“Welcome, marketers, to the fascinating world of ChatGPT! In this post, we’ll take you on an exciting journey to explore the inner workings of this AI wizard and its seemingly magical text generation abilities.” – ChatGPT
Wow, ChatGPT – self-aggrandizing much? But if you’ve been on the internet lately, you sure wouldn’t blame ChatGPT for being a little bit high on its own supply. Breathless press releases talk endlessly about how revolutionary generative AI will be while, somehow, at the same time, tech luminaries sign open letters in futile attempts to pause development (and probably sneakily promote their products). And ChatGPT gets name-checked in seemingly every article.
It’s enough to leave you reeling from future shock! But as I’ve said before on this blog, I see AI as a tool, a toy, and a game-changer…but not in the way you think it is.
Today, I want to talk specifically about ChatGPT because it is, by far, the easiest to use and most versatile tool in my marketing toolbox right now. Despite its stilted speech, ability to fabricate facts, and tendency to plagiarize, there’s no denying it’s a force majeure in the marketing industry.
Sure, there’s an ultimatum here. Get with the times or get left behind. But there are also rewards to be reaped by merging with the AI, Ghost in the Shell style. And ChatGPT is the perfect place to start.
Will it take your job? Only if you’re complacent. After all, who wants a carpenter who refuses to use power tools?
In this post, I’ll explain how ChatGPT works, where it succeeds, and where it falls. I’ll provide a general framework you can apply to its use. Then I’ll tell you precisely how I use ChatGPT to draft content, brainstorm ideas, write code, and summarize long blocks of content.
My recommendation – read this one the whole way through. How and why you use ChatGPT is more important than what you do with it, especially since we’re still actively learning what you can do with it.
How Does ChatGPT Work?
“Buckle up, because we’re about to embark on a fantastic journey into the world of ChatGPT. If you’re wondering how this AI wizard conjures up content like nobody’s business, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s break down the magical concoction that makes ChatGPT tick.” – ChatGPT
Again with the high self-regard! Begrudgingly, though, I must admit that ChatGPT is fascinating technology, even though it insists entirely too much on its brilliance.
Before you type prompts into ChatGPT and hope for brilliant responses, you should understand how it works. ChatGPT runs on GPT-4 architecture, where the three letters stand for “Generative Pre-trained Transformer.” GPT-4 is the fourth and, at the time of writing, the latest version.
GPT-4 can take enormous bodies of text, much of which comes from books and the internet. The AI technology that underpins GPT-4 looks for patterns of speech, seeing what words should logically follow others. It breaks down sentences and phrases into individual words or tokens. It can apply this logic to blogs, books, new articles, and GitHub repositories alike.
Some have called it “autocomplete on steroids.” While reductionist, this is not a terrible analogy because ChatGPT knows how to take prompts, guess what you mean by them, and then conjure up a series of words likely to comply with your request, at least reasonably well.
“During pre-training, ChatGPT devoured a massive buffet of text data from books, articles, and websites, learning grammar, facts, and even some reasoning skills. But, like a well-behaved AI, it needed some guidance. That’s where fine-tuning came in. By providing it with specific tasks and examples, humans helped refine ChatGPT’s performance, making it a more useful and targeted tool for various applications.” – ChatGPT
And it’s because of all this, that you can simply pull up a tool, ask it to “write a Biblical verse in the style of the King James Bible explaining how to remove a peanut butter sandwich from a VCR” and get a coherent response.
What ChatGPT Can & Can’t Do
First up, ChatGPT’s capabilities are stunning. Even five years ago, the idea of a computer outright drafting content, brainstorming ideas, summarizing long blocks of text, and writing code would have seemed like science fiction. Yet here I am, a digital marketer, and not even a particularly innovative or talented one, using such a tool daily for $22/month. (There’s a perfectly good free version too.)
“For marketers just starting their careers, ChatGPT can be a trusty sidekick, helping to streamline tasks and boost productivity. But remember, with great power comes great responsibility.” – ChatGPT / Uncle Ben
Despite its ability to use superhero metaphors, ChatGPT doesn’t have consciousness. That means it doesn’t know what’s true and what’s not. It also doesn’t have data from after mid-2021. For these reasons, it doesn’t know just how much the MCU has dropped off in quality in the last two years.
But much more to the point, sometimes it generates outright false content, is plagiarized from other sources, or is just plain weird. Other times, and I so often fight with the tool for this reason, it produces text that sounds like a disinterested middle manager or an intern wrote. Boring. Basic. Hackneyed. Corny. Cliche.
For both quality control and ethics purposes, you can very rarely use raw ChatGPT outputs and feel good about it. You have to rewrite or riff off everything it says before you can truly call things done. Otherwise, you’re turning in mediocre work that has a chance of having come from some other person entirely.
And yet – if you can apply your human wisdom and oversight to ChatGPT, you can do what would have previously been, if not impossible, really damn hard. For example, I wrote a detailed, accurate, engaging 2,600-word post about an obscure California environmental law the other day for a real estate firm. But I had to rewrite every word and fact-check it against the actual letter of the law.
So with that in mind, I want to talk about my framework for using ChatGPT, or as I like to call it…
“Let’s talk about something that might sound a bit counterintuitive at first – automating mediocrity. No, we’re not suggesting that you settle for less, but there’s value in getting to a mediocre result quickly, and here’s why.” – ChatGPT
Look, staring at a blank page is one of the worst feelings for a writer or a marketer. Sometimes, when trying to be creative, you tap the wellspring of ideas, and the bucket comes up dry. And it’s just awful because you have deadlines and bills. The client doesn’t give a shit if you’re having an off day. You’ve got to deliver!
So much of creative work is dogged by procrastination, boredom, and a lack of inspiration. That’s because a lot of creative work is a chore. Making blog post drafts can be a chore, writing simple code can be a chore, editing work can be a chore.
But now there is a digital Rube Goldberg machine, ever-obliging, which can create middling drafts in minutes. And now you never have to stare at the blank page again. You never have to black start again. Like Jimmy Neutron to his dog, you can just say, “Goddard, options” and peek into an infinite sea of ideas, most of which are mid, but hey, it’s a start!
If you use ChatGPT to help you start a task, you can add your flair, insights, experience, creativity, inside jokes, and human originality. Then, as a result, you end up with a better, more complete work product far faster than what would have previously been possible and with less stress too.
With their flaws, large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT probably won’t be able to drive independently for a while. But you have to admit – there are worse things to have than an eternally available and unfailingly polite coworker able to speak semi-coherently on any subject at the drop of a hat.
“So, don’t be afraid of automating mediocrity – embrace it as a stepping stone to greatness.” – ChatGPT
OK, that was actually a pretty good line. I should have just taken credit for it.
In any case, here are five ways I am actively using ChatGPT in my career.
1. ChatGPT can rapidly draft blog posts.
“One of the coolest ways ChatGPT can help you level up your marketing game: rapidly drafting blog posts! When you’re swamped with tasks, ChatGPT can be your trusty sidekick, making the content creation process faster and more efficient.” – ChatGPT
What ChatGPT just said is true. However, let me start by giving you a simple workflow you can replicate.
- Create a blog post outline based on initial research, including 5-7 bullet points for each section.
- Use the prompts to generate the sections, one at a time.
- Assemble the whole post.
- Rewrite the individual sentences, fact-check, and make sure your argument is coming across properly.
- Use a tool like Grammarly to help you check your grammar, spelling, and tone.
And here’s a prompt you can use:
I am writing a blog post called “_____”
I am creating a section called “_______”. Write ____ words based on the outline at the end of this prompt.
Target audience: _________
Answer with increased perplexity and burstiness.
Most of this is self-explanatory. By telling ChatGPT what you’re writing, both on a post and section level, the audience you’re writing for, and the tone you’re going for, and then supplying it with talking points, you dramatically lower the risk of ChatGPT making things up.
I like to ask for responses with more “perplexity,” – meaning “don’t always choose the obvious next word.” This helps with the stilted speech patterns. And “burstiness” is a way to say “alternate short and long sentences” so things don’t feel so uniform. But again – do not use the perplexity and burstiness prompt as a way to shortcut the human review process.
When you go through this process, you will find yourself removing a lot of repetitive phrases. You’ll find yourself adding examples, data sources, and metaphors. And, of course, fact-checking and formatting are vital!
But in the process, you’ll find that editing existing work – however middling it may be – is really useful. I’ve found this cuts down on my writing time overall by about 20% and allows me to create posts that are about 15-20% longer and more detailed in the process. Plus, I walk away not feeling so tired after the whole thing. I call that a win!
2. ChatGPT can quickly summarize large volumes of information.
“Have you ever been buried under mountains of information and wished for a magic wand to make sense of it all? Well, guess what? ChatGPT can be that magic wand! Let’s talk about how ChatGPT can quickly summarize large volumes of information for you.” – ChatGPT
Man, if I had a dime for every time a client threw some really complicated document at me, I’d have a lot of damn dimes. These days, I break up long materials into 2,000-2,500 word chunks and have ChatGPT – even version 3.5 works here – summarize in the form of bullet points.
Prompts I’ve used include:
- Summarize this in bullet points: (followed by a copy/paste of some text or a web page)
- What does this guy do? (followed by the raw data from someone’s LinkedIn page)
- Outline key points: (followed by a copy/paste of some text)
ChatGPT still sometimes make things up, and it can zero in on the wrong details, but if you’re pressed for time, you will usually get pretty good results by doing this. It’s a godsend when a “good enough” summary of something complicated is all you need.
If asked to write a long-form blog post on something you don’t know very much about, this can help you mine documents to structure an outline. Then you can fact-check your outline, plug that into ChatGPT, and get a draft. Then you go through the normal process of editing the output by rewriting most of the sentences and just spend some extra time fact-checking.
It’s also great for long emails!
3. ChatGPT can help you turn audio and video into text content.
“Let’s explore yet another fantastic way ChatGPT can help you up your content game: turning audio and video into text! You heard that right – this AI powerhouse can transcribe and repurpose your multimedia content, making it accessible to a wider audience and boosting your marketing efforts.” – ChatGPT
This is actually wrong. ChatGPT does not transcribe video or audio. But Descript does, and you can use that tool to get pretty good transcriptions really quickly. Then you can take the raw output, throw that into ChatGPT and ask for a summary of key points.
From there, you can use that as the basis of a blog post. You can also ask it to summarize a podcast in the form of a Twitter thread, which I do a lot to help my clients’ knowledge – otherwise buried in 30-minute podcasts or hour-long webinars – reach a lot more people. As always, I rewrite the threads to make them flow better and to fact-check, but it still dramatically reduces the amount of time that goes into making them in the first place.
“By repurposing your audio and video content into text format, you’re expanding your reach across platforms. You’ll not only cater to those who prefer reading over watching or listening, but also improve your visibility on search engines. After all, text-based content plays a crucial role in search engine optimization (SEO).” – ChatGPT
This is without a doubt true. Plus, people with trouble seeing or hearing can appreciate your content through screen readers or transcripts. If you’re already putting in the effort to make great content, then more people should see it!
4. ChatGPT can write simple code to automate boring tasks.
“As if ChatGPT couldn’t get any cooler, it can also write simple code to automate those boring, repetitive tasks that are part of your marketing routine. Let’s dive into how this AI wizard can help you work smarter, not harder.” – ChatGPT
Holy crap, ChatGPT, don’t break an arm patting yourself on the back.
But then again, thanks for writing that Google Sheets macro that automatically predicts my bank account balance based on regular revenues and expenses. That was pretty cool.
Sometimes in marketing, you have to write scripts to do something for you. If you work with Google Sheets or Excel or the many APIs used by social media tools, you will probably eventually come across a time when you wish you could write some code to do something for you.
Want to try this yourself? Go to ChatGPT and use this basic template:
I need to write some code that will automate __________________.
Programming language: ________________.
Please explain the exact steps to implement and comment the code so I know what each section does.
After you do this, you may need to troubleshoot, but you can mostly do this by copying and pasting the errors directly into ChatGPT.
But I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you this – ChatGPT is no replacement for
stealing people’s code from Stack Overflow software engineering. ChatGPT has a memory of about 4,000 words. So if your code is longer than that, it can’t remember enough about it to help you. And that 4,000-word limit will really crush you on troubleshooting.
Long story short, ChatGPT can write up to about 250 lines of code before things go totally off the rails. If you don’t have a working knowledge of the programming language you’re working with, good luck trying to maintain it. And, of course, ALWAYS try this stuff out in a staging environment before you implement it in production unless you like pain.
5. ChatGPT is the ultimate brainstorming tool.
“Stuck in a creative rut? No worries! ChatGPT can help you generate fresh ideas for campaigns, slogans, and content that will wow your audience. Whether you’re looking for a catchy tagline or a killer content strategy, this AI-powered dynamo can provide you with an abundance of suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.” – ChatGPT
ChatGPT is really good at coming up with options. All you have to do is ask for “X alternatives for Y” or “X options for Y.” You can say, “come up with 15 tweets to celebrate National Pet Day” and get plenty of serviceable options.
Will any of them make your heart sing? Probably not. But they don’t have to. Anything that “gets your creative juices flowing” reduces the problem of coming up with every idea from scratch.
And don’t sneeze at this! As we understand more about how the brain works, we find more and more that tools like this can really help with executive functioning, which is basically the cognitive processes that control behavior and how likely you are to reach your goals. One of the biggest subsets of executive function that gives people hell? Task initiation.
Let ChatGPT initiate the task, then! That way, you’re only responsible for turning its middling output into something good. Remember, it’s the execution that counts and not the raw idea!
“ChatGPT is a tool, not a replacement for human creativity and judgment. To truly reap the benefits of AI, it’s essential to strike a balance between AI-generated content and your own unique insights and expertise. Embrace automating mediocrity as a stepping stone to greatness, and let your creative genius shine through.” – ChatGPT
Some truth finally shone through in this rare moment of humility for ChatGPT. It isn’t a replacement for humanity. Really, it’s just a tool.
But it is one of the most remarkable tools I’ve ever seen. ChatGPT really is the Swiss army knife of marketing – it can do an OK job of just about anything.
Work with it in a spirit of collaboration. Give good directions and challenge its outputs. Be demanding with your requests of ChatGPT and generous with your creative talents.
Do that, and you’ll find that ChatGPT is much more of a blessing than a curse.