Is there a Role for AI in Online Marketing?

Is there a Role for AI in Online Marketing?

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By: Sarah Cornelisse*

For small businesses where there may only be a few people responsible for operating and managing all aspects of the business, dedicating sufficient time to marketing can feel like a chore. With artificial intelligence (AI) tools, however, it is possible to quickly generate content in a matter of seconds.

Marketing is both an art and a science. A certain degree of creativity is needed to develop marketing content that resonates whit and engages the desired consumer segment. For small businesses where there may only be a few people responsible for operating and managing all aspects of the business, dedicating sufficient time for marketing can feel like a chore.

“With artificial intelligence (AI) tools, however, it is possible to quickly generate content in a matter of seconds, freeing business owners or employees to focus on other tasks.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) is described by Brittanica as “the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.” AI has existed as a field of study for several decades, tracing its roots in the work of Alan Turing.

The discussion about artificial intelligence tools exploded into the mainstream with the release of ChatGPT in November 2022. Immediately, people began testing the capabilities of this tool, finding both valuable uses and identifying flaws.

Is there a Role for AI in Online Marketing?

While AI technologies have existed for some time (consider Siri or Alexa), continuing advances in technology leading to tools including ChatGPT and others are opening new possibilities. These tools may either be integrated into other platforms being used or existing as standalone applications.

For instance, ChatGPT is a standalone application accessed via browser, while Microsoft offers “AutoComplete” as a function in Word.

There are AI tools to assist with all aspects of marketing – text/ copy, image, video and music creation, scheduling, data analysis, and communication to name a few. To illustrate, consider a business that sends a monthly email newsletter with highlights shared on their website and social media channels.

The individual responsible for producing that content could use AI tools to generate topic ideas and outlines for newsletter articles and then ask the AI to create a tweet from a summary of the article content. A different AI could be used to produce original music to overlay with a TikTok video.

To share an example of what one AI tools can generate; below is part of a ChatGPT interaction.

Prompt: Give me some suggestions for aquaculture social media posts

ChatGPT: Sure! Here are some suggestions for aquaculture social media posts:

1.Sustainability Efforts: Highlight the eco-friendly practices you implement, such as water recycling, renewable energy use, or reduced waste management. People appreciate businesses that care for the environment.

2.Educational Infographics: Create visually appealing infographics explaining the benefits of aquaculture, its role in food security, and how it compares to other forms of protein production.

3.Q&A Sessions: Host live Q&A sessions with your aquaculture experts, where your followers can ask questions about aquaculture techniques, fish care, or anything related to the industry.

4.Infographics on Nutritional Value: Create infographics comparing the nutritional benefits of different fish species, emphasizing the importance of incorporating fish in a balanced diet.

These are just a few of the suggestions that came back in response to my prompt. As you can see, they are general in nature and could be used and applied by all types of farm businesses with just a bit of customization. Providing more specific prompts can improve responses or generate additional ideas. Take this next prompt, for example.

Prompt: What about ideas that highlight environmental responsibility

ChatGPT: Highlighting environmental responsibility is crucial for aquaculture farms. Here are some social media post ideas that focus on your farm’s commitment to the environment:

1.Water Conservation: Share how your farm optimizes water usage, employing efficient systems to reduce water waste and ensure responsible water management.

2.Monitored Water Quality: Explain how your farm regularly monitors water quality to ensure a clean and healthy environment for your farmed fish and surrounding wildlife.

3.Educational Videos: Create informative videos on environmental topics related to aquaculture, such as the importance of preserving marine biodiversity or the impact of climate change on aquatic ecosystems.

4.Long-term Sustainability Goals: Share your farm’s long-term sustainability goals, demonstrating your commitment to continuously improving environmental practices.

For anyone whose strength does not lay in marketing, having an AI tool such as ChatGPT at hand can be very useful. In just a few seconds, a user can generate a plethora of ideas that they can choose from to use in their marketing activities. Additionally, AI tools can easily generate content for use in a variety of marketing formats, from long-form articles and blog posts to concise text for tweets or as part of a Facebook post.

“For cash-strapped businesses, utilizing AI can be a costeffective option when compared to hiring marketing consultants or developing an in-house marketing department.”

However, it’s important to not simply use the text output as generated verbatim. Your marketing needs to feel authentic to the consumer so ensuring that the “voice” of your marketing content matches real life and your business’s brand is important.

Also critical is the need to check the accuracy of the generated content. It can be risky; for example, to rely on AI to provide correct information on current regulations pertaining to the licensing and sales of food products in your geographic area. Thus, a degree of caution should be used when asking for increasingly detailed information.

“Finally, since AI tools may not disclose the sources of information for the content generated, there is the potential that the output includes copyrighted or plagiarized material.”

Artificial intelligence tools are “trained” by feeding them datasets from which the model used by the AI tools find patterns. The patterns are then used when responding to inquiries.

If the AI hasn’t been trained on data appropriate or relevant to your inquiry, or if the human responsible for training the tool has a bias that impacted the choice of data used in development, the AI tool output may not be factually correct. For instance, the following prompt was given to Dalle-2, an AI tool for image creation.

Prompt: illustrate in circular fashion the lifecycle of a trout fish showing the stages of development. Include stages: eggs, alevin, fry, juvenile and adult. Do not label the images with text.

The Figure 1 is one of the outputs that was generated following several increasingly descriptive prompts. It is clear that the AI tool used was unable to generate an image as requested, desired, or that might be expected by someone with knowledge of the trout lifecycle.

 Is there a Role for AI in Online Marketing?

If you decide to try integrating AI into your marketing work, here are some tips for success:

Provide specific prompts. There are numerous guides and articles online that provide examples of how to best word prompts to generate the desired type of output. As you gain experience using an AI tool, you will also learn how to phrase prompts to generate the desired output.

✓ Be prepared to work through iterations of requests to generate a final product. The accuracy and appropriateness of results improve with the level of information provided to the AI tool through prompts. Providing the “right” amount and type of information typically takes multiple tries, particularly if the user wants a highly detailed response specific to their operation.

Ensure the accuracy of the information. AI output is only as good as the data that the tool is trained on. Therefore, ensure that the output generated in response to your prompts fits your understanding and knowledge of the topic.

Personalize output. Even with prompts that are specific to your business and situation, responses should be tailored to fit your personal voice and brand before begin using in your marketing. Remember that consumers want to connect with businesses on a personal level, something that AI can’t replace.

Artificial intelligence can be a useful tool for online marketing, just like any other marketing tool. However, it should be used with full awareness of its capabilities and limitations. Marketers should view AI as an additional tool in their toolbox, not as a replacement for human experience, knowledge, and personal touch.

Sara Cornelisse

Where trade names appear, no discrimination is intended, and no endorsement by Penn State Extension is implied.
References and sources consulted by the author on the elaboration of this article are available under previous request to our editorial staff.
*Sarah Cornelisse is a Senior Extension Associate of agricultural entrepreneurship and business management at Penn State University in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education. Sarah has expertise in direct marketing, valueadded dairy entrepreneurship and marketing, the use of digital and social media for agricultural farm and food business marketing, and business and marketing planning and decision making.
Originally from New York State, she has a B.A in mathematics from the State University of New York at Geneseo, and M.S. degrees in Agricultural Economics and Animal Science, both from Penn State University.
Correspondence email: sar243@psu.edu
Editor’s note: references cited by the author within the text are available under previous request to our editorial team.

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