Artificial Intelligence And Social Media. How AI Can Improve Your Job Not Steal It.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a buzz word that can be confusing and even scary. Some predict AI robots will replace humans, but in this article I will focus on what AI exists now and how it is helping or could be helping your social media strategy. AI empowered social media can assist in many areas such as content generation and optimization, 24/7 engagement, automated bidding and placement of social ads, enhanced audience targeting, automated analytics, personalization, and social listening.

AI and Big Data

Artificial intelligence is simply computer systems performing tasks that normally require human intelligence. In the world of big data AI comes in handy. Big data is the massive amounts of data so large and complex it can’t be processed with traditional data applications. This consists of structured data organized in databases and spreadsheets and unstructured data in free-form text, images and video in documents, articles and social media. IBM reports 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created per day and over 80% is unstructured with much of that from social media.

Algorithms

An algorithm is a series of steps performed by a set of rules to perform a function. We’re most familiar with algorithms as the rules that decide what appears in social media feeds. We try to determine social network algorithm signals to increase our organic reach. Alternatives include paying for social ad placement or influencer marketing. AI can improve social ad campaigns and improve influencer marketing. AI in influencer marketing can aid in finding and vetting ideal micro-influencers for brands.

Automation

Automation is software that does things without human intervention. Examples include Amazon tracking shopping history to suggest similar items to automate cross selling. Automated testing pulls data to generate scheduled reports. Automated reminders help employees and customers through alerts and notifications. Drip marketing automates sending a series of communications on a schedule or by consumer trigger actions. Drip marketing has used email for years but also now uses chatbots in Facebook messenger.

Machine Learning

Machine Learning is when computers learn from experience by modifying processes from new input. Machine learning can use algorithms to try random variables learning which work best to achieve a goal such as lowest cost per impression or acquisition. Programmatic advertising uses machine learning and automated bidding and placement for media buying. Deep Learning goes further with data processing on a neural network for faster more complex learning. Pattern recognition is a form of machine learning where a computer can be trained to detect patterns in text or visual data.

Natural Language Processing And Generation

Natural language processing (NLP) finds linguistic patterns to analyze and synthesize speech. This is how Hootsuite Insights determines sentiment of brand social media conversations. It can also help with crisis management. Dataminr uses NLP to monitor real time social conversations for crisis communication and real time marketing. Natural language generation (NLG) takes non-language inputs and generates spoken language. Phrasee uses NLG for AI-powered copywriting creating data-driven, human-sounding brand copy for Facebook and Instagram.

Image Recognition

Image recognition or computer vision is software that can recognize people, animals and other objects. Brandwatch has an image detection and analysis tool that finds images containing a brand to report how, when, and where consumers are seeing it. CrowdRiff uses image recognition to discover user generated images (UGC). They combine this with brand owned images and performance data for content optimization. Pinterest has AI powered visual search called Pinterest Lens. Marketers can purchase search ads to appear in that search and use Shop the Look pins.

Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics

Predictive Analytics helps understand future performance based on current and historical data. Prescriptive analytics helps determine the best solution among various choices. Salesforce’s Einstein uses AI for customer and lead predictions and recommendations. Einstein analyzes sentiment and intent to route social conversations to the right person streamlining workflow. IBM’s Watson uses AI for campaign automation and marketing personalization. Virtual Assistants add human interface to software. Watson Assistant replaces tedious queries and spreadsheets with simple questions such as, “How did social media perform this month?”

Chatbots

Chatbots use AI to simulate human conversation through voice commands or text chats. Chatbots can be used for drip marketing automation, lead nurturing, onboarding, renewals, confirmations, and engagement. AI-empowered chatbots can also help lead customers through the sales funnel (AIDA). For awareness bots can initiate conversation at scale communicating one-to-one with 5 or 500 people. At the interest stage bots provide 24/7 engagement at the moment of interest. In the decision stage bots supply information, answer questions and send content. For the action stage smaller purchases can be completed by the bot or hand off more complex ones to a human.

Social Care

AI-powered support can improve customer service via social media. ManyChat’s Facebook Messenger chatbots give customers convenience and speed. Simple chatbots spot keywords and respond with predetermined answers. AI-powered chatbots use NLP to create conversations like human agents. When problems get too complex chatbots can recognize this and hand off the conversation to a real agent. Some report chatbots could save businesses $11 billion in support costs by 2025.

Social Ad Optimization

Pattern89 uses AI to analyze billions of data points daily to discover what social ad dimensions drive customer behavior. Their AI analyzes every combination of placement, device, interests, age ranges, behaviors, demographics for custom optimization insights. Clinch provides personalized programmatic social media content across the customer journey. AI enables them to generate unlimited personalized ad versions with real-time optimization for text, image and video. Motiva AI works with Oracle’s Elogua marketing platform to scan campaigns and make performance recommendations, optimize time and frequency suggestions, run auto multivariate messaging experiments, and automatically discover new audience segments.

Privacy And Ethics

With the General Data Privacy Regulations (GDPR) in Europe and new U.S. regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) marketers are concerned about compliance. Charles Taylor argues that AI could help with consumer privacy protection. For example, Anyclip AI identifies video events and actions for contextualized social media ad placement. Using this AI could allow custom targeted messages without accessing third party consumer data. AI could also improve targeting to insure ads don’t appear with objectionable content. AI can also help with issues like cyberbullying. Instagram is using AI to identify negative comments before they’re published asking users, “Are you sure you want to post this?”

For the social media professional AI can help improve your job.

Gartner describes AI as a way to automate manual time-consuming processes to free up time, so marketers can be more strategic and creative. Pattern89 sums up the advantages of AI saying “AI algorithms work quickly and thoroughly, and they understand more data than a human can analyze within a single lifetime.” According to Adobe, the top marketing uses of AI include analysis of data, personalization, optimization and testing, image recognition, automated campaigns, content creation, programmatic advertising, digital asset management, video recognition, creative work, and automated offers. How are you using AI to improve your social media performance?

A Simple Guide to Calculating A Social Media Marketing Budget.

You have worked hard in researching and developing a social media strategy and plan, but how much will it cost? Budgeting is an important part of social strategy and probably needed if you want your strategy to be executed. Few managers or business owners will approve any effort without first knowing the cost. Understanding expense is also an important step to calculating return on investment (ROI).

To help make the budgeting process easier follow the Social Media Budget Template shown above. It breaks down costs into five expense categories and divides each category into in-house costs (to be performed by employees) and outsource costs (to be hired out). It also calculates the percent of each line item under a category and the percent of each category out of the total budget to understand where you are spending most of your money. As you understand how each category is contributing more or less to business objectives you may want to adjust percentages to match contribution level. Each item and category is calculated as a monthly expense and percent of total per these categories:

Content Creation covers in-house or outsourced time to write and design plus any fixed costs such as stock photos or video production. Estimate time to create the content needed for the strategy in a month. You can get an idea of how much you need from a Content Calendar. For in-house employees divide salary into an hourly rate. For outsourced help calculate by their hourly rate or their cost per piece or project. Global brands may need to consider cost such as cultural partners and consultants plus language translation.

Social Advertising is paid outsourced costs for reach per social channel such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Again, start with a Content Calendar and estimate how many posts will be paid social ads or promoted/boosted posts. For an idea of what is available see this guide to paid social. Then calculate costs based on current rates per social media network. Because much of social advertising works on a bidding process many managers set per day limits. Thus, this category is estimated based on spending per day, per network multiplied by the number of days you expect to be running social ads in a month. In addition be sure to include costs for influencers. Influencers are paid a variety of ways such as per post, free product and commission. For more on how these campaigns are structured see this guide to influencer marketing.

Social Engagement is the cost for employees or contractors to listen and respond to brand talk per channel. Listening and engagement are important activities in social media. They cannot be planned ahead of time, but you can estimate how much it may cost based on current activity. You could go back to or perform a Social Media Audit to get an idea of the level of customer activity on brand social media channels. Are there hundreds or even thousands of posts everyday day or a few dozen? From there estimate hours per day needed to engage all or a percentage of those customers per channel. Multiply number of hours by employee or outsourced rates. Depending on the business management may also require costs for social media strategy planning and reporting as a percentage of a full-time employee salary or the salary of dedicated social media staff. However, some include this as a part of the overall operating budget as overall marketing budgets don’t normally include the salaries of the marketing department employees.

Software/Tools covers monthly costs for social media monitoring and other automation software services. These software services and tools can help save time and thus money in other categories such as content creation and engagement. There are a lot of free tools, but to get access to advanced features and enterprise level service many organizations have to pay. This budget category is broken down into monitoring, scheduling, reporting, and analytics as a first step. You may find it useful to add additional categories such as consumer research, automation, or artificial intelligence (AI) software. Some tools may have one time costs but most are billed as monthly access fees. Another consideration is accounting for the cost of training for these tools. This may be one time upfront costs to get up to speed on a new software package. Yet, social changes so quickly you may want to estimate a monthly amount for ongoing training of staff to keep up to date.

Promotion/Contests are costs for prizes, discounts, etc. Besides buying reach through social ads, many businesses build audience and engagement through special offers, discounts and contests. Whether they are executed through a Facebook app, hashtag or unique offer code promotions, contests, sweepstakes, coupons and discounts have hard costs associated with them. In this category estimate those expenses per campaign. For example, you may have a summer campaign and a Spring campaign or campaigns that happen around specific holidays. If you have a social campaign built around a live event, don’t forget to include those costs as well.

Finally, add totals per month, per line item and category. Also calculate percent of each category and category percent of the total budget. This social media budget template is a good way to calculate how much a social media strategy will cost to execute, but how do you know if the total is too much or too little overall?

One way to put total social media budgets into context is to compare to competitors. In a Social Media Audit you may have uncovered insight that a main competitor is much more active in social media and seeing business success as a result. Your strategy would be to increase your social activity to compete and your budget is an estimate of what it costs to match that level of engagement.

Another way to put your total social media budget into context is to compare to industry standards. In an analysis by Content Factory they estimate that outsourcing professional social media marketing can cost anywhere from $1,000 per month to $20,000 per month. Admittedly this number is very broad. Another approach is to look at typical percentages of overall marketing spending and social spending. In other words, take your existing marketing budget and estimate social media spending based on current standards.

Nick Rojas of The Next Web points out that businesses spend an average of 10% of revenue on marketing. Yet, this could vary by industry. For example, B2C products companies spend an average 16% of revenue on marketing. For social spending the CMO survey indicates businesses now spend an average of 9% to 15% of their marketing budget on social media (expected to increase to 20% by 2024). Thus, a general guideline would be to take your marketing budget as a percent of revenue (such as 10%) and then calculate a percent of the marketing budget (9%-15%) dedicated to social media.

Seek additional research to narrow this estimate further. The CMO Survey reports social media spending by sector including B2B Products (9%), B2B Services (12%), B2C Product (13%) and B2C Services (15%). Companies with over 10% of sales from the Internet spend more on social media (14%) compared to those with no Internet sales (11%) and small companies (<$25 million revenue) spend the most (15%). If your estimated social media marketing budget from the template above is significantly off from this general number you may want to go back and adjust the plan.

Budgeting in social media can be complicated. But taking a step back and calculating costs based on categories and in relation to marketing spending averages can simplify the process. If you are budgeting against a solid social media plan tied to real business objectives with the right metrics in place a return on investment (ROI) will be justified.