for bots and automation in content marketing is perhaps also a wise one for life: there’s nothing wrong with using robots, just don’t find yourself in a situation where they start taking over.

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