Why ChatGPT Can’t Write Your Digital Marketing or Social Media Strategy
“I used ChatGPT to…”: “predict the next crypto bubble,” “find restaurant recommendations in LA,” “meal plan for the week,” “develop characters for my novel,” “build a new video game,” “plan my trip to Europe,” “be my life coach.” The headlines and examples are endless. It seems everyone these days, including basically every tech reporter and podcast host, has been “playing around” with ChatGPT. It’s the hottest topic this summer, this year maybe, and is even responsible for helping fuel the recent rally in equity markets.
The flurry of news stories and heightened interest had me wondering: how effective is this iteration of AI (GPT4) when it comes to digital marketing strategy and social media management? What are the implications for brands? And how should social media managers be thinking about this development?
When it comes to social media strategy, automation, saving time, and relieving the tedium that can come with platform management is nothing new. This is the basic value proposition of every third-party social media management tool: to save time and optimize your posting strategy with our service. Beyond just recommended posting times, AI has been present within these tools for several years. For example, I used a proprietary AI tool several years ago to generate Facebook copy. It was a key component of my social media strategy and allowed my Facebook Editor to manage five Facebook pages effectively instead of just one. The bot summarized news articles into one-sentence Facebook statuses, usually quite effectively, but still required editorial oversite, i.e., a real person sitting at a computer asking, “Is this the best possible social copy for this post?” and making decisions on timing and prioritization.
ChatGPT Shows Promise, But It Has Its Limitations
My experiments with ChatGPT this summer have made it clear that AI technology has come a long way beyond writing Facebook posts. I asked ChatGPT to create social posts, a social media schedule, and draft overall bullet points for a broader digital marketing strategy, including goals/objectives, target audience, content marketing plans, SEO for social media and email marketing strategies, influencer marketing, and monitoring and analyzing performance. ChatGPT performed all these tasks within seconds and with an air of authority.
But beyond speed and a professional tone of voice, there were important limitations to this AI.
ChatGPT does not provide sourcing. When asking it to write social copy on a particular topic, it doesn’t automatically link to where it finds the information it’s presenting, and often that information is out-of-date (GPT4 only has limited data from 2021 on). When I asked the bot to write a LinkedIn post about the most recent updates to Twitter, the product updates it listed were years old and required me to cross-check Twitter’s website to see if any of that information was still relevant.
Additionally, ChatGPT did not abide by character counts when I asked it to write social copy (even when I specified the character count or specifically asked, “summarize this in three sentences”). As a work-around for the problem of out-of-date information, I tried feeding it more up-to-date information, and I asked it to write a post based on what I pasted in. It quickly and simply reworked the content I gave it, but often used very similar wording to the original author’s piece. I had an eerie sensation I was watching plagiarism happen in real-time—and I would not have felt comfortable posting the copy it presented for that reason.
Beyond just the creepy (if you will) feeling of watching a very human-sounding bot at work, there were limitations to the social media schedule and digital strategy suggestions the bot gave me. The social media schedule was simply a list of suggested posts and dates, with no links and no images. This schedule still would have required manual editing and legwork by a human to get the posts over the finish line. The broader digital marketing strategy ChatGPT came up with laid out bullet points like “define goals and objectives” and “understand the target audience,” but did not say what those goals and objectives should be or who the target audience was. From a strategy point of view, everything ChatGPT presented to me felt like a very basic to-do list I would scribble in my notebook before getting down to the actual work at hand.
ChatGPT Isn’t Advanced Enough to Replace Entire Social Media Teams
At this point, I think it’s fair to say, ChatGPT would not be able to replace an entire social media team. While it could certainly write posts, (or drafts of posts) and come up with a schedule, it cannot replace the insights gained through the day-to-day human management of platforms, the knowledge a social media manager gleans about how the audience responds to different types of posts, times of day, or a clever turn of phrase. On a more practical level, ChatGPT can’t hit “send” on the posts it writes.
I also can’t see ChatGPT helping a brand stand out in a crowded marketplace. It’s not coming up with compelling activations or engagement opportunities, thinking outside the box, or recognizing trends in how other brands or users are engaging on social platforms. ChatGPT will give you an outline of a strategy (a very vanilla strategy), but it can’t help you decide if it’s time to pivot into paid or guide you toward the right time to launch that new account. What makes a strategy, project, or activation memorable is the human element: it’s the unseen connection between the audience and the marketing professionals trying to get inside their heads. AI (at least in this iteration) cannot mimic those serendipitous moments of creativity that come from experts who care deeply about a product, brand, or messaging working together to advance the same goal.
All of that said, I do believe there are some good use cases where ChatGPT could lend a marketing professional or social media manager a helping hand. For quick top-level suggestions, brainstorm prompts, super high-level summaries, or outlines, this is a useful tool. Even so, you’re still going to want to put in some legwork. For example, ChatGPT can generate hashtag suggestions, but you’d still need to go to the platform you’re interested in posting on and double check that those associated conversations are brand safe and relevant. One benefit that cannot be overlooked is the fact that it is free (for now)! Certainly, ChatGPT could offer copy suggestions just a good as the AI in the third-party tool I used a few years ago, and it wouldn’t require a subscription and a contract for a social media team to take advantage of that feature.
Despite its limitations, is ChatGPT a game-changer for digital marketing and social media teams?
It depends on your point of view and the resources available to you and your team. For those working on a shoestring budget, a one-person team, or with limited experience, I can certainly see the value. But no matter what your level of experience, right now, ChatGPT seems to be a useful tool to kickstart a project, not an end-to-end solution that’s going to complete that project for you.