Social media has completely changed how modern societies interact. It is far easier for bad actors to communicate, and that’s a problem for families, government and businesses. With the large volume of communications out on the internet, it’s just about impossible to filter out the communications that cause concern without completely slowing down the system or heavily controlling it as do some more rigid governments. Artificial intelligence (AI) has a number of techniques that can help mitigate those risks.
The first, and most obvious challenge is that of language. Natural language processing (NLP) is the AI tool for understanding words. Language is complex and deep learning systems have made major advances in understanding, but there’s still work to be done. One of the challenges is sarcasm. When speaking, most people can understand when another person is sarcastic. That’s done through listening to the tone of the words. That tone doesn’t exist in most typed text so what becomes harder for people becomes even harder for machines.
Then there’s the large use in social media of images and emojis. Understanding images in the concept of threats is difficult. Vision, a key subsegment of AI, is a technology arena that is working to better understand images.
Another social media challenge is analyzing the large volumes of messages coming from multiple sources. Identifying the same person, groups, or message style on Facebook, Instagram, reddit and a host of other sources of information is critical for providing an accurate picture of not just threats, but also of positive movements that might help a brand image.
While there are many different aspects of AI and other technologies that must be integrated, the promise is great. While a government’s ability to find threats should never be minimized, this is a column about business, so let us look at these general concepts from the aspect of brand management.
Building and Protecting a Brand with Artificial Intelligence
Brands matter. While some marketers think you can create a brand through messaging, much of a brand’s real creation is through a natural evolution in a marketplace. People talk to each other about what works and what doesn’t. Certainly, the company’s message can help build and reinforce the brand, but many things out of a company’s control can impact that brand.
In the past, the methods of market interaction were more limited, person-to-person, then newspapers, radio and television. Each advancement spread the ways brands evolved. However, they typically had far slower impact, for good or bad, than viral sensations do today on social media.
If an influencer likes your product, social media can very rapidly increase sales. Without a good understanding of the immediate increase, how is a company going to increase production, change distribution to the hot market, or spread the word further to leverage the good news? Decisions must be made quickly because the influencer’s message might not last long.
AI is needed to observe all the sources, ignore the “noise” of standard information, and use its own analysis to find the beginnings of trends that can be nudged or to which the company can rapidly respond. Imagine something we don’t yet have: There are a few mentions that begin a trend, the system identifies this and alerts the company. The sales and marketing teams could quickly put together a special aimed at the right people in a connected network that shows up to reinforce the message and increase sales.
On the other hand, what if somebody starts a smear campaign against your company or product? To quickly identify this as a threat alerts the PR team, who can evaluate the real threat and begin a response. “We’re seeing that AI is a crucial element for effective, proactive crisis monitoring online, as it’s nearly impossible for humans to sort through every tweet, meme and visual to discern risk for their brands online,” said Adam Hildreth, CEO and founder of social media detection and crisis monitoring firm Crisp. “However, while AI helps sort through the noise, it’s essential that brands incorporate a human element of crisis monitoring into the equation, in order to avoid ‘cry-wolf’ and false alerts. The combination of artificial and human intelligence provides a balance that enables organizations to build greater trust with their customers knowing the right content will be flagged and addressed in a timely manner.”
In either positive or negative cases, there are more benefits than only media responses. Just in time manufacturing limits response to unexpected changes in demand. The faster that a change can be identified, the faster a company can react by increasing or decreasing production in order to not miss opportunities or waste raw material.
Social media provides complex and large volumes of data. Businesses need to look at how AI can provide more rapid understanding and manage a company's social media footprint.
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