Agencies Are Embracing ChatGPT. Is That a Mistake?

Agencies Are Embracing ChatGPT. Is That a Mistake?

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ChatGPT and similar artificial intelligence tools are making it easier for creative agencies to create content, improve SEO results, and even access royalty-free music for digital campaigns. 

While there’s no doubt that AI can help automate outputs and decrease the hours needed for some of marketing’s most tedious tasks, there are also questions coming up about the potential downsides. What are digital agencies losing out on when they replace human editing and research with AI? Could diving in headfirst and investing too much, too soon create more losses than wins?

In a recent episode of “This Week in Local” a podcast hosted by Localogy analysts Mike Boland and Charles Laughlin, Local SEO Guide CEO Andrew Shotland shared his views on how agencies like his own are embracing AI to serve clients — and some of the potential pitfalls that go along with this approach.

In Shotland’s view, most agencies aren’t saving as much time using AI to develop creative content as they might think. Tools like ChatGPT are fast, but they aren’t particularly accurate. That’s a major problem, especially for agencies trying to create hundreds or thousands of local pages for national brand clients.

“The way we’re approaching AI, and the way obviously most smart companies are doing it, is you can use it as a starting point, and then you need to have an editing process,” Shotland says. “The whole art to AI is the prompts, what to ask the AI to get the output you want. Then you’ve got to have a good editing process, because you have to check it. The jury’s still out on how much you can save just using AI versus human writers.”

Rather than posing an existential threat to search engine giants like Google, Shotland sees ChatGPT having a more long-lasting impact on third-party services and applications that perform basic functions for marketers and agencies.

“We use something called regular expressions, if you’re a coder you would call it Regex. Now I can just go to ChatGPT and ask for a regular expression that does all sorts of crazy things and it really works well, whereas I used to spend maybe 30 minutes looking on Stack Overflow trying to find out if someone figured that out.”

Shotland expects to see huge demand for off-the-shelf AI tools in the coming year. He predicts that the majority of agencies will shift their workflows to take advantage of AI for content development, even if humans are still handling the bulk of editing for the time being.

“I think the first disruption is to writers. Writers are going to have to shift what their skillset is, from purely writing to prompt-creation and almost shifting more to editing,” Shotland says. 

Cost is one factor that could have an impact on how marketers use AI going forward. ChatGPT is free at the current time, but it’s likely there will be a price added for business users in the future. If OpenAI doesn’t nail the use cases for ChatGPT, it’s even more likely that competitors like Jasper will take over market share. Cloud-based work platforms like Notion and Slack will almost certainly be adding built-in AI-powered assistants to take advantage of the trend, as well.

Looking at the big picture, Shotland is one of many who believes there may be too much focus on AI among local marketers. In the long run, he believes machine learning could have a larger impact on the way creative agencies do business and how the industry itself evolves.

“In practice, the main change to local SEO will probably be a massive increase in AI-assisted content. Let’s say you’re an agency or a multi-location brand and you have a thousand locations, you really can’t afford to create custom content for each one unless the ROI is amazing. So I think you’re going to see a lot of agencies, a lot of in-house teams, experimenting with this scale of content creation. But, I think that’s not where the innovation is going to be,” Shotland says. “I think the innovation is going to be in using these techniques to do this kind of automated feedback loop where you’re actually getting a machine to update the content without you even interfering. That’s the sweet spot.”

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.