AI writing tools can help you effectively generate valuable and engaging content for humans. In this article, you’ll learn what works well, what doesn’t, and the habits of mind you need to adopt to make the best use of an AI content marketing assistant.
Assistive writing tools that use AI can be very useful for copywriting and social media marketing — if we play to their strengths and our own. Used properly, ChatGPT, Rytr, JasperAI, Bertha.ai for WordPress, Tome, and other AI tools can support your creation of helpful, useful, and engaging writing for human readers. You still need to do the planning, prompting, proofreading, and editing, however. AI is not a replacement for the personal care and expertise that Google Search prefers.
In this article, you’ll learn what works well, what doesn’t, and the habits of mind you need to adopt to make the best use of an AI content marketing assistant.
In a nutshell, avoid using AI tools as a substitute for the high-level thinking and learning only you and your team can do to benefit your marketing. Your attitude shouldn’t be “Don’t Make Me Think.” It should be, “Surprise Me! Make Me Think Differently and More.”
The Fine Line Between Efficiency and Laziness
Until ChatGPT came into public view, Google was the biggest popularizer of the “Don’t make me think!” approach to work and learning. After 24 years of Google search, we’re used to skimming the top results for our queries (after scrolling past the ads) and spinning up surprisingly adequate output most of the time by repurposing the things we find. Writing, images, ideas, and code snippets already get recycled on the web by humans with mixed results. Now AI tools can do this remixing much better than we can, much of the time. This can be very handy for many simple tasks that go into content writing and marketing.
But don’t get too carried away. There’s a fine line between efficiency and laziness
At some point the convenience of working more while thinking less can lead to shoddy work. The next stop is spam, stealing others’ work, and creating disinformation. Not good and not OK! A lot of people get to that point unintentionally, and others happily make it their job to pollute the internet. We can count on them using AI to steal our attention, our creative work, and even our ability to reach consensus and compromise. What’s even more damaging, however, is the widespread tendency to treat search engines and AI tools as magic answer machines. When we do that, we shut down our brains, outsource our work, and miss opportunities to learn.
There is No Easy Button
The key to using AI tools well is constantly resisting the desire for an “easy” button. Treat chatbots as the near-fluent but alien and unconscious assistants they are. Don’t expect or ask too much from them. Give them well-defined and limited tasks whose responses will be possible for you to evaluate. But also don’t overlook how an AI can be like a young child who is unintentionally helpful and insightful, even with incorrect or poorly formed statements. When you are surprised with an unexpected idea, that’s gold! The unexpected and unfamiliar often leads to uniquely useful and creative possibilities.
Five Good Ways to Write for Humans with AI Tools
Here are five good ways I’ve found to use AI tools, especially ChatGPT, to help me with common writing tasks.
1. Brainstorming with AI for Good Writing Topics and Marketing Ideas
Using an artificial intelligence tool to help generate ideas is the one use of AI where I’ve seen the fewest concerns and reservations expressed. I’ve had my best brainstorming experiences with ChatGPT, but there are others using the same or related language models. Notion recently announced new AI features for generating summaries and drawing out insights from your notes. You can also use Notion AI to brainstorm writings ideas and first drafts. These are useful, time-saving tools.
People who are learning to write for humans with an AI assistant can use it to kickstart a project and overcome writer’s block. From suggesting marketing strategies and ideas about potential partners in a marketplace to a preliminary outline for the first draft of a blog post, the value of AI is that it offers suggestions about decisions you have to make.
Of course, you don’t have to take your AI friend’s suggestions, but you will benefit from them with the following approaches.
Supply Creativity and Iterate
As with a human brainstorming partner, you may not be surprised very often by many of the suggestions you get from an AI chatbot. It helps not to expect profound answers but to think them over and let them interact with your own thoughts. For example, ideas suggested by an AI might spark a totally different idea in your mind. “What if we did the opposite?” is a useful prompt for your own brainstorming and ideation once you have something to use as a seed.
Your AI won’t feel rejected or stepped on if you toss or modify the text it generates. You’re in the driver’s seat.
Try Something a Little Crazy
Sometimes silly and absurd questions lead to fresh thinking and clearer direction. Humans can be resistant to this approach, but an AI will entertain some quality nonsense and spin it out literally and logically. This can be very useful for getting at assumptions and noticing biases.
Describe Your Human Audience
You can ask ChatGPT for very general or specific ideas. It will always be helpful to specify things like audience personas, marketing purpose, and search intent. Humanizing your audience in your prompts will give you more humanized results.
Here’s a basic example:
“Give me some ideas for writing topics that will be helpful to [our brand’s] potential customers.”
Here are some better examples:
“Give me some ideas for writing topics that will be helpful to small business owners who are unsure what the unique value is of [our product/service].”
“Generate five topics for long articles aimed at freelance developers and designers who are concerned that AI might make them irrelevant.”
You can also ask for topics and article ideas that specify one or more audiences or individual personas that have a particular interest or concern. Being more specific about customer sentiment in your prompt will bring more color to the results.
Get Value from Unfamiliar and Uniquely Human-Actionable Answers
I’ve received some very good results from detailed, specific, and people-focused prompts, but many of the results suggested writing things no AI writer will ever be able to generate, like case studies with customer interviews. I take that as a sign of a good AI answer — it nudges us toward the things only we can do.
Similarly, if an unfamiliar term or concept comes up in an AI-generated response to your prompt, it’s a nudge toward some learning only you can do. This is an opportunity for you to think with your AI exobrain.
When a generated idea is unclear, unfamiliar, or interesting, try asking for definitions and elaboration or “more like this.” Rather than being a cause for laziness, AI tools should help you extend yourself, learn new things, and possibly change how you work.
2. Researching Audiences, Competitors, Keywords, and Topics with AI
ChatGPT should have a pretty good idea of who your customers are and who is in the audience for your marketing content if your brand has been around for a while. It may have an accurate grasp of your competitors too. These subjects are worth probing into just to understand how your brand, your offerings, and your market are being interpreted by AIs.
As AI is increasingly used for search and recommendation engines, it will become more important to ensure your content is shaping clear, accurate, relevant, and unique recommendations for your potential customers. Brands, service offerings, and product features with multiple versions and variations can change significantly in a year or two, and AIs take that long to update the currency of the content in their language models. Possibly worse than this lag, current AI recommendations are clearly influenced by the glut of listicles and “reviews” from content sites that profit from affiliate marketing. There’s a bias in favor of brands with robust affiliate networks, and there’s a serious lack of technical depth.
While that may all sound like bad news, for marketing research, AI recommendations can actually be helpful. Ask Bing or ChatGPT questions about your product’s features, and you may discover gaps in your marketing or confusion caused by it.
You can also consult ChatGPT for a basic content analysis within a specific niche area or a larger industry. It will suggest gap areas and trending topics. It can focus its analysis and recommendations on a specific domain or several domains. Keywords and key phrases suggested by ChatGPT probably won’t surprise you, but it’s capable of generating these too. Again, it’s the one or two unexpected results or items you’re not familiar with that may offer the most value — if you take them as a learning opportunity for yourself.
3. Using AI to Write Short, Engaging Marketing Copy
Some people are good at writing titles and variations of them for social media. Subheadings, excerpts, and meta descriptions can be challenging too. Sometimes you’re too brain-tired to come up with more of them. Assistive writing AI is good at creating a short text like this based on a larger post or article you’ve already written. You can ask it for captions, email subject lines, short ads, hero copy, and value propositions too. For example:
Create a meta description for the following article: [URL or pasted text]
Generate ten tweets for this post: [URL]
A good formula for generating short blurbs from an AI like ChatGPT will specify the type of content you want, its style and tone, its intended audience, and the topic. You don’t need to include all that information, but being specific helps.
4. Using AI for Fun (and Serious) Content on Your Social Media Channels
Here’s a real prompt I used to see what ChatGPT might have to offer in the form of Twitter humor:
Compose some tweets that are fun and engaging for people who use WordPress and are concerned about AI taking away their jobs.
Like with any comedy writing, ChatGPT produces a lot of duds. I got two good suggestions out of five, however. Not bad! Here they are:
“AI may be able to generate content, but can it handle a client who changes their mind 100 times during the development process? That’s where you, WordPress experts, come in! ? #WordPress #AI #ClientManagement”
“Sure, AI can write a blog post, but can it make you a fresh pot of coffee in the morning? Priorities, people. ??? #WordPress #AI #CoffeeLover”
It’s a nice added benefit that you can specify hashtags or leave that to the AI.
Does this mean you can turn over your social media posting to an AI? Of course not! That would be weird and ethically problematic in a lot of ways. If we all did that, the “dead internet theory” would be more than a slightly plausible joke. Any social media text written with an AI tool should be vetted and edited by real humans who are ready to engage in actual conversations with mentions, replies, and comments — unless they’re bots!
5. Using AI to Help Edit and Revise Your Writing
AI writers can make specific and global changes for you in a draft text you provide. This is nice if you want to experiment quickly with different tones and styles. “Rewrite this paragraph with an engaging but light-hearted tone” is a neat trick for quickly testing a big change in tone — but not the sense or substance of a text. The distinction between tone and substance can be subtle, so proceed with caution.
The more text you feed an AI writer, and the more complicated it is, the less likely AI is going to improve it with big, global changes — unless the writing is quite bad. If that’s the case, you’re better off finding a better human writer.
It’s possible to paste a fully written draft of many paragraphs into ChatGPT and ask it to revise your writing for better readability. But in my experience, the results will be B-A-D copypasta unless your draft is uncomplicated, not technical, and not too long. I don’t recommend using ChatGPT this way at all — especially not GPT-3.5. GPT-4 is in many ways a huge improvement, and future versions may be even more capable with complex, long-form writing.
Bonus Tip: Use ChatGPT for Help Building Complex Spreadsheet Formulas
ChatGPT is a very helpful alternative to difficult internet searches for complex Excel and Google Sheets formulas. If you can describe what you want clearly enough, ChatGPT can give you the formula or syntax you need to build complex spreadsheet calculations.
What Works Well and What Doesn’t
For single sentences and short, relatively uncomplicated paragraphs, AI tools today can do a decent job. Using an AI at the level of GPT-3.5 to generate more than one paragraph may have poor results. The longer the generated text, the more likely it is to be corrupted by “hallucinations.”
Hallucinations for an AI are when it makes a wrong turn and keeps going, like insisting the year is 2022 in 2023. A language prediction model deprioritizes the accuracy of facts in favor of linguistic correctness and what sounds like something a person would say. Since language prediction is linear, each word and sentence builds on the previous one, and wrong turns can lead to a dead end of cascading and sometimes comical errors.
AI doesn’t know, understand, or remember anything. It has no competencies but can sound like it does. That’s why all AI-generated text should be thoroughly fact-checked and vetted by humans before being sent out into the world. If you use the OpenAI Playground, you can try different language models and reveal the sources behind the responses to your prompts. This is very helpful for proofreading, but you’re better off working alone or with another writer to develop good long-form articles. That said, I’ve been very impressed with GPT-4, which is much better at lengthy writing than GPT-3.5. Future versions will sure improve even more, but I am doubtful they will ever be more than a strong assistant to human writers who know their brands, products, and audiences from direct and personal experience.
Keep Your Human Touch and Write Smarter with AI
As Carrie Cousins cautions over at GiveWP, storytelling is not an AI strong suit. Neither is brand consistency, and AI text generation often reflects the implicit biases of humans. That’s why Carrie says you can’t rely on AI to tell your story or “you will loss the human touch” that makes your brand, voice, and values unique to the people who value them. That would be a mistake! None of these core features of marketing communication can be automated. There’s no “easy” button for them. Qualified people invested in your brand’s success should be doing this work and making these decisions with you. So give AI writing tools a try if you haven’t — but don’t lean on them to do the things you can do best.
Dan Knauss is StellarWP’s Technical Content Generalist. He’s been a writer, teacher, and freelancer working in open source since the late 1990s and with WordPress since 2004.