AI Integrated Processes Small Businesses Use for Social Media Success

2024.03.25 08:46 PM By Joshua Taddeo, Principal Consultant
Digital representation of using AI for social media.

Social media has become indispensable for small businesses. It helps companies connect with customers, drive growth, and build brand awareness. However, successfully managing a social media presence can be daunting, especially for small teams with limited time and resources. Social media management can be a full-time job, from creating engaging content to analyzing metrics and responding to customer inquiries. Small businesses regularly face strain on resources and need to make every dollar count. With that reality, many find it challenging to carve out enough for a social media role or find the right expert to hire. Additionally, it may feel like engaging with social media is a waste of time, especially if your company has no way of tying revenue to those interactions through multi-touch attribution modeling.

One of the biggest challenges small businesses face with social media is the sheer amount of resources required to create engagement, whether it be your time, labor, or money. Creating fresh, engaging content, monitoring multiple platforms, and responding to customer interactions can quickly consume hours each day. Enter artificial intelligence (AI) to help small businesses achieve more without the need to expend significantly more resources. AI can automate many social media tasks, such as scheduling posts, generating content and content ideas, and even drafting captions and responses. That way, small business owners and employees can focus on higher-level strategy, driving revenue, and elevating customer relationships rather than simply producing and responding to content.

Another challenge is the difficulty of standing out in a crowded digital landscape. With significant competition vying for attention on social media, it can be challenging for small brands to get noticed. AI-powered tools can help by analyzing audience data and providing personalized content recommendations that resonate with users' interests and preferences. This targeted approach can significantly boost engagement and help small businesses cut through the noise.

Additionally, small businesses often lack the budget and expertise to fully optimize their social media efforts. AI levels the playing field by providing affordable, easy-to-use tools that can analyze data, track performance, and provide actionable insights - no data science degree required. With AI, small businesses can make data-driven decisions and continuously improve their strategies, even without a dedicated social media team.

In short, when AI is implemented correctly, it's a game-changer for small businesses looking to succeed on social media. AI empowers small teams to punch above their weight and achieve measurable results by automating tasks, enabling personalization, and providing valuable insights.

Benefits of Using AI for Social Media as a Small Business

AI offers several compelling benefits that can help small businesses maximize their social media efforts while saving precious time and resources. AI helps personalize content, reduce costs, improve workflow efficiency, and support your team's efforts to engage in data-driven decision-making.

Another advantage of using AI for process efficiency gains is its ability to automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks. AI-powered tools can handle content scheduling, basic customer inquiries (with oversight), and performance reporting, freeing your team to focus on higher-level strategy and creativity. This social media automation can save small businesses hours each week, alleviating a portion of social media management.

Image Depicting a Variety of Small Business Areas AI Can Support

An additional advantage AI algorithms provide is the ability to analyze your audience data and generate highly targeted, personalized content and recommendations. Building a process with AI in personalized content strategies includes:

  • writing engaging captions and copy,
  • suggesting relevant visuals and hashtags, and
  • tailoring messaging to specific user segments.

Personalized content is basically expected in brand interactions these days, and AI can help. However, AI still struggles in some of these areas unless you specifically provide relevant data during content creation. For instance, AI systems tend to deliver creative hashtag ideas but with no volume to speak of on the social platform. Depending on your goal with using hashtags, you should provide data on specific hashtags in your industry and product niches for the system to focus on. When combined with the prompts for your intended output, it's more likely to choose relevant hashtags that are part of the conversation rather than something unique simply to match the requested content.

AI dramatically reduces costs and elevates small businesses to do more with existing resources. By automating tasks, optimizing ad spend, and improving customer targeting, AI enables small businesses to reduce their social media marketing costs. AI tools are often more affordable than hiring additional staff or agencies. Even AI-powered features included within social platforms can provide capabilities that would be expensive to replicate manually. 

AI helps improve efficiency and productivity for your social media team. By handling the time-consuming legwork, small social media teams can work more efficiently and get more done. For example, they can reallocate time saved on scheduling and reporting to engaging with the community and developing new campaigns. AI insights can also guide teams to focus on the highest-impact strategies and tactics.

Using AI to help with data-driven optimization turns anyone on the team into an insights expert. AI excels at analyzing large datasets to uncover trends and make predictions. Utilizing a Large Language Model (LLM) with data analysis tools allows your team to engage with data like never before. AI can process social media metrics to identify top-performing content, ideal posting times, audience sentiment, and emerging opportunities. These AI-powered insights and recommendations enable small businesses to continually optimize their social strategies based on real-time data when you build a great data pipeline process.

Recommended AI Use Cases in Social Media Process Workflows

Our organization optimizes process workflows for a variety of businesses. Our experiences with small businesses have been some of the most rewarding, especially when integrating AI into their processes and seeing the company grow because of those cost savings and gains in efficiency. Our experience has shown that small businesses gain immense value from technology by recapturing labor that can be better used in another area of the company or expanding the engagement they achieve via social media channels. Here are some of the most important use cases for AI in social media we've seen to date:

Social Listening & Research

While there are more standard digital tools that provide social listening or support social media research, AI can help take the data from these technologies or processes and turn it into insights. We recommend establishing an automated pipeline that tracks trends and engagement online through standard listening tools, your social page engagement, or research methodologies and inputting that data into AI tools like modern LLMs with data analysis functionality. Using a chatbot with data analysis, your team can ask questions about the data, have the system highlight positive or negative trends they may not see, and ask for new ideas to boost social engagement based on the research. Once the team has decided on new tactics to deploy, AI platforms can help further down the process pipeline in various ways.

Content Creation, Derivative and Advertising Expansion, and Multivariate Testing

Image of typewriter with hands showing technology supporting content creation.
Since AI platforms can assist with generating ideas, writing copy, and editing content, they are the perfect tool to expand the depth and volume of content created for your small business. Once you've analyzed top-performing content or trends and engagement in your niche, AI can produce a wide range of content for your team to evaluate and deploy. In addition to developing content based on your research, you can leverage existing content assets like your blogs, white papers, and even videos to create derivative content, including social posts, to drive traffic back to the original content source. 

We often use AI to help develop a wider variety of options to choose from or test in our client's organic posts and paid social advertising. Most customers only see a small portion of an organization's organic social posts, which means producing more to test what content works best. This volume content plan is a great strategy that won't alienate your audience even if you're using similar design creatives. Once you've narrowed in on what's working best, you can pay to boost engagement or even run A/B tests from some of the best organic content to inform future strategies. 

Similarly, social advertising platforms automatically help you identify what's achieving your goals, but only when you produce a wide enough variety of advertisements for the systems to run in the market. We use AI to develop new and slightly altered variations of our existing copy and then run hundreds of ads in the market to prove what works. Once we have the ads that produce the intended results with our target audience, we combine the budget previously split across all the tests and continue running only those that produce the best results. Utilizing AI to support content creation means you can pair multiple versions of copy, head, and design. Even if you only have three designs and three headings, using AI to produce 100 variations on the main body copy generates 900 possible variations to run in the market. 

Creating 100 variations of body copy would take a writer hours. Now, with AI, that writer can spend those hours focused on understanding the target market and writing superb base content. The AI platform can create 100 variations of your superior base content in minutes, giving your social team an unrivaled volume of advertising to test and confirm with your buyers through multivariate testing. By providing inspiration and automating parts of the content creation process with AI, these tools save small businesses significant time while helping them maintain a steady stream of fresh, optimized content like never before. 

Customer Service and Chatbots

AI-powered chatbots can handle common customer inquiries and interactions on your website and social media, providing instant 24/7 support. They can answer FAQs, resolve simple issues, and guide users to helpful resources. More advanced chatbots can even personalize conversations based on user data. Automating some frontline customer service tools frees small business teams to spend more time on complex issues that benefit from direct human intervention. They also enable faster response times and greater availability, boosting customer satisfaction and loyalty.

However, we never recommend running an AI chatbot without human oversight. Recent litigation in Canada, and likely similar litigation to follow globally, highlights how your company is still responsible for what these chatbots say to consumers. In this case, the chatbot said the company would provide a partial refund to a customer even though the refund was not part of the organization's bereavement policies. The chatbot even linked to those written policies, which conflicted with what the AI was saying, but in the end, it made no difference. The courts upheld the partial refund as well as other fees incurred. For fully self-driving cars like Cruise vehicles in San Francisco, accidents involving AI have led to significant consequences for the organization. Even when self-driving vehicles have better safety records than human drivers, the laws are clear: the organizations developing and deploying these AI systems are ultimately responsible for positive and negative outcomes. 

What that means for small businesses using AI chatbots in social media is that they will help speed up customer service and responding on social media, but only if paired with a human decision-maker who presses send. The customer service team should monitor the chats or comments at all times to review each response and decide if it's appropriate and in line with company policy before hitting send. A single customer service representative will be able to monitor and handle many more conversations simultaneously compared to their ability to respond to every incoming social message or comment manually. By blending human decision-making with AI capabilities, your small business can significantly expand your team's ability to engage online. 

Analytics and Reporting

There are a variety of social reporting tools that utilize machine learning to help with social analytics, reporting, and analysis. These tools track and analyze social media metrics for your organization, competitor's pages, or selected phrases to monitor sentiment, trends, and more. These tools can identify top-performing posts, ideal posting times, trending topics, and audience sentiment. Some can even predict future performance based on past data. Presenting data in user-friendly dashboards and reports helps small businesses make informed decisions on their social media strategy and gain insights that would be difficult to ascertain without visualized data. When correctly set up, reporting tools eliminate some requirements for manual data gathering and analysis, saving hours while providing a clearer picture of performance.

Influencer Marketing Tools

With new forms of marketing come new AI tools to help optimize the outcomes. Influencer Marketing AI tools help small businesses identify and connect with relevant influencers in their niche. They can analyze an influencer's audience demographics, engagement rates, and content style to assess their fit for a brand partnership. Some even claim to predict an influencer's potential impact on a campaign. By streamlining influencer discovery and evaluation, these tools make it easier for small businesses to tap into the power of influencer marketing without spending hours on manual research.

By leveraging these AI-powered tools, small businesses can automate and optimize various aspects of their social media marketing, from content creation to customer service to paid advertising. This affordable support allows them to achieve better results with less time and effort, leveling the playing field with larger competitors. As AI technology advances, small businesses that harness these tools will be well-positioned to challenge even the giants of their industry on social channels.

How to Get Started with AI for Social Media

Implementing AI into your small business's social media strategy may seem daunting, but following these steps helps integrate AI tools and start seeing results. If you need help, our organization excels at supporting small businesses with considerable challenges like integrating AI into their process workflows. We specialize in finding solutions within your budget, including as-needed consulting and fully outsourced implementation. Here's our process for integrating AI into small businesses' social media strategies.

Image of a small social media team working with a consultant to get started with AI.

Assess your current social media strategy: Before diving into all the options for AI use cases in social media, take a step back and evaluate your current social media efforts. Identify areas where you're struggling or spending too much time, such as content creation, scheduling, or analytics. Pinpoint specific tasks that could be automated or optimized with AI. This assessment will help you determine which AI tools would be most beneficial for your small business. Remember to ask your team what they need most to garner buy-in from those who will need to use these tools. 

Research and compare AI tools: Once you know which areas you want to target with AI, research the available tools. Look for tools that specifically address your identified needs and pain points. Consider pricing, features, ease of use, and integrations with your existing social media platforms. Read first-person experiences with the tools and compare options to find the best fit to test for your small business. Many tools offer free trials, so take advantage of those to test them out before committing. Remember, you may need to work with a technology consultant if you want to develop custom integrations to avoid adding more tools to an already packed martech stack. 

Start small and test to confirm: When first implementing AI, it's best to start small and gradually expand. Choose one or two AI tools to test rather than overhaul your entire social media strategy at once. This focus allows you to get a feel for how the tools work and make any necessary adjustments. These tests are often run by an operations consultant or in conjunction with your operations team members to ensure outcomes are statistically significant and positively impact workflows. Set clear goals for what you want to achieve with each tool, such as saving time on content creation or improving engagement rates. Monitor the tools' performance closely and compare results to your previous manual efforts.

Provide clear guidelines: To ensure that AI-based outcomes align with your brand voice and goals, provide your implementation team with clear guidelines. These guidelines may include how AI should represent or engage with your brand's tone and style, target audience demographics, and any specific dos and don'ts. The more specific and detailed your guidelines, the better the AI fine-tuning can adapt to your expected outcomes. Regularly review the content and outputs generated by AI to ensure consistency and make any necessary adjustments to your team's fine-tuning or guidance policies.

Monitor and adjust: Implementing AI is an ongoing monitoring, learning, and adapting process. Continuously track the performance of your AI tools and how your team uses them through built-in or custom analytics and your preferred social media metrics. Look for areas of improvement and make adjustments as needed. Your AI strategy should evolve as your small business and social media presence evolve. Stay up-to-date on the latest AI insights and features that could further enhance your efforts. Regularly reassess your strategy; don't be afraid to experiment with new tools or tactics, especially when you have good business process optimization consultants to support your team.

These steps allow small businesses to integrate AI into their social media strategy without overwhelming their teams or resources. The key is to start small, set clear goals and guidelines, and continuously monitor and adapt. Even with minor process changes to incorporate this powerful technology, AI can become a significant asset in your small business's social media success.

A Powerful Ally for Small Business Social Media Success

Human and AI Robot Shaking Hands as Allies
Artificial intelligence gives small businesses a significant advantage in social media marketing. By harnessing the power of AI tools, even resource-strapped teams can automate time-consuming tasks, create personalized content at scale, glean data-driven insights, and optimize their strategies for maximum impact. 

From content creation to customer service to ad optimization, AI offers a wide range of capabilities to help level the playing field for small businesses competing against larger brands. By strategically incorporating AI into their social media efforts, small businesses can save time, reduce costs, improve efficiency, and ultimately drive better results.

However, it's important to remember that AI is not a magic bullet. Small businesses must take a thoughtful, measured approach to truly succeed with AI on social media. An effective approach means starting small, setting clear goals and guidelines, and continuously monitoring and adjusting their AI tools and tactics. It also means maintaining a human touch and using AI to enhance, rather than replace, authentic engagement and creativity.

As AI technology advances, its potential applications for small business social media marketing will only expand. By staying informed about the latest AI tools and best practices to experiment and adapt, small businesses can position themselves to thrive in the AI-powered future of social media.