While artificial intelligence is developing by leaps and bounds, there are still some limitations on its ability to generate truly original content. AI has to operate from the information it's given. The type of input provided and the sort of data available affect how artificial intelligence delivers the goods. So as a content marketer myself, it got me wondering, is generative AI something copywriters should worry about today?
The Rise of Generative AI
Well into my adult life, I thought of artificial intelligence as a science fiction concept. Mention of AI would conjure images of advanced humanoid robots set on manipulating their creators and destroying humanity. Ah, a simpler time!
In the early 2010s, AI started to feel a bit more real, but still not really accessible to regular folks. It was something scientists and technologists played around with in labs, like those uncanny talking robots that mimic human emotion or the headless robo-dogs that march around opening doors and fighting off hockey stick attacks.
Fast forward to today, and you can have your very own unnerving conversation with an artificial intelligence. Around the holidays in 2022, OpenAI gifted the world with free access to ChatGPT, its highly sophisticated chatbot. ChatGPT can answer almost any question it’s asked and complete tasks like writing stories, articles, or even code. Other chatbots are in the works as well, like Microsoft’s Bing AI (or “Sydney” as it apparently likes to be called).
For those of us who make a living writing, coding, designing, or doing pretty much any work that these chatbots are now promising to do, there are a lot of questions about the future and how our work might change—or whether or not it will go away completely.
Should Copywriters Worry About AI?
I spent over a decade working in content marketing for the tech sector. Then for the last two years, I’ve been a full-time freelancer, writing marketing content for businesses and ghostwriting for executives. My livelihood depends on companies needing help from someone who can research relevant topics and write compelling content in their brand voice that informs, influences, and inspires.
AI companies claim that their chatbots are (at least somewhat) capable of doing the same work I’ve built my career around. Essentially, an article that takes me 4 hours to write could be delivered by an AI in mere seconds. People are even using ChatGPT to write entire books. As of mid-February, over 200 Kindle ebooks on Amazon named ChatGPT as an author or co-author, including one literally titled, How to Write and Create Content Using ChatGPT.
Working in the software industry for many years, I’ve seen how far machine learning has come and how helpful AI-powered solutions can be. I generally embrace technology when I feel it can improve life personally or professionally. For marketers, in particular, the more you can automate tedious tasks and scale your work, the better. That being said, we have historically left the creative stuff to the humans.
I Asked ChatGPT for Parenting Advice: Here's What Happened
Based on what I know so far, I’m both impressed and a little bit terrified of today’s AI capabilities. To prepare for this article, I put aside my fears and tested ChatGPT for myself.
I decided to ask the chatbot how to get my kid to pick up the dirty socks he’s constantly peeling off and throwing all over our house. Nothing has worked for me, so I figured I’ll let the AI take a crack at it. Below is a transcript of our conversation.
Me: Explain how I can get my 9-year-old son to pick up his dirty socks.
Chat GPT: Getting children to do chores like picking up their dirty socks can be a challenge, but there are some strategies that can help encourage your 9-year-old son to take responsibility for his belongings. Here are some tips:
- Be clear and specific: Make sure your son understands what you expect him to do. Instead of just saying "clean up your room," be specific about what tasks he needs to do, such as "put your dirty socks in the laundry basket."
- Make it a routine: Consistency is key when it comes to getting kids to do chores. Establish a routine where your son knows that he is expected to pick up his dirty socks every day or every time he changes them.
- Make it fun: Kids are more likely to do something if they enjoy it, so try to make sock-picking-up time fun. You could set a timer and see if he can beat his previous record for how quickly he can do it, or turn it into a game where he has to find all the socks that are hidden around the room.
- Offer rewards: Consider offering rewards for completing chores, such as a small treat or extra screen time. Make sure the reward is age-appropriate and consistent, so your son knows what to expect.
- Lead by example: Kids are more likely to do what they see their parents doing, so make sure you are setting a good example by picking up your own belongings and keeping the house tidy.
- Use natural consequences: If your son doesn't pick up his socks, let him experience the natural consequences of his actions. For example, if he can't find a clean pair of socks in the morning because they're all dirty, he'll learn that he needs to pick them up if he wants to have clean socks to wear.
Remember, getting your child to do chores is a process that takes time and patience. Be consistent, positive, and encourage your son along the way.
While there’s nothing groundbreaking in the chatbot’s response, I must say this is solid advice. I could easily see these “6 Tips” featured on any popular parenting blog.
ChatGPT is clearly capable of scanning the internet for information and disseminating it into a concise, well-written list, which could be really useful in some cases. However, if you’ve been on the internet lately, you know it’s not always the most reliable source of information.
The Problem with Putting AI in the Writer's Chair
There’s no denying that ChatGPT is a powerful tool. But like any good tool, it’s only useful if wielded effectively. Generative AI still requires the right (human) inputs to provide high-quality outputs. In other words, you have to be very specific about what you want and need a certain level of understanding of your subject matter.
For example, if I wanted ChatGPT to write an article about quantum physics, I would need to know enough about the subject to create a detailed prompt. I would also need to be able to review the work and ensure its accuracy. (Watching the latest Ant-Man movie isn’t going to cut it.)
It’s also important to remember that work produced by artificial intelligence isn’t exactly original. In an AI’s “training phase,” it’s fed billions of documents, data points, and bits of information that it scans for patterns. It uses this information to mimic human style and rhetoric and craft its own responses.
According to Bloomberg Law, that information (or, in some cases, misinformation) leaves some gaps in an AI’s knowledge. The current version of ChatGPT was only trained on data sets available through 2021, and not all the information was fact-checked for accuracy.
Human Writer vs. ChatGPT: Compose.ly Put AI to the Test
Another downside many critics of AI-generated content point out is its lackluster style and “robotic” tone. To test this, the team at Compose.ly did their own study to see if readers could tell the difference between a blog written by a human and one written by ChatGPT. They gave both the writer and the chatbot the same prompt to write a blog on the topic of cellular signal strength.
I read both versions and found each to be (mostly) grammatically correct and well-organized. They both seemed to provide legitimate information about cell phone signals (though I’m no expert on the topic). Ultimately though, it was pretty clear to me which one was written by ChatGPT and which one was written by a person.
The AI version read more like an instruction manual than a blog post. It was very matter-of-fact and, frankly, boring to read. While this wasn’t the juiciest topic to begin with, I found the human writer’s version much more engaging and easier to comprehend. ChatGPT just couldn’t nail the conversational tone that most blog readers prefer.
3 Ways AI Can Help Content Writers
If you’re a marketer or author ready to kick your feet up and hand the content creation reins over to artificial intelligence, I would think twice. (Unless you don’t care about quality, accuracy, or original ideas, in which case I say, enjoy your vacation!)
Good content requires empathy. Experienced, oxygen-breathing writers know how to ask the right questions and dig into areas that matter to their readers. AI isn’t sentient and can’t dream up ideas beyond the inputs it’s given. But that doesn’t mean a chatbot can’t help a content creator work smarter and more efficiently.
How Writers Might Use Generative AI
Generative AI has processing power way beyond what the human brain is capable of tapping into, so why not harness it? Here are a few ways I believe AI can help human writers produce great content:
- Proofing. Most writers already use editing software like Grammarly to proof their work. (I honestly can’t remember life before it.) Similarly, you can ask ChatGPT to check your grammar, and it will provide corrections and recommendations. (I haven’t tested it yet, but have read that it’s impressively accurate.) One thing to keep in mind, though, is style and tone. You don’t have to make every change an editing tool recommends, especially if it makes the writing less engaging.
- Research and topic selection. I have a love-hate relationship with research. I love learning and diving deep into new topics, but it can be very time-consuming. ChatGPT can be useful for compiling information and sifting through search results. It can also help you generate topic ideas, which is great for building out a content calendar or developing pillar content on broad topics.
Here’s an example I tested out with ChatGPT:
Me: Give me 5 topic ideas to write about electric vehicles based on popular search results.
- "The Benefits and Drawbacks of Electric Vehicles" - This topic could explore the pros and cons of owning and operating an electric vehicle, including factors such as cost, range, charging infrastructure, and environmental impact.
- "Electric Vehicle Charging Options and Networks" - This topic could delve into the different types of charging options available for electric vehicles, including home charging, public charging stations, and fast charging networks.
- "Comparing Electric Vehicle Models: Features and Performance" - This topic could explore the different electric vehicle models currently available on the market and compare their features, performance, and pricing.
- "The Future of Electric Vehicles: Trends and Predictions" - This topic could examine the current trends and predictions for the future of electric vehicles, including advancements in technology, policy changes, and market growth.
- "The Environmental Impact of Electric Vehicles" - This topic could explore the potential environmental benefits of electric vehicles, such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions, as well as any negative environmental impacts, such as the production and disposal of batteries.
- (Some) copywriting. Don’t worry, Peggy Olson; artificial intelligence could never fully replace a great creative copywriter. But there are some copywriting tasks for which it’s already proving useful. Marketers can leverage ChatGPT to assist with writing headlines, ad copy, social media posts, etc.
For example, you could use it to develop multiple versions of a digital ad for various audiences or A/B test different language to see what resonates most. It probably won’t give you the best headlines you’ve ever read, but it can give you a good jumping-off point to write something more clever.
Here are 3 headlines I asked ChatGPT to write for an advertisement for LaCroix:
- "LaCroix: The Refreshing Way to Hydrate and Stay Healthy!"
- "Get your Fizzy Fix with LaCroix - The Ultimate Thirst Quencher!"
- "Discover the Delicious and Healthy Flavors of LaCroix - Perfect for Any Occasion!"
Is Artificial Intelligence Really a Threat?
Researching and writing this article has been a cathartic experience. I feel more knowledgeable about the capabilities of AI and a bit better about my future prospects. My job is probably safe (for now).
My biggest takeaway is this: AI is an assistant, not a replacement.
If you want content that truly connects with your audience, it needs a human voice. We shouldn’t shy away from technological advancements that can make our lives easier, but we should use caution and good judgment when engaging with them.
Compose.ly knows the benefit of engaging industry-expert writers to create content that speaks with a human voice. While we embrace new technology, we never lose focus on the impact of people..
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