Posted: Mon 12th Jun 2023
It seems almost impossible to avoid the commentary on the evolving nature of artificial intelligence (AI) technology and what it means for jobs, society and, not least, the future of humankind!
As a small business owner, understanding and embracing AI can be daunting. So, here's my attempt at explaining and demystifying AI while providing practical guidance on how to harness its potential for your business.
What is artificial intelligence (AI)?
AI is not a new concept. In fact, its role in our everyday lives has largely gone unnoticed or underestimated. For example, did you know that AI features in our smart devices, decides the ads we see on social media, and even tracks and predicts our behaviour across many of the applications we use daily?
So, what's new? The release of ChatGPT in November last year led the way for a new wave of AI called generative AI.
ChatGPT is a chatbot developed by OpenAI, trained on a vast amount of text data from various sources, including books, articles, websites and other textual materials (up until September 2021). This training enables it to generate responses and provide information on a wide variety of topics.
Put simply, you can chat with ChatGPT as if it were a person, and it will understand you.
In the months following the release of ChatGPT, a flood of new generative AI tools became available as other technology companies tried to keep up.
Google, on the other hand, was taken off guard by the release of ChatGPT and was forced to launch its own AI tool, Bard, earlier than expected.
Many of the generative AI tools available are built with ChatGPT, but others, such as Bard, are separate tools. However, the general idea remains the same.
What can generative AI do?
A more appropriate question is: What can generative AI not do?
These tools are exceptionally advanced and can create in a way that only humans could before. AI programmes can:
draft blog posts
prepare business plans
sketch blueprints, and
create lifelike photos
While these tools are incredibly useful, it's their ability to disrupt and change the way we work that has alarmed many people.
If you're willing to explore, there is a range of publicly available generative AI tools to make use of. These tools can automate repetitive tasks, generate content for social media and marketing campaigns, create personalised customer experiences, and more.
Watch this webinar to learn how ChatGPT can help you generate ideas and identify key themes related to your target audience:
AI tools for marketing content
Here's a summary of some AI tools you may find useful for creating marketing content for your small business.
ChatGPT is very easy to use. It operates like a traditional chatbot. Simply type your questions or prompts in plain English to engage in a conversation with ChatGPT, and it will generate a response in a matter of seconds.
There are various uses for business owners:
Information and research: Ask questions and receive answers on a wide range of topics relevant to your business, such as industry trends, marketing strategies, or best practices.
Generating content: Get assistance in brainstorming ideas for blog posts, social media content or product descriptions.
Language assistance: Receive help with writing, proofreading or editing tasks, such as creating professional emails or drafting business documents.
General knowledge and problem-solving: ChatGPT can provide insights and suggestions on various business challenges, from pricing strategies to operational efficiency.
However, there are some limitations to consider. While ChatGPT has been trained on a vast amount of material, its information cut-off point is September 2021 (this is soon to change). Consequently, it won't have the most up-to-date information or knowledge about current trends. It can also sometimes provide information that's inaccurate or incomplete.
It's important to fact-check anything that ChatGPT creates for you.
2. Bing Chat
Microsoft has a long-standing partnership with OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT. Many of Microsoft's products use OpenAI's AI models, including PowerBI, Teams and Bing.
Bing's Chat feature operates similarly to ChatGPT. The main difference is that Bing Chat can access web results and provide up-to-date information in real time. This means it can comment on recent events. It also cites its references, which ChatGPT does not.
This makes it better for carrying out research, but ChatGPT offers longer creative responses than Bing Chat.
Google's Bard uses a language model called LaMDA. Like ChatGPT and Bing, it can generate text, translate languages, write different kinds of creative content, and answer your questions in an informative way.
Bing Chat delivers longer responses, while Bard seems better suited to quickly answer questions. Like Bing, it does offer citations but not to the same extent.
In the AI race, Google is lagging behind Microsoft. However, Google recently announced that it will soon add multimodal content to Bard, which means it will be able to answer in other formats such as pictures, maps and charts.
Ultimately, the best chatbot for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences, and there are other examples available that you might find more useful.
AI tools can create images in a matter of seconds and can be particularly helpful if you need a specific image and don't have the time to search through stock photography or create your own. There are paid AI tools you can use, such as Midjourney, but here are two free versions.
1. Adobe Express
Adobe's latest version of its Adobe Express app now lets users create stunning imagery through Text-to-Image and Text-Effects by prompting Express with their own words in natural, conversational language.
Thanks to the power of Adobe Firefly Generative AI, you can create outstanding content even more easily, seamlessly and intuitively, using the largest collection of high-quality design and video templates, photos, music and assets for inspiration to get started.
2. Image Creator from Microsoft Bing
Again relying on OpenAI models, Bing's image creator is powered by DALL-E. To use it, simply type a prompt, such as "create a photo of a person drinking a cup of coffee in a coffee shop" and click create.
Bing will generate four images to choose from, and you can refine your prompt to get a better image. Keep in mind that you'll be limited in the number of requests you can make.
3. Canva Text to Image
Similar to Bing's Image Creator, Canva recently introduced AI to generate images from text descriptions. This allows you to create custom images without needing design skills. If you already use Canva for design, this is a great added feature to use while you're on the site.
The feature is free to use – you don't need a Canva Pro account to access it.
As the AI race continues, we're seeing generative AI tools being incorporated into many more existing products and services. For example, Buffer, the social media management tool, recently launched an AI Assistant that generates ideas with just a click and repurposes existing content.
Shopify, the e-commerce platform, also introduced AI-generated product descriptions powered by Shopify Magic, creating high-quality, compelling product descriptions in seconds.
Your AI journey
Generative AI tools have become extremely popular in a short space of time. While the wider discussion about the power and impact of these tools continues, these examples will help you make an informed decision as you embark on your own AI journey with confidence.
AI can help businesses become more efficient, and making use of the services available is just one step. There are also massive opportunities for businesses to embrace generative AI and integrate it into their own products and services.