ChatGPT and its Place in Content Marketing
The science fiction of the 1960s and 70s predicted many technology trends we now take for granted. The “communicators” used on Star Trek resembled our first mobile devices, though they don’t come close to the computing power of today’s smartphones. The robot who warned Will Robinson of danger would have a hard time keeping up with Tesla’s automated robot assembly line workforce. Robotizing human labor seems inevitable today. Even Wall-E of 2008 fame has competition from Roomba. It seems that we regularly eclipse our technological imaginations. That is, until it comes to language processing.
For most of us, AI language applications haven’t lived up to the science fiction we’ve been expecting. Dealing with an automated customer service representative or frantically correcting Siri as she accidentally directs us on a 3,000-mile car trip has made us acutely aware of the limits of AI. Why does automating our language—a well-documented and developed human ability—seem lightyears away? Where is our HAL 9000?
This past fall, an update to a program called Generated Pre-Trained Transformer—first developed in 2018—produced an AI-driven natural language program that appears to close the gap. Rather than explain it myself, I’ll ask ChatGPT to explain what it does in rhyming couplets, with no more than 100 words, at a 5th grade reading level:
It’s a machine learning model that can create text
It’s fed a bunch of data and then it’s set
To predict what word comes next in a text
It can write stories, articles, and more
It’s like having a robot writing assistant in store
It took about 20 seconds for ChatGPT to write that, as well as another four lines I cut for length. It’s a Sputnik moment for AI.
2023: A Marketing Odyssey
ChatGPT is great at writing well-organized and clearly written content. Its versatility in imitating common forms of writing is downright frightening. If you ask it to write a social media blog, it will use the more informal structure, style, and vocabulary of that format. If you ask it to write the same content as a press release, it will completely change the style of the piece using the vocabulary and structure appropriate for a more formal statement. You can additionally specify the tone and reading level of the content. ChatGPT responses generally require some editing to remove excessive words and add your personal voice, but it’s a great tool for writing first drafts of content or content that doesn’t require eloquence or significant specialized knowledge.
For general purpose content and writing, it is quite remarkable. Below, I’ve asked ChatGPT to write a peppy 100-word email about a holiday party we’re hosting, mentioning it will take place at 6pm on Friday on the 1st floor:
Get ready to ring in the holiday season with our festive party on Friday at 6pm on the 1st floor! We have a ton of fun activities planned, including holiday-themed games, music, and of course, delicious food and drinks. It’s the perfect opportunity to catch up with your colleagues and spread some holiday cheer. So mark your calendars and come join us for a night of celebration. Don’t forget to bring your holiday spirit and your dancing shoes! See you there!
You can also use ChatGPT to write low level summaries on a very broad range of topics with far greater specificity than any previous program could. Here, I’ve asked for a 100-word summary on why Elizabeth Bennett initially rejected Mr. Darcy while imitating the writing style of a Jane Austen novel:
Miss Elizabeth Bennett, upon receiving Mr. Darcy’s proposal of marriage, found herself overcome with disgust at his haughty demeanor and the insult he had paid her family. She therefore did not hesitate in refusing his offer, making it clear that she held no affection towards him. It was not until Mr. Darcy’s behavior towards her improved and he made amends for the harm he had caused that Miss Bennett began to view him in a more favorable light and ultimately accepted his second proposal of marriage.
Neither of those responses were edited, and ChatGPT completed each task in less than 15 seconds. Now, the big question on everyone’s mind (especially if you’re in content marketing): should writers start looking for a new line of work? Probably not—yet.
ChatGPT and the future of content marketing
ChatGPT’s writing ability is good but not great. Its prose tends to become more formulaic and generic the longer the prompt becomes. It can’t weave in things like subtlety, humor, and emotion, essential for any good content marketer. But ChatGPT’s real limitations go beyond humor and personality. The bigger problem is its lack of intellect.
In general, ChatGPT can tell you anything that a non-expert can find within 30 minutes to an hour on Google. This would be fine if the world was in need of more B+ high school essays or form emails. For writing that goes beyond the obvious, or into subjects requiring a degree of expertise, ChatGPT often inserts filler content that isn’t accurate or worth mentioning. Lines like “holiday themed games” were never specified in my original holiday party prompt (and weren’t part of the party plan). And while this can be edited out easily in a short email, it becomes more problematic when producing content that requires any level of knowledge about the product or issue you’re writing about.
Don’t get me wrong. ChatGPT shows the progress that’s been made in AI processing of common language, but it also shows the limitations of the technology. It’s a major step forward from the limited language processing of its predecessors, but in our opinion, it’s not about to write a New York Times bestseller or even a great Facebook post. Where ChatGPT does have value for content marketers is in generating that “ugly first draft,” giving just the push you need when you’re staring at a blank page. Amber Breeden, our Director of Marketing, says “I’ve used [ChatGPT] myself in this way. I end up keeping very little, if any, of the original response, but it gives me just enough material to get going.” ChatGPT helps us get something on the page to work with, which lets us spend more time refining our ideas and word choice and less time fretting over how to start.
ChatGPT—like its AI counterparts—will get better with time and more data. Our future will likely see computers play a greater role in creating well-written content. Still, we are a long way off from automating the empathy that allows us to convey emotion or the curiosity that helps us provide perspective and complex opinions. For now, ChatGPT offers efficiency, helping content marketers tackle their ever-growing list of content requests.