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Authentic Connections: How SMBs Can Successfully Navigate AI-Driven Marketing

4 Mins read

The rapid advancement of technology has transformed the way people ideate and create unique content and visuals via text-to-image generative AI tools. This shift has especially caused a surge in how small businesses (SMBs) use generative AI to efficiently and creatively produce unique content for their website, marketing campaigns, and social media platforms.

From personalized content generation to dynamic visual storytelling, generative AI presents numerous possibilities to engage with target audiences. But, at the same time, this transformative landscape is fraught with fears of misinformation. Consumers expect transparency and authenticity from brands. Striking the right balance between leveraging AI technologies and preserving an authentic, visual story is paramount for businesses seeking to build meaningful connections and foster long-term customer relationships.

This presents a challenge for small businesses to select the right AI tools, and when to lean on real-world imagery and pre-shot visual content in their marketing efforts.

To help guide small businesses through the process, here are four considerations to maintain consumer trust and loyalty while leveraging AI tools to spark creativity and increase efficiencies.

Understand Audience Sentiment Towards AI

Before integrating generative AI into marketing strategies, businesses must clearly understand how consumers perceive AI-generated content. iStock’s VisualGPS research recently found that 42% of small businesses are adopting AI-generated visuals in marketing efforts. While small businesses increasingly embrace AI, it’s important to be cognizant of consumer skepticism and mistrust of AI-generated content when determining how to best incorporate AI into consumer-facing materials. According to iStock’s VisualGPS data, 52% of consumers believe AI can’t be perceived as authentic as it lacks human touch, imperfections, and ethical judgment while 46% of consumers believe AI can pass as authentic if it accurately represents a real-life scene/object and if it is indistinguishable from human-created art/photograph. SMBs can recognize and address consumer hesitations by transparently addressing the use of AI-generated content via disclaimers. By being transparent, audiences will be more likely to trust the business, fostering meaningful connections and ultimately increasing sales and long-term success.

Balance Business Innovation with Trust

Balancing innovation with trust is essential for achieving campaign success and overall business growth. Small businesses must consider how any AI-generated content used in their marketing reflects the brand’s values and is based on the target audience’s expectations. Consumers want to support brands that are aligned with and remain consistent in their messaging, values, and visuals, leading them to perceive such brands as genuine and worthy of trust and loyalty.

To stay aligned with consumer expectations and brand values, small businesses must carefully manage the use and deployment of AI-generated content alongside human-created content to uphold trust and tell an authentic story their audiences can relate to. Additionally, human creativity remains essential in incorporating AI-generated images into any consumer-facing materials to ensure authenticity. Challenges such as deepfake technology and concerns over misinformation require responsible addressing to mitigate potential risks.

Brands effectively integrating AI into their marketing strategies must balance AI’s innovative potential with authentic imagery reflecting the brand’s essence. Maintaining this equilibrium between leveraging AI’s benefits and nurturing consumer trust is crucial for fostering confidence in today’s AI-driven landscape. Some brands have achieved this by sharing AI-generated depictions of their products, clearly disclosing their AI origin, and then encouraging engagement and dialogue around AI and its interpretations of a brand’s product by inviting consumers to share their own AI-generated images.

Assess and Apply Generative AI Effectively

Generative AI offers opportunities for small businesses to enhance their existing marketing strategies and reach new audiences. Here are points to consider to best integrate audience perceptions of AI-generated content into marketing strategies:

  1. Recognize AI limitations and their impact on brand trust. Navigate these challenges to mitigate any concerns and foster positive sentiment in generative AI usage in marketing, while they uphold authenticity and ensure consumer confidence.
  2. Emphasize human presence and control over AI tools in visual storytelling. Incorporate elements that highlight human interaction to cultivate familiarity and comfort among audiences, which contributes to authenticity.
  3. Strike a balance between using AI-generated images and videos and authentic human-created content.

Effective use of the generative AI tools you have available not only positions the business as a reliable and reputable entity in its respective industry but also boosts brand credibility and fosters long-term relationships with customers.

Select Generative AI Tools Wisely

Consider various factors when selecting generative AI tools to ensure that they are used effectively and responsibly.

  1. Protect against associated risks such as legal and privacy concerns; evaluate granted rights and legal protections to mitigate these risks
  2. Verify AI tools are trained using fully licensed content to address copyright concerns and ensure robust safety measures during the training process
  3. Align creative with brand identity to ensure that the generated content resonates with the brand’s values and messaging

Small business owners who carefully consider the essential factors and regularly evaluate the performance and impact of AI tools can make informed decisions when integrating generative AI into their marketing strategies. At the same time, as technology continues to evolve, those small businesses know and can feel empowered to adjust strategies as necessary to align with evolving objectives and preferences.

By incorporating these considerations into their strategic approaches, small businesses can effectively harness generative AI’s capabilities to build trust, cultivate meaningful connections, and foster transparency and reliability. That leads to enhancing brand credibility, reinforcing customer loyalty, and establishing a solid foundation for enduring growth amidst the ever-evolving business environment. This steadfast commitment to authenticity while harnessing the power of AI tools enables small businesses to navigate the complexities of the modern marketplace with confidence, positioning themselves as trustworthy and reputable brands in the eyes of their customers. Additionally, embracing a culture of continuous learning and adaptation in their AI-driven marketing efforts ensures that businesses stay ahead of the curve and effectively meet the evolving needs of their target audiences, thus remaining competitive in the business landscape.

Grant Farhall is the Chief Product Officer at Getty Images and iStock. Grant Farhall spearheads the company’s product strategy and vision. Overseeing the e-commerce platform, websites, user experiences, customer research and SEO strategy, Grant aims to streamline content discovery, licensing and sharing processes.

Please note, Getty Images/iStock is providing Small Business Currents this image with a zero-dollar licensing fee for online purposes only and can only be used once and not outside this article. Photo credits must be used properly within (Ben Stansall/Getty Images).

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