Marketers and Gen AI - What's top of mind?

Marketers and Gen AI - What's top of mind?

Notes from the field: Inside the minds of Gen AI curious marketers

A headshot of blog author Vinay Jain

Vinay Jain

Mar 4, 2024

The blog hero visual depicting a glowing digital brain with "AI" in the center

I recently attended the Social Media Marketing World 2024 conference to connect with 100s of marketing professionals and SMB that are spending time on social media marketing. It’s clear that getting outside of the Silicon Valley to connect with customers is crucial to truly and deeply understanding their top of mind problems.

The good news: every marketing professional is looking for efficiency gains both in their workflow and ad spend but they barely have time to explore, ramp up, or learn new technologies.

The less good news: marketers are searching for Gen AI education, are skeptical of AI tools, and are having difficulty finding the right tool that works for them.

The majority of the marketing professionals referenced in this article are solo marketers, or part of a small (1-3 people) marketing agencies that are helping SMB all across the US. They are typically focused on business development and growth by local in-person events or local coverage and newsletters.

I wanted to share some of the insights from this conference to demonstrate the incredible interest in Gen AI tools amongst marketers and SMBs. I hope these insights will help other builders in the Gen AI space.

Too many Gen AI tools hurts decision-making

In my discussions with conference goers, it became clear that they were overwhelmed by the numbers of existing AI tools to choose from. New tools are hitting market almost on a daily basis, making it even more difficult to keep up. Just take a look at the AI tool landscape below. Daunting, no? (Image credit: Brian Solis)

In infographic that shows all the AI tools, categorized by types of tools

I noticed a recurring theme: many attendees were stuck wondering how to differentiate and understand the strengths/weaknesses between various Gen AI tools. Should they use Gemini or ChatGPT? For image generation, should they use Stability or Dall-E? These are some of the basic questions on marketers’ minds.

Thankfully, data scientist and newsletter author Chris Penn gave a talk entitled “The marketing singularity: How large language models have forever changed marketing” that helped guide the audience to answer the “how are these tools different” question. I highly suggest signing up for his newsletter here.

Clones and fake tools erode trust in all tools

An image of the Spiderman clone meme showing ChatGPT vs a ChatGPT Clone

There is also a trust issue with Gen AI tools. The flood of new, legitimate AI tools hitting market also comes with a flood of ChatGPT clones and fake tools. This is making it difficult for marketers new to the space to understand which tools are real… and especially which tools are good

This erodes their trust in all Gen AI tools to the point where it’s tough for them to choose any one tool. SMBs tend to have tight budgets, and they are wary of spending precious money (and time) on a new tool if they don’t trust it will fit their needs and do what the tool says it will do. This trust issue also makes SMBs hesitant to share their data with a particular AI tool.

They are all still waiting for a widely recognized and trusted Gen AI tool for their business use-cases.

The use-cases for daily Gen AI usage are narrow

Most of my conversations were with marketers who have already tried using Gen AI products for broad use-cases, with limited to no success. This leads them to use AI tools infrequently, resulting in weekly (or monthly) usage patterns — far from the ideal daily usage scenario.

These marketers are most interested in a daily-usage scenario based on these use-cases:

  • Number crunching or analyzing reports 😊

  • Qualitative assessment on landing page or copy

  • Quick prototyping of creative concepts for (read our insights on Gen AI product-market-fit for a deeper dive on quick prototyping)

  • Legal compliance checks when producing content, both visual and copy.

Few marketers are using AI tools on a daily basis. The tools that do see healthy DAU metrics are well positioned to lead their segment, but the lack of use-cases makes it difficult to completely win a category.

AI-generated copy can’t match a human’s voice

An image depicting a robotic hand typing on a glowing keyboard

It was interesting to see that most marketers found it quite easy to identify copy written with ChatGPT. The literal and factual writing style lacks the voice and tone of a marketer, making it easy to detect in the wild.

For example, the marketing copy for a Facebook ad could look very different when written by ChatGPT vs a human.

  • [Chat GPT] Go Back To School in style. Come claim your 15% off before it runs out

  • [Marketer] Looking for that back-to-school rizz? We got you covered with 15% off <product>, and a money-back guarantee

To get close to their own voice, marketers need to be able to ground their Gen AI model in the context of their existing brand content. But there is no easy way to do that.

Gen AI: A force multiplier, not a force replacer

An image of a meme that says "the only way to keep AI from taking your job is to use AI to do you job better"

I also found that marketers are not concerned about AI replacing their jobs.

Universally, everyone thought of these tools as a force multiplier to take on more clients or create more ads or grow their business. Given the technical bounds of Gen AI today, marketers are looking to these tools to speedup their workflows or handle mundane tasks.

No one sees AI today as a threat to their jobs 😁

Mind the gap: Education on Gen AI tools and underlying technology

An image of an auditorium filled with marketers looking at a presentation screen to learn about Gen AI

What became clear at the conference was that there is still a huge gap in the education required to make marketers and SMBs feel comfortable with the tools, and especially the underlying technologies.

Lots of marketers are looking for easy ways to learn this new technology in the context of their job. They are hungry to learn, but not sure where to look or whom to trust.

Their overall goal is to be able to find and use a Gen AI tool with a clear understanding of how to use it, what the limitations are, and ultimately what works and what doesn’t.

No clear winner… yet

Overall, every conference attendee was very interested in this constantly evolving space. There are challenges hampering the adoption of AI tools, but it’s clear that savvy marketers are actively overcoming those challenges by sharing insights, going to conferences, consuming content, and most importantly experimenting.

Our top insight from the Social Media Marketing World 2024 conference: there is huge white space for builders like us to make a huge impact. There is no clear Gen AI winner in any vertical yet, and the race is on!

Are you a builder in the Gen AI space? I would love to chat and swap notes! Feel free to ping me on Twitter (I personally answer all messages).

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