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What is AI for Digital Marketing

John Lahr
January 30, 2017

I found myself trying to explain my job to my mom last night. My amazing mom is a baby boomer, and she has never understood what I do. Marketing is a foreign concept to her, let alone artificial intelligence (AI) or how it applies to digital marketing.

Learn More About Using AI to Boost Engagment

She is an active Facebook user, but she doesn’t understand why certain friends never show up in her news feed. She is great at engaging with friends on Facebook, but most of “her” updates are actually published by my dad (who refuses to create his own “facepalm” profile).

So I had to start with the basics:

What is marketing?

Marketing is driven by content in the form of articles, commercials, presentations, ads, videos, podcasts, social media and more. It used to be much easier.

Content marketing is storytelling: telling stories about the brand and benefits of products.

Most marketers, including me, strive to create content that will be informative, useful and interesting to customers (who, in my case, are themselves content marketers).

“Okay, so what is your product?”

Cortex is a digital assistant that improves content marketing, specifically social media content.

It does this using Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Get more social media data

First, Cortex takes marketing content and turns it into data.

Each post gets broken down into its component parts:

  • Deployment data: publishing (day, time, frequency), community metrics at the time of deployment
  • Content data: colors, hashtags, keywords, emojis, subject matter
  • Performance data: likes, comments, shares, other engagements
  • Promotion data: how much was spent to promote it.

It just so happens that I used to manually do exactly that in a previous role.

I was the social media analyst. My job was to export analytics data from each social network, dump it all into an excel spreadsheet, clean it up and look for insights.

It was a time consuming process that usually took a week, meaning all insights were about a week old.

Additionally, I had a limited data set. I could only access the metrics from our brand’s social media properties; I couldn’t look at our competitors or the entire industry. So, I was working in somewhat of a bubble.

Another issue was the recency of the data. We were applying week-old insights to posts for the upcoming week or month, and you know how much can change in that amount of time. Improving posts in real-time was virtually impossible.

But Cortex is constantly getting fresh data from social networks.

It can pull metrics about your profiles, your competition’s profiles, the social profiles of brands you admire and the entire industry.

Extract social media insights

Once it has broken down each post into individual variables, Cortex uses machine learning, a subset of artificial intelligence, to find patterns in content and deployment.

What is machine learning? It is an algorithm (or multiple) that teaches computers to perform their mission better without needing additional programming.

A real-world example is Target discovering a woman’s pregnancy before her father. Machine learning simply analyzed all customer purchase data to find a connection between buying one item (unscented lotion, in this case), and the purchase of another item (vitamin supplements, followed later by diapers and baby clothes). When the woman switched from scented lotion to unscented, followed shortly after by supplements, Target could predict that she was pregnant.

Netflix is another example. The computer recognizes a pattern of people watching Game of Thrones also watching House of Cards, so it will recommend binge-watching one if you’ve already seen the other.

Optimize social media content performance

Applied to digital marketing, artificial intelligence (AI) can anticipate how engaging each social media post will be based on past patterns.


Related: Read our analysis of Instagram content performance for the hospitality vertical.

You can see how AI then becomes like a genius marketing content analyst and recommends custom content and deployment strategies based on the patterns it’s found in real-time.

Specifically, Cortex creates a calendar with suggestions for post deployment, content and promotion.
girl checking tumblr on macbook

Automate social media publishing

From there, automation takes care of executing the plans in accordance with the patterns. You’ve instantly eliminated a week of work spent analyzing outdated, limited data and the tedious work of scheduling and publishing those optimized posts. Not to mention, your posts are now more engaging and performing better with your audience.

With AI, digital marketers are freed up to spend time being more productive with planning future campaigns, developing strategies and crafting unique content.

Mom, if you’re reading this, I hope that helps give you an understanding of what I do all day. If nothing else, just know that my job is to tell interesting, informative stories. And my company exists to help marketers, like me, improve their efforts at scale.

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A Vision for the Future

Learn more about our vision for Cortex.

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