Humanizing AI in Content Marketing
Recently, a not-to-be-named SEO agency pulled off what they are calling an “SEO Heist,” where they successfully stole traffic from a competitor site. However, it wasn’t this attempted daily practice by content strategists that drew attention – it is how they did it. The heist employed tactics that many people say are ruining search results and making the internet inhospitable. These tactics were, indeed, powered by AI.
The agency’s approach involved creating a vast array of articles (1,800 in total) using AI based on the competitor’s site map. This led to a significant shift in web traffic – reportedly 3.6 million visits – toward their site. While the numbers may seem impressive, this approach raised serious concerns about the integrity and authenticity of online content. The methods used were seen as a shortcut, bypassing their competitor’s hard work and investment and ultimately delivering content that lacked the depth and authenticity of human-generated material. Not only did this method undermine the competitor’s efforts but it also devalued the user experience online, ultimately resulting in what we anticipate will leave negative and lasting impressions.
AI is not the culprit in this scenario; rather, it is the individuals employing AI who are at fault for this breach of ethics. When used appropriately, AI can be a powerful tool to help ideate, research and flesh out concepts – but it is not a replacement for the empathetic and attuned human voice.
So, how should we be looking at content strategies in The Age of AI? We spoke to MMGY Global content strategists to understand how they are looking at their roles, how they are counteracting the ill effects of a few bad actors and how they maintain a sense of humanity in their content.
John Entwistle, Director of Content Strategy at MMGY Origin, cautions marketers who are relying too heavily on AI for content generation. “I think we as humans will become more adept at detecting what is genuine content and what is AI generated,” Entwistle says. “Of course, this will be a race with AI as it gets better and better and therefore less distinguishable. [But] smart content marketers should be able to create genuine content – maybe even with the help of AI – to cut through the clutter and noise that will appeal to the right people.”
Humans have something that AI can never replicate – and that is lived experience. Will AI ever advance beyond mimicry of human thought? Will AI evolve to live in the world around us? While artificial intelligence has shown us it can emulate patterns of human creativity, it falls short of the soulful essence that gives our creations life. The heart of creativity isn’t just the ability to generate something new but to resonate deeply with the ever-evolving tapestry of human experience.
MMGY Global recently deployed a tongue-in-cheek Reddit ad for our client Visit Myrtle Beach in which we faux-fired ourselves and handed the advertising reins to AI. What ensued was a hilarious mishap of ideation and misspellings that resulted in Visit Myrtle Beach being rebranded as “Mitarry Best.” Senior Copywriter Matt Sueper said, “Our clients didn’t expect the ad to get as much attention as it did, but it goes to show what clicks with people. It wasn’t just that the absurd AI-created images were funny – Redditors understood it was a commentary about how AI can’t replace human creativity. People can feel the soullessness of AI creations, and they sensed the humans behind our ad.”
While under the guise of artificial intelligence, this piece was actually carefully crafted by incredibly creative humans and does something that AI still struggles to do – make people laugh. Redditors are notoriously contentious toward brands and advertisements, but this team was so confident in the campaign that they left the comment section open – and it paid off. Comments applauding Visit Myrtle Beach’s sense of humor and playfulness filled the thread – and the AI overlord replied to each of them.
This is an example of content driven by strategic goals that ladders up to an overarching brand strategy. It goes beyond content for the sake of content and establishes a purpose that resonates with the brand and elevates it with the intended audience. People left this experience with a positive opinion of the Visit Myrtle Beach brand. Quality of connection over quantity of clicks should be central to any content strategy. What good is a click-through to your website if the visitor gains nothing from the interaction?
An Intimate Understanding of Consumers
The large language models (LLMs) that are powered by artificial intelligence are trained on an immense amount of content and data that was originally crafted by humans. However, this training data has a cutoff – and as of the date this article was written, ChatGPT’s training data is relevant up to April 2023. While motivations behind industries such as financial services may remain relatively unchanged over time and therefore may benefit from SEO articles written by AI to drive traffic, the reason behind people’s interest in travel evolves daily. Travel motivators change based on a myriad of factors: sociopolitical events, pop culture, economic vibrancy, existential evolutions – and LLMs are not equipped to deal with these rapidly evolving motivations. Only humans who are attuned to current events and relevant research can maneuver these constant changes. As current events evolve, people may be more or less likely to travel, new barriers to travel may emerge, or people’s emotional ties to destinations or experiences may change.
In MMGY Global’s Portrait of American Travelers® one can see these motivational changes happening in real-time. If relying on LLM training data, artificial intelligence may undersell American travelers’ concerns over their personal financial situation as a barrier to travel in the next six months, which in fact increased by 6% from Q1 to Q4 in 2023. It may also overrepresent people’s concern for having the time to travel, which decreased 7% in the same time frame. These changes are relatively minimal as we have seen fairly stable travel intent in 2023, but many years we see far greater swings in motivations and barriers caused by world events that LLMs simply don’t have access to. It is only through firsthand knowledge, real-world insights and relevant data that one can be attuned to what consumers need from content, and a great content strategist needs to synthesize all these things to capture the attention of their target audience.
One trend that Director of Content Strategy at MMGY Origin John Entwistle is watching closely is the utilization of LLMs to digest content and then summarize the key points. While there will always be those who prefer to read the entirety of an article or watch a full YouTube video to better understand the nuance of thought, many people will save time and consume more using this method.
“When AI is all of a sudden able to automatically serve us the highlights of a video or the most relevant articles from an entire webpage, we aren’t going to be looking just at SEO anymore but AI optimization to ensure that our content is properly summarized and it stands out in AI evaluation,” said Entwistle.
While we don’t have much detail as to how we optimize for AI now, this is certainly something we will be watching as the technology evolves. One thing is certain: It will be critical for content strategists to articulate the key ideas they want to communicate to their audience. You can see how well we did in this article by reading this AI summary at the bottom of this page.
It’s often apparent when an article is exclusively AI-generated as it tends to conclude with a contrived closing statement, usually starting with “in conclusion.” Although summarizing and tying together ideas is crucial, strive for a more natural flow. As technology increasingly infiltrates every aspect of our lives, from creation to consumption of content, preserving a human touch in all our endeavors remains vital. Rather than merely presenting information to your audience, your content strategy should seek to establish a genuine connection. Authentic and thoughtful expression resonates more deeply with your audience than a collection of uninspired, AI-generated pieces.
In navigating the intricate balance between AI efficiency and the irreplaceable human touch, it’s clear that our future in content creation isn’t about choosing one over the other but about harmonizing their strengths. The advancements in AI, while impressive, still lack the nuanced understanding of human emotions and experiences that resonate at the core of impactful content. As content creators and strategists, our challenge and opportunity are in leveraging AI as a tool to enhance, not replace, the depth and authenticity that only human creativity can offer.
The following is a summary of The Empathy Factor, Humanizing AI in Content Marketing produced by ChatGPT.
The article examines the complex relationship between artificial intelligence (AI) and human creativity in the realm of content marketing. It opens with an example of an SEO agency using AI to generate a large volume of articles, thereby redirecting significant web traffic from a competitor. This incident raises concerns about the integrity and authenticity of AI-generated content and its impact on user experience.
- Ethical Use of AI: The issue isn’t AI itself but how it’s used. AI should assist in ideation and research, not replace the human element in content creation.
- The Importance of Human Touch: Genuine content creation requires human experience and empathy, qualities AI lacks. John Entwistle of MMGY Origin emphasizes that while AI can assist, it cannot replicate the depth of human-generated content.
- Authentic Engagement: An example from MMGY Global illustrates how human creativity can cleverly use AI for engagement. A Reddit ad campaign for Visit Myrtle Beach, humorously mishandled by AI, gained positive attention, highlighting the limits of AI in replicating human humor and creativity.
- Understanding Consumer Motivations: AI, such as large language models, is limited by its training data and cannot keep up with rapidly evolving human motivations and current events, especially in dynamic sectors like travel.
- Future Trends and Challenges: The article foresees a growing trend of using AI to summarize content. Content strategists must ensure their key messages stand out in AI-optimized content.
- Balancing AI and Humanity: The future of content creation lies in balancing AI efficiency with the human touch. Authentic, human-driven content resonates more deeply than AI-generated material.
The article concludes by emphasizing the necessity of maintaining human touch in content creation, advocating for a harmonious blend of AI capabilities and human creativity to produce content that truly connects with audiences.