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Can artificial intelligence save marketing?

Wes Finley, Senior Director of Marketing at Mariana, explains the benefits of adding AI to your marketing stack

Content marketing is getting tougher

The days when a Facebook post would reach 90 percent of a page’s audience have come and gone.

In 2011, I was managing operations for Coca-Cola’s global Facebook page, which had just surpassed Starbucks to become the largest CPG brand page on Facebook. #HumbleBrag

The page was shared among dozens of markets because Facebook did not yet support regional pages. And each post was geotargeted to reach the right audience.

One fine August day, Facebook dropped the targeting from a post specific to our Brazilian audience. Within minutes I received several frantic calls and emails about incorrect targeting. I pulled up the page and saw the post had received over 7 million impressions in only 10 minutes. This meant a global organic-only post had reached 30% of our Facebook audience faster than I could finish my lunch break. And this was not atypical.

Back in 2011 Coca-Cola routinely reached millions of fans with each organic post. Ironically, during this free-for-all, brand marketers everywhere were still trying to convince leadership social content marketing had value.

Unfortunately, in this instance, an explosion of organic reach was not my friend. The good natured post about ‘Student Day’ intended for our fans in Brazil was written in Portuguese, and the predominantly US audience had a few choice words to share about seeing ‘spanish’ in their newsfeed.

While this experience caused headaches, I look back on it fondly as a time when social marketing was easy. Fewer brands participated. Less content was created. Less bids were placed. And impressions fell from the sky like summer rain.

Nothing ruins a party like a crowd

At some point between 2011 and 2016 brands less innovative than Coca-Cola realized social marketing actually worked. Leadership approved budgets that included social agencies and paid media. And the content spigot began to flow.

Today, a flood of branded content competes for eyeballs. Trackmaven estimates the amount of brand content increased by 78% in 2014. All this competition means less reach and impressions to share. Not to mention algorithmic changes from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that significantly reduce the visibility of brand posts. To be successful, social marketing strategies must be more innovative than a catch-as-catch-can approach.

Making content more effective

Marketers can’t turn back the clock, or reduce the amount of noise from competitors. But, with the right tools, they can improve their content targeting and effectiveness. Whether your content strategy is award winning or click-bate quality, personalization works. Just do it.

Personalization has been a key marketing strategy for some time. Studies on personalized emails have shown results such as six times higher transaction rates, a 20 percent increase in sales, and 42 percent higher conversion rates than generic CTAs. So why are 70 percent of brands still not personalizing content?

Personalised content is hard

It is much easier to send out a mass communication and hope that the message is relevant to a few people. However, this method of mass marketing is declining in B2C. And it’s utterly irrelevant in B2B, where the audience size may be small — and spamming your prospects builds poor relationships.

For successful personalization, not only do B2B marketers have to have a good understanding of each prospect, but messaging must be individually tailored to an audience of one. Many marketers just don’t feel they have the time for that level of top of the funnel effort.

Fortunately, artificial intelligence (AI) has grown into a marketing workhorse. Machine learning AI has reached an intelligence level that allows it to assist many of these difficult CRM tasks. Data scientists have developed new techniques that allow marketing platforms to find connections in unstructured data sets through deep learning algorithms.

The deep learning systems  connect both internal and external data sources to combine information about individuals. In short, deep learning enables AI to find connections across numerous silos of unstructured information. The results of this data mapping is a more complete picture of the individual. Maybe your prospect just got a promotion, relocated or purchased a home. All of this data is available, but organizing information at scale is a time consuming manual task. Deep learning is the cognitive power tool marketers need to do their job more efficiently.

Some people find all this tracking a bit creepy, but the creep factor is tied to our application of user data. AI and big data may identify your customers, but elegant marketing is more than just knowing your customer. It is the difference between bringing your date her favorite flowers, and showing up with more toilet paper because you knew she was out.

While we may not be able to relive the glory days of organic social content, we can still deliver significant ROI with paid media. Adding AI tech to your marketing stack will improve knowledge of your audience and allow you to reach them in new, personalized ways. Social ABM is finally becoming a viable B2B strategy.