If you were ever in any doubt as to the power of social media, you only need to take a quick look at the numbers to get the picture regarding the usage of platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Around 4.57 billion people worldwide are connected to at least one social media platform and, 346 million of these have added to this number in just the last 12 months. With such world domination, it’s only natural that social media is going to be first in line to take advantage of new technology and, in 2021, that means just one thing – artificial intelligence.
The lean, mean marketing machine
Also referred to as Machine Learning, artificial intelligence (AI) has been creeping into our everyday lives for some time now – a march that has picked up considerable momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the world scrambled to adapt to new working and living restrictions, new tools and technology became vital in making sure that we were able to continue functioning as we fight our way back to some kind of normality. AI has had a hand in this in a number of ways including the automation of common tasks, providing increased customer service channels, and, of course, all-important medical and track and trace developments put in place to help reverse the tide of the virus”. Jack Zmudzinski, senior associate at Future Processing.
Once the stuff of movies with creepy looking robots, these days, a lot of us encounter AI every time we take our phones out of our pockets as clever things like voice activation and real-time navigation are powered by AI. In essence, artificial intelligence is the art of teaching machines to perform ‘human’ actions such as writing, listening, seeing, and moving.
From its humble beginnings, AI is now taking over a comprehensive range of tasks, leaving us humans free to focus on more rewarding and creative activities. So, what has all of this got to do with social media?
Social Climbing with AI
As it stands at the moment, social media platforms are already benefiting from AI in a number of ways that many people may not even be aware of – despite the fact that they use these apps and features every day:
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 10 years, you’ll no doubt be familiar with Snapchat’s filters which allow users to overlay cartoon features, accessories, backgrounds, and more to their photographs. Snapchat uses AI technology known as computer vision to track your features and use overlay filters that move with your face in real-time.
The world’s favorite social media platform also uses visual AI tools. In Facebook’s case, it taps into AI to identify faces on the platform in order to deliver more personalized advertising.
The popular platform for professionals is also a fan of AI technology which it uses to whizz recommendations on jobs and connections to its users.
It didn’t take long for social media platforms to realize that hiring real-life, the human customer support staff is both expensive and ineffective when dealing with thousands of customer queries every day. The answer came in the form of customer support chatbots – AI-powered assistants that are able to understand and respond to basic questions from customers.
Social media is fast becoming the most popular marketing tool for businesses and, the platforms cash in on this by providing automation tools that are powered by artificial intelligence to help brands to streamline and schedule their marketing efforts.
A huge part of social media for businesses is its analytics and, the popular platforms use AI to deliver insights at scale. This in turn allows users to find new audiences, measure their brand equity, find new trends, and deliver more personal and targeted content to followers.
The future is bright – and artificial
So, now that we’ve talked about all the good stuff that’s already going on with social media and AI, it’s time to look to the future. There’s no doubt that artificial intelligence and machine learning will continue to dominate the world of social media and, so, here, we’ll explore the ways in which AI could spread its wings even further in order to take social media activity to the next level.
It’s logical to assume that, in the future, social media companies will continue to use a hybrid model of AI and human support staff in order to keep on top of customer queries and complaints.
“Work is already underway to improve customer support chatbots to make them more conversational and, more intelligent in the way that they identify and respond to queries. This technology is likely to advance at a rate of knots, meaning that the chatbots can deal with more complex queries, leaving only the extremely complicated ones for the human employees” says Dima Suponau, Microsoft former, CEO & Founder of number for live person.com
This is one that will see a lot of content marketers throw up their hands in horror at the thought of allowing a bot to write articles, blogs, and posts for their brand. In reality, we’re a long way from entrusting the creative content process to AI, however, going forward, it’ll certainly have a hand in the process.
Most tech-forward business owners and marketing managers believe that, in the future, AI will be able to research topics and produce outlines of creative content to be used on websites and social media. This will mean that brands will be able to produce much higher volumes of content as AI will provide the framework so that the creatives only need to work their magic by pulling the article or blog post together.
Using artificial intelligence to gain insights from PPC ads certainly isn’t new but, in the not too distant future, it’ll be able to do a lot more than that. It’s predicted that, before too long, AI will be sticking its nose more firmly into PPC advertising and be drilling deeper in order to prevent wasted ad spend by making intelligent suggestions on campaign tweaks and new approaches. Sooner rather than later, marketers will be able to simply pluck these suggestions from their dashboard and implement them into their campaigns for better results.
The AI of the future will not only be able to hand over a comparison between your performance and that of your competitors but, will also be able to identify those competitors for you. This will be incredibly important for marketers who will be able to gain a much more comprehensive picture of where the competition is coming from and, what they’re up to.
It probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that those in the know are predicting that the devices of the future will be AI Smart ones that will not only recognize voices and faces but will also be able to detect behaviors, emotions, and all that other tricky human stuff. Because of this, we’re likely to see the same technology extended to social media. By connecting these Smart devices with social media platforms, marketers will be able to zero in on specific behaviors and emotions and then deliver a micro-personalized service.
This nifty tool is already being used to an extent by Twitter and is likely to become more widespread in the future. This tool uses machine learning to examine pictures that are uploaded to the platform and then crop the image to make it more appealing to users. As we power through 2021, there’s every chance that this will be used as a standard across a number of platforms. For users, this will do away with the need to edit and crop photographs themselves as they’ll simply be able to upload and then let the platform do the work for them. While Twitter’s tool is largely limited to cropping, in the future, salient imaging will take this further by automatically improving the look and definition of uploaded images.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are mainly known for their use in gaming but, in recent years, marketers have got wise to the potential of using these for sales and marketing purposes.
“Both of these work, essentially, by placing the user into a form of reality where they can experience an environment or product from the comfort of their own home. As more and more e-commerce businesses focus their marketing efforts on social media, these social companies will almost certainly be looking for ways in which they can allow brands to insert virtual stores onto their pages. As with Instagram, this will also lead to more instant shopping opportunities where social media browsers can make a purchase with just one click from an ad on social media” says Neal Taparia, founder of solitaired.
As well as e-commerce, AI will also have a hand in enhancing our social experience on our favorite platforms. Right now, we view our social media friends as static photographs or icons while messaging, however, this will I’m sure be replaced by interactive 3D models for a more immersive and personal chat environment.
We’ve already seen this creeping into our lives in the form of Vidyard’s adverts which take personalization to the next level by using customer names. Being able to zero in on a target customer in this way has proved to be incredibly effective for a number of businesses – many of which will be looking to take this even further in the future.
Because of this, it follows that, as well as being able to shop directly from an advert, AI will allow users to picture themselves in an advert as well as receiving smart recommendations and being able to use virtual changing rooms right there inside the advert.
We do, of course, already use sentiment analysis and social listening in our marketing endeavors (and, if you’re not, you should be). They say that knowledge is power and, for a marketer, there’s nothing more useful than being able to sour the internet to find out what people are saying about your brand, product, or service. At the moment, sentiment analysis is reasonably interactive in that marketers can view comments and mentions and then contact the user directly, however, in my humble opinion, we ain’t seen anything yet. I believe that, as AI advances, so too will our social listening tools. In the future, we can expect to be able to use these tools to dig much deeper and receive much more detailed data. This will be possible due to the fact that AI will stop relying on just keywords and will be able to intelligently detect nuances in online conversations to form a much wider reach.
While we may not be able to precisely predict the future of artificial intelligence in social media, it’s safe to say that the two will continue to go hand in hand. Although social media was already incredibly popular beforehand, during the pandemic it has become a lifeline for a huge number of people. My firm belief is that, long after COVID-19 has finally departed, billions of people around the world will still be reaching for their social networks in order to stay connected – and AI will be right there beside them.