Why Facebook’s Investment in Artificial Intelligence Matters to Marketers

Just a few years ago, artificial intelligence seemed like an idea straight out of a science fiction story. But in 2016, businesses are increasingly researching and implementing artificial intelligence concepts into their operations and strategy.

To better understand why major brands are embracing the idea, let’s take a closer look at one of its biggest drivers. Keep reading to learn about Facebook’s investment in artificial intelligence, and what that could mean for the future of marketing and branding.

Facebook’s Emphasis on AI

Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook, has been emphasizing the importance of artificial intelligence for the company’s future in recent media appearances. During an April investor call, he noted that his company’s goal was

building computer services that have better perception than people… The basic human senses like seeing, hearing, language, core things that we do. I think it’s possible to get to the point in the next five to 10 years where we have computer systems that are better than people at each of those things

Those are not just empty words. Facebook’s investment in artificial intelligence is real, as evidenced by a number of recent developments.

Take, for example, Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm. Perhaps the oldest example of AI on the social network, it detects which types of content and publishers you engage with most, and automatically shifts your news feed accordingly. Through machine learning, the algorithm makes a judgment about your behavior on the platform and adjusts its product to suit your needs.

A more recent example of artificial intelligence on Facebook are chatbots, which have quickly become a hot topic among brands and developers alike. Automated response mechanism expedite brand responsiveness and increase customer satisfaction. Only a month after their initial announcement in April, more than 10,000 developers were already creating chatbots specifically designed for Facebook Messenger.

And the possibilities don’t stop there. Facebook is in the midst of a massive machine learning project, as chronicled in this Fortune feature. Automated alt tags that describe photos on the network to visually impaired users are just one of the many potential features to have a direct impact on Facebook users.

Understanding the Underlying Reasons

Why is Facebook investing so much effort and budget into artificial intelligence? Some of the reasons are obvious: usability and scalability. Facebook’s user numbers continue to climb, and have now reached 1.65 billion – almost a quarter of the world’s population. Accommodating the needs and desires of these unprecedented user numbers is humanly impossible.

Technology and algorithms, on the other hand, are capable of handling that many users and their individual preferences. No workforce could sensibly sort through millions of status updates to find the ones that matter most to individual users. An algorithm like EdgeRank, however, can. Similarly, chatbots will be able to answer direct queries in a digital environment that has increasingly moved from information dissemination from publisher to user to a demand-based system.

But Facebook’s emphasis on and investments in artificial intelligence reach deeper than simple usability. As Dave Gershgorn points out in Popular Science, “it’s time to stop thinking about Facebook just a social media company.” The corporation has become one of the world’s largest technology research centers as well.

Indeed, an Applied Machine Learning Team has developed a number of tools, such as FBLearner Flow, designed specifically to research and build new applications connected to artificial intelligence. The goal is to run experiments and design ways in which AI can be used both to benefit the company and the greater digital environment. In a mind-blowing process, Facebook is even building AI designed specifically to build AI.

What Other Brands Can Learn From Facebook’s Investments

On its surface, Facebook’s emphasis on artificial intelligence may little more than a fun fact. The same emphasis is difficult to recreate especially for smaller companies that don’t have such a hold on current technologies. Still, the topic suggests a number of actionable lessons that brands of any size can learn from Facebook’s investment in AI:

  • Work ahead to stay ahead. It’s the perfect example of a market leader not resting on their laurels, but continuing to find new ways to move the goal posts and improve its platform. Facebook’s predecessor MySpace offers a chilling example of what happens if innovation stops once you’ve reached the zenit. Continuously working to stay ahead is crucial for sustainable success.
  • Customer focus matters. Ultimately, the root of Facebook’s emphasis on AI is to improve user experience. The reason is simple: if your customers don’t get what they want, they’ll move on to alternatives that can better accommodate them. A proactive and customer/user-centric approach helps Facebook stay ahead.
  • Adjust your Facebook presence. Too on the nose? Perhaps. But a crucial takeaway from Facebook’s investment in artificial intelligence is also that brands looking to successfully reach their target audience on the network need to be prepared for a more AI and machine learning centric environment. Taking advantage of chatbots, and designing content that appeals to EdgeRank, are just a few of the steps you should take if you want to use Facebook as a marketing tool, both now and in the future.

Drawing Conclusions from Facebook’s Emphasis on AI

In short, artificial intelligence is no longer just a concept made for exhilarating stories. If Facebook’s example is any indication, it is beginning to enter our everyday world of digital and technology interactions. The recent rise of chatbots, a simple form of AI aimed at improving customer service and brand responsiveness, is just one of the many examples.

Facebook is investing in artificial intelligence selfishly to stay at the forefront of technology, and selflessly to improve customer experiences. Brands looking to follow suit need to familiarize themselves with the concept and its consequences to ensure a sustainable competitive advantage. To learn more about the rise of AI, and how your brand might be able to take advantage of it, contact us.