We’re almost halfway through 2023, but it’s already becoming pretty clear that everyone is going to remember it as the year artificial intelligence broke into the mainstream. Hardly a week goes by without the arrival of some newfangled AI tool promising to automate or streamline tasks, and Google’s recent experiments with incorporating generative AI responses into search results shows that this groundbreaking technology will only become more widespread in the future.
The team at Roger West has been watching these developments closely as part of our ongoing effort to incorporate the latest and greatest marketing tools into our campaigns. From that standpoint, the concept of AI really isn’t anything new. We’ve been using a variety of platforms that incorporate AI technology to gather data and insights from customer behavior and identify marketing opportunities for years.
But the explosion of AI tools capable of creating content from scratch represents a new and very different development. Since the public release of ChatGPT in November last year, marketers have been scrambling to understand how generative content AIs will impact the entire industry. Rather than panicking or ringing the alarm bells like some have done, we’re taking a more measured approach to explore the potential of this technology and identify the best ways to leverage it to improve results for our clients.
AI Comes to Roger West
Our adventures in content AI got underway in late 2022, shortly before ChatGPT started making headlines. After evaluating a number of AI tools on the market at the time, we began testing a platform called Jasper to find out just how much the technology was capable of. Jasper is a generative AI built specifically for the needs of content marketers. It features a variety of templates that can be used to create content for common marketing tasks, such as emails, product descriptions, blog outlines, and ad copy. As a marketing platform, it can also incorporate keywords into content and write in a variety of tones based on the intended audience.
We had a lot of fun playing with Jasper. One of our favorite games was to provide it with writing prompts and then send the results to other team members for feedback without telling them the piece was written by AI software to see if they could spot the differences. The more we worked with the software, the better we got at manipulating the outputs and crafting content that was hard to distinguish from the real thing.
By the time ChatGPT debuted, we already had a pretty good handle on how to get the best results from existing generative AI platforms. While Jasper provides a lot of cool features to walk you through multiple forms of content creation, ChatGPT’s chat-based interface is a lot more simplistic and requires a slightly different approach. The same can be said of Google’s Bard AI, which is unique for its ability to draw upon live internet sources in addition to its learning library (although ChatGPT now offers plug-ins that allow it to do the same).
What We’ve Learned
So, after all this content AI exploration, what have we learned? Everyone has talked about the potential for factual errors and AI “hallucinations,” but let’s focus less on the big picture issues and more on specifics related to content marketing.
Generative Content AIs Are Already Awesome
For starters, the technology is remarkable and getting better by the moment. Since it first launched, ChatGPT has upgraded its language model to a faster version of GPT 3.5 and made the far more impressive GPT 4 available to paid subscribers. Jasper has undergone tremendous changes in just the seven months we’ve been using it, incorporating a chat feature, improving its versatile “Power Mode,” and rolling out a new brand voice feature that actually teaches it to write content based on your branding (this feature is quite new, so we haven’t had a chance to play around with it yet).
Despite AI Limitations, They Can Streamline Workflows
All that aside, the real question is whether all this fancy AI tech will prove useful. So far, we’ve found that answer to be a resounding “Yes,” but it’s an answer that comes with a lot of caveats. As much as the developers of these platforms would like to have people believe, they’re not quite ready to take over all your content production. To get the best results, you still need a lot of guidance from an experienced writer or editor who can create the best prompts, edit the output material for tone and consistency, and fill in any remaining gaps.
Furthermore, while content AIs are great for writing about generic topics, they struggle when prompted to write about specific products and services or follow any kind of brand messaging. Jasper’s new brand voice feature may be able to get there eventually, but for right now these capabilities are pretty limited.
Having said that, these are powerful tools that provide a lot of benefits even in their current form. They really shine when it comes to the ideation process. Each of the platforms does a good job of providing lists of keywords you can use to kickstart your SEO research, subject line ideas for emails, or names for themed campaigns. Sure, sometimes the names aren’t so great, but neither are most of the ideas people come up with in the average brainstorm session.
They’re also great for routine communication, especially for people who don’t do a lot of writing. Rather than painstaking crafting an email or speech, they can provide what they want to say in a sentence or two and let the AI generate something they can refine. Even professional copywriters can be intimidated by staring at a blank page, so being able to quickly generate text for editing can save a ton of time and energy.
Each Platform Has Its Strengths
We’ve also discovered that each platform excels in different areas. When you need to get a detailed answer to a question, Bard usually delivers the best results since it’s connected to the internet (ChatGPT’s learning model goes up to late 2021, while Jasper is trained on data up to 2019). Bard is also quite good at providing content ideas and creating outlines, but Jasper offers more versatile content creation tools thanks to its templates and document creation features.
Despite Jasper’s ease of use, it’s hard to beat ChatGPT for pure text generation. The GPT 4 model may have limited availability (currently 25 responses every 3 hours), but in the hands of someone who knows how to use the right prompts, it can write intelligently about very complex topics. With some deft editing, ChatGPT’s outputs can easily match anything written by even an experienced copywriter. Of course, getting it to produce those outputs can be tricky, and often requires a lot of subject matter expertise and writing skills (breathe easy, copywriters!).
Moving Forward with AI
As we continue to experiment with different use cases for generative AI, we’ll share some of the tips and tricks we’ve used to get more value out of these tools. Next time, for instance, we’ll talk about how you can engineer your prompts more effectively to generate better content and spend less time refining AI outputs.
Although AI has come a long way in the last few months, it’s still not ready to build and execute a detailed marketing strategy that drives results for your business. If you’re looking for some experienced humans who can take your marketing to another level, let’s talk!