The stratospheric rise of ChatGPT has created immense interest in generative artificial intelligence (AI) and its applications for digital marketing and customer growth. Reshift Media has developed several processes and technology platforms that employ automation and machine learning to simplify franchise marketing, and we are extremely excited about the numerous opportunities this technology creates for franchise organizations to increase marketing efficiency and effectiveness.
What is ChatGPT and Generative AI?
As a starting point, let’s define what ChatGPT is. And what better source than ChatGPT to tell us?
And while we are at it, why don’t we have ChatGPT define generative AI?
In short, generative AI involves creating new content based on a large amount of existing data. In the case of ChatGPT and similar AIs, the dataset is the internet. This means that a person can ask ChatGPT to create new, unique text, and images based on the “knowledge” of the internet.
Although ChatGPT is getting the most buzz, it is far from the only AI available. Google, Meta and others are rapidly integrating generative AI into their platforms to avoid being left behind. Google has created their own AI, called Bard, and during an earnings call in April 2023, Mark Zuckerberg mentioned “AI” 27 times in the span of an hour and said AI will “impact every single one of our apps and services.”
What can generative AI do?
Generative artificial intelligence like ChatGPT can create a wide range of original text, images and even video content. OpenAI is a leader in this field, having created both ChatGPT (a text-based generative AI) and DALL-E (an image-based AI).
Generative AI can answer questions like “why is the sky blue?”, can write an email to your boss asking for a promotion, improve the grammar and tone of an article you have written, write an essay about Hamlet, create a blog post about the value of social media marketing, edit existing photos or create new ones, and an endless number of other applications.
Artificial intelligence can also be used to analyze massive amounts of data to create connections and draw conclusions. It can be used to create user personas, identify top products for specific user groups, define optimal times to post content and perform a variety of other tasks.
AI is expected to completely transform digital marketing in the next few years, particularly as massive companies like Microsoft, Meta and Google race to be the leader in the field. The above examples barely scratch the surface of what AI can do and how marketers may use it in the near future.
Enhancing Franchise SEO with ChatGPT
Search engine optimization (SEO) for franchise companies can be complex due to the nature of the franchise model. Ideally, a franchise company’s corporate website should rank well for general industry terms, while local franchisee pages or microsites rank for “near me” or other local searches.
One of the major SEO issues faced by franchise companies is duplicate content. It is quite common for franchises to simply “copy and paste” content across their local franchisee pages or microsites. Although this is convenient and cost-effective, Google views this content as repetitive and therefore does not attribute search engine authority to it. For example, if your business sells green chairs and every local microsite includes the same description for your green chairs, Google will not attribute search authority to the green chair pages on your local microsites.
To address this issue, we at Reshift Media have developed a local content creation process where our content team creates unique copy for every location. Using our green chair example from above, our editors will write different descriptions for the green chair for every franchisee microsite, ideally incorporating some degree of local information where appropriate.
The challenge with this approach is twofold:
- It is quite labour intensive
- It becomes difficult to create unique content once your franchise system has hundreds of locations
Therefore, this seems like a perfect opportunity to use generative AI. ChatGPT and other AIs can create hundreds of unique writeups quickly and cost-effectively. This seems to neatly solve the duplicate content issue while avoiding the time and cost of using humans to do the work.
However, the complicating factor is that Google can tell if content has been created using an AI by looking at signals such as the text structure, grammar, and syntax in the text. Google has stated that they are not against AI-generated text per se, but they have also been clear that they reward original, high-quality content that meets their E-E-A-T criteria (outlined below).
Given this, it is not entirely clear at this point whether using AI to generate localized website copy will have a positive impact on SEO. Although the content will be unique for each location, it is certainly possible that Google may deem it as duplicative and therefore discount its value. We at Reshift Media are currently conducting experiments to assess the effectiveness of this approach and Google’s treatment of this strategy.
At this stage, we advise franchise marketers to be cautious with using AI for SEO purposes. Things are evolving very rapidly, so we expect the picture to become much clearer in the near future. In the meantime, using AI to brainstorm different ways to write about the same thing is a clever way to spark creativity.
Using ChatGPT for Franchise Social Media Marketing Success
Although caution should be used with AI and SEO, the same challenges do not exist for social media marketing. Social content for platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and others, are intended only for consumption by people—there is no SEO impact.
In our experience, one of the most impactful opportunities for franchise systems is to use automation and AI to create localized social media posts and advertising. Franchise companies are essentially a collection of local businesses that allow them to connect with potential customers where they live. There is no shortage of social media content and advertising, so by incorporating local information, such as a photo of the local storefront, the name of the city/town/neighbourhood, or local products/services offered, your posts and ads tend to stand out more. As a person is scrolling through Facebook or Instagram on their phone, they are more apt to notice and engage with a post or ad that includes the name of where they live (or other local information), as they see it as more relevant to them.
Now, for most franchise systems, the idea of the head office creating unique posts or ads for every location can seem like a daunting task. And offloading this work to local franchisees is often not feasible, as they have their own business to run and may not have the time, experience, or resources to manage their own content calendar or advertising campaigns.
This is where automation and AI can help. Like everything else in franchising, the challenge with social media marketing is creating a repeatable process that can cost-effectively scale across all your franchise locations. We at Reshift Media have spent years refining an approach where we use automation to allow for programmatic localization of social media posts and ads. Next-generation AI will make this approach even more impactful.
To make this process work, we combine a franchise system’s location data with AI and automation to programmatically insert localized information into nationally created posts and ads, as outlined below. Through this approach, a single person can create a post or an ad that is automatically modified for every location to include details such as the location name, city, or even local offers. In addition, the landing page the post or ad clicks through to can be programmatically updated to include local information or offers to provide a smooth user experience.
Franchise companies that incorporate local information into their organic social media marketing typically see a 200%-500% increase in organic social media performance and a more than 500% increase in advertising performance.
How Franchise Systems can use Google Bard and Meta AI
Where this gets very interesting is when the above approach combines with the new AI innovations being implemented by Meta, Google, Bing, TikTok, and others. These platforms have a tremendous amount of user data that can be combined with a franchise company’s location data to create powerful posting and advertising opportunities.
As outlined below and in this blog’s accompanying video, if a particular person in Philadelphia prefers gluten-free pizza and tends to be motivated by deals, creating an ad campaign that delivers an incredibly tailored ad to that individual would be possible. By combining the company’s location information (i.e., the city and the specials for that location) with the person’s preferences (i.e., gluten-free and deals), AI could programmatically create a specific ad for that person.
Although the technology to implement this exact strategy is not currently available, we are very close. Meta has announced the creation of an AI Sandbox that will allow advertisers to experiment with new AI technology to create ad variations automatically, and they already have Advantage+ ads that programmatically tailor ads to people based on their buying behaviours. Google is actively incorporating generative AI into all of their products and already has a product called Performance Max that programmatically creates ads across all Google products and modifies them based on user behaviours.
How is franchise first-party data related to AI?
The main component that makes AI work is, of course, the information it can work with. In the case of ChatGPT, it uses information openly available on the internet to create content and answer questions. For Meta, Google, and other ad platforms, they mine the user data they have available that is proprietary to them.
In the above examples, franchise companies can use the tools provided by ChatGPT, Bard, Meta, etc., to do some interesting things from a marketing perspective. However, the data being used in these instances is not proprietary to the franchise company, meaning that they are not truly creating a competitive advantage for themselves. Other companies in their industry who have the wherewithal to do so could replicate the same approach using the same available tools and data.
Where possible, we strongly encourage franchise companies to explore opportunities to gather and employ first-party data to gain an advantage over their competitors. First-party data can be defined as information that a company collects directly from its customers and owns. This means that instead of having to rely on user data provided by Meta, Google or others, a company has their own user data that they can use to create product recommendations, personalized newsletters, personalized offers, customer-level analytics, marketing targeting and other opportunities.
As we discussed in a previous blog post, franchise organizations can gather first-party data through several strategies, including:
- Ecommerce / online profile
- Loyalty program / user registration
- Product registration
- Newsletter subscription
- Lead generation forms
AI recommendations for franchise companies
In terms of ChatGPT and generative AI in general, our advice to franchises is:
- AI is going to be a marketing game-changer—do not get left behind. Consider how you can use AI and automation in your social media marketing to achieve localization and personalization at scale.
- AI-generated content will have an impact on SEO. At this stage, approach this cautiously, as it is possible that Google may view your AI-generated content unfavourably.
- Experiment with AI and make use of the tools Google, Meta, and other companies provide.
- Where possible, collect and use first-party data to gain a competitive advantage.