AI in content marketing: objections and opportunities

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Image Source: Khyati Trehan, Unsplash

By Rebekah Mays

On April 1st, the bestselling B2B marketer Ann Handley announced she was releasing yet another version of her book Everybody Writes.

The new title? Everybody Prompts.

It was an April Fool’s joke, of course, but such a timely one that many commenters thought she was serious.

Ann’s clever prank cuts to the core of the debate around AI in content marketing.

We’ve all heard the full range of perspectives on the use of AI.

On one end, we have the profiteers:

“OMG we can now churn out more content than ever before.” *sees dollar signs*

On the other end, we have the purists:

“AI can never replace the brilliance, creativity, and emotion of humanity.” *sips rosé*

I find myself somewhere in between, eager to adopt AI as a creative aid when it makes sense … but cautious about what we might be giving up in the process.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be discussing the implications of AI on content marketing in more detail – the good, the bad, and the murky.

If nothing else, it’s a way to work through my own thoughts. (One of the benefits of writing!)

Of course, my hope is also that it will help others clarify their own thoughts and position going forward.

The first objection: nobody wants a mass-produced content future

In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin argues that while industrial civilization was built on the factory line, the future requires a new kind of work.

“The essence of mass production is that every part is interchangeable. Time, space, men, motion, money, and material—each was made more efficient because every piece was predictable and separate ….

The star of the new future is the linchpin – the worker or entrepreneur who makes herself indispensable … whose work simply can’t be replicated.

Reading his book recently, I was reminded of how true this is in the world of content marketing.

Every day, I see my fellow SEO agency owners acting like factory supervisors, hurrying their projects along the assembly line.

Keyword research, article, publish, repeat. The process must be as fast and cheap as possible — for the factory owner, at least.

With AI, content can be created faster and cheaper than ever before. But without at least some “human” element in the creative process, this content will be just another piece on the assembly line.

Without at least some human element in the creative process, your content will be just another piece on the assembly line

Competitive advantage, anyone?

In the short-term, sure. You can create more content at a higher volume and perhaps pick up a traffic boost and leads.

But marketers who step back from the race can see that truly mass-produced content doesn’t stand a chance at creating long-lasting value.

If your content is 100% machine-generated, with little to no human thought put into it, then anyone with the same tool and an internet connection can replicate it.

In the long run, this neutralizes any competitive advantage.

The content that we love, talk about, and share is the kind of content that Seth Godin is talking about (and himself creates). It’s culture-shaping content, not mass-produced content.

“AI content is the new floor”

For the content we create to provide real value for a business, it has to include at least some elements of humanity, lived experience, uniqueness, and connection.

Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz and the audience research tool Sparktoro, has come out and said that AI-generated content now represents the new minimum bar for content.

In other words, if you can’t create content that’s better than what an AI could create, it’s probably not worth creating at all.

This feels ever-so-slightly elitist to me. We publish content for many reasons: not only to “perform” and provide results for our businesses, but also to help us think and improve our craft. 

But I think he’s right in the sense that we need to strive to do better — much better — than what AI-generated content can do.

In my view, AI-generated content can play a role in the creative process, but it can’t *replace* the human creative process.

At least for now, it takes a human to answer questions like:

  • What do my customers need to know and hear?
  • What’s the right way to communicate this information or snippet of inspiration?
  • What unique perspective can my company bring to this issue?

AI can help us organize our thoughts, ideate, even create a first draft in some cases.

But without human thought, the content will simply be a factory-made plastic thingamajig:

Cheaply made. Will break easily.

Stay in the loop

This is the first post in our multi-part series on the use of AI in content marketing

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About the author

 Rebekah Mays is the founder and owner of One Generation, a digital marketing agency offering SEO and content “Sprints” to grow traffic and leads for purpose-driven B2B brands. Ready for more traffic so you can make a bigger impact? Get in touch.

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