What every small business owner needs to know about AI

While people have been talking about the potential of artificial intelligence (AI), for a long time, we’ve really started to see the power and seemingly endless capabilities of AI in recent months. 

Much of AI was initially designed to replace manual labor, allowing for greater efficiency and effectiveness in some mundane and repetitive jobs or tasks that require minimal human input. 

From analyzing data sets to supporting customer service roles, we’ve seen AI make significant changes to the labor market.  

What was maybe more unexpected, however, was the relatively recent introduction of artificial intelligence tools in the creative space. 

From mimicking the voices of popular artists to allow for a release of a popular song by Drake and The Weeknd (which wasn’t actually created by them at all), to creating images and illustrations for use on social media, to writing captions and other works with ChatGPT, AI has truly made its mark in the creative scene. 

As a business owner, you might be wondering if you should be excited or scared when considering that there are tools coming out that might be able to perform your job (or at least parts of it) for you. 

My perspective? AI offers a lot of benefits, and business owners should embrace artificial intelligence and the ways it can make their lives easier, rather than shying away from the concept. 

Below, I’ve outlined what you need to know about artificial intelligence, including some of the tools and benefits you should take advantage of as a business owner, as well as some of the drawbacks. 

What is AI? 

Artificial intelligence is a machine or computer program’s ability to learn and think – essentially performing the cognitive functions we generally associate with human minds. 

Typically this is done through algorithms that process large amounts of data, looking for patterns to follow to create a specific output like a prediction or recommendation. 

From voice assistants like Siri and Alexa, to customer service chatbots on websites, to Netflix recommendations, you’ve likely interacted with some form of AI, even if you didn’t realize it. 

These examples however are considered weak AI. They’re focused on performing simple tasks and often have many limitations that can make them sometimes frustrating to use if you aren’t using specific keywords, or if you’re looking for them to perform a task they haven’t been programmed to do.  

Newer, stronger AI tools like ChatGPT and other content creation programs, are built with the intention that these tools will learn and improve over time, as they’re provided more input.

The sooner you start using these tools in your business, and the better you get at providing them with information about your company, the more accurately AI will be able to understand and support you. 

Benefits of AI 

  1. These tools can help you save time and money. 

As a business owner, you likely recognize that you’re limited in your resources. Your marketing budget has a cap, you only have a certain amount of time and energy in the day, and there’s only so much you can outsource. 

With both mundane, repetitive tasks and creative endeavors, artificial intelligence can be supportive by helping you save time and money. 

In seconds, artificial intelligence tools can create blog posts, filter emails, transcribe audio, provide support for website visitors with questions, take meeting notes, or create video or audio tutorials through voice generators and video editors. 

All of these tasks are likely things you would have previously had to pay a lot more for – either in terms of money or time. 

As we’ll talk about below, these outputs likely won’t be perfect, but they can provide a great starting point. 

  1. Reduction in human error. 

Particularly for mundane, repetitive tasks, AI tools can help prevent human error. There are a number of factors that come into play when humans are performing tasks: 

  • Humans are prone to bias and subjectivity when interpreting data 
  • Humans may modify data to present it in a better light, to prevent themselves or someone else from looking bad 
  • Fatigue or lack of energy and enthusiasm can hinder a human’s ability to complete a task (or at the very least the speed in which they perform it)
  • No one is perfect, and humans are naturally prone to making mistakes 

While AI cannot completely replace the need for human input, it can support you with minimizing your workload and reducing human error with the repetitive tasks in your business. 

AI isn’t subject to the same bias and subjectivity humans are. 

AI won’t change its reports or results to save someone’s feelings. 

AI isn’t going to work less effectively depending on the time of day. 

AI doesn’t rely on energy or enthusiasm to complete tasks. 

And, as long as the inputs are correct, AI should theoretically analyze data in the same way each time. 

Consider what tasks you (or your team) are doing on a recurring basis that could be automated or made more efficient through the introduction of AI tools. 

The more you free up your time and energy by eliminating or minimizing mundane and repetitive tasks, the more time you can commit to meaningful, strategic, and creative work. 

  1. It offers a great starting point for creativity. 

If you’ve ever experienced writer’s block (who hasn’t), you know how frustrating it can be when you need to create a piece of content but the words or ideas aren’t flowing. 

Often, human creativity is dependent upon our environment. We need to feel inspired in order to create easily and effortlessly. 

And sometimes, we simply don’t have time to rely on inspiration. We have deadlines or deliverables that need to be finished. 

Using artificial intelligence as a starting point for a social media caption, a blog, or website copy, can help give you the spark of inspiration you need. 

Machines are able to source and sort through endless amounts of information in seconds, in order to provide you with an output that you can utilize and expand on. 

  1. It’s available 24/7. 

Unlike yourself or your employees, artificial intelligence tools don’t need time off to sleep or recharge. They’re available 24/7, making them a great addition to your team. 

You can choose to draw on them whenever you need support or inspiration, and they ask for very little in return.

While they might not be able to replace a position entirely or replicate a task perfectly, AI tools can be a great addition to the team and processes you already have in place.

AI tools that will support your business

To support you in your exploration of artificial intelligence, here are some examples of ways you can start using AI in your business today:

  • For content creation, consider playing around with ChatGPT. This AI form allows you to enter questions or prompts into a chat box, and will produce content based on your input. For example, you could input a prompt like, “create an Instagram caption for my small business about the importance of marketing, including 3 tips for getting started with marketing and a call-to-action at the end encouraging people to work with me.”
    • Note that this tool has limited knowledge of the world and events after 2021 due to its programming (an example of a drawback to tools like this), but nonetheless, it can still be very helpful!
  • For voice-overs, text-to-speech, and dictations, consider a tool like Murf. This might be beneficial for making your content more accessible, and/or repurposing content more effectively so you can show up and market yourself in more places online. 
  • To further repurpose content, look at repurpose.io. This platform helps you to repurpose your content directly from platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Tik Tok. Repurposing content you’ve already created can help you expand your reach, without stretching your resources. 
  • For simple photo enhancement and editing, take a look at hitpaw.com. This might save you from needing to hire additional support to remove something from the background of a photo, for example. 
  • To automate note-taking from audio conversations, try fireflies.ai. Streamline your meetings, and provide notes to those who were unable to attend. 

Consider where you currently spend most of your time and energy in your business, and start with the AI tools that will help you win some of that time back. 

Drawbacks of and ways not to use AI 

  1. Avoid solely using AI, without your input. 

While artificial intelligence tools can provide a great starting point for content creation or optimizing processes, they shouldn’t be used as the end-all-be-all.

Recognize that AI functionality is limited. Machines can only perform the tasks that they’re designed to do. 

And, even when they’re performing the tasks they were created to, they lack out-of-the-box thinking, and depend on your input. 

Improper inputs will likely yield irrelevant outputs. 

The better you get at asking AI questions, and providing specifics about your business and what you are looking for, the better artificial intelligence tools will become at responding to you, and creating relevant content. 

However, at the beginning, AI tools will likely give you generic, cookie-cutter captions or blog posts that don’t accurately represent your brand voice. 

From this initial output though, you’re able to modify the text to create a version that portrays your company and the message you’re trying to share. 

  1. Avoid using AI to complete tasks that require your unique knowledge or perspective. 

While machines might be better at working efficiently when compared to humans, they’re not as great at human connection, and particularly communication that requires emotion. 

You understand your clients more than anyone else, so ensure that the processes and tools you’re implementing make sense, and don’t replace your unique knowledge or perspective. 

There’s nothing more frustrating than when a company’s only contact method is a chat box where you’re getting generic responses back that don’t apply to your situation. 

While you can potentially use AI for some customer service tasks, or generic emails, you also need to recognize when a process or situation requires the human touch.

  1. Be aware of potential copyright infringement issues that come with AI.

Copyright and AI have an interesting relationship. 

AI doesn’t cite its sources, making it challenging to confirm whether the information it’s providing you is uniquely written, or incredibly similar to the original work that inspired it. 

And, while you’re free to share the content AI has created for you word-for-word (though I don’t recommend it), the question of who owns the copyright for said information isn’t clear-cut. 

Consider using a plagiarism checker to validate the originality of any text AI has created for you, before you post it on your own platforms. 

Even if it comes back as unique content, it might still be worth rewording it so that you aren’t caught in any copyright infringement issues down the road. 

Rewriting and repurposing content from AI systems is important anyways, to ensure the content has your unique brand voice, and will resonate with your audience.  

  1. Avoid using AI for the sake of using it. 

Of course, you should experiment and have fun with AI and the tools that are available. But, particularly when it comes to your business, ensure you have intention and purpose behind what you’re using AI for. 

Implementing new tools without having goals and strategy behind them is a recipe for overwhelm. 

  1. Recognize that AI might not have all the answers (or might make them up). 

Like any technology, AI has its limitations. 

Whether the software isn’t up-to-date (like previously mentioned with ChatGPT), or hasn’t been programmed to properly check the validity of the information it’s pulling, it’s incredibly important to fact-check everything AI produces for you. 

Beyond potential programming issues, the term “hallucination,” has also been coined to describe when AI algorithms create results that aren’t real, and/or don’t follow the patterns or algorithms they were trained on. 

This fabrication tends to happen when AI software can’t find the information you’re looking for but still wants to provide you with an answer.

Even if what AI has produced for you “sounds good,” confirm any facts or figures with your own research before sharing the information on your own accounts. 

  1. Don’t rely too heavily on AI. 

Avoid relying so heavily on artificial intelligence tools that you become dependent on them. 

While it can be fun to outsource tasks and become a pro at optimizing and streamlining your business, it’s also important to recognize that you don’t own these AI tools. 

Technology is constantly changing. 

New programs are being created all of the time, and other programs are becoming obsolete. 

Consider what would happen if one day you woke up and the tools you were using were no longer available.

Do you have your processes recorded elsewhere so you or someone else could take over a task or complete a workflow? 

Would you still know how to create content without a starting point being spit out from an online program? 

Would you be able to handle all of the tasks in your business or would you need to hire additional support? 

Continue to be involved in your business, so you’re not left in a difficult situation if the AI you’re using shifts, stops being updated, or disappears altogether. 

AI is here to stay

While artificial intelligence will continue to evolve as time progresses, it’s here to stay and has already become an integral part of many businesses. 

Rather than shying away from these new tools and resources, why not use them to your advantage? 

While AI might not be able to replicate your work perfectly, or replace all of your employees (nor should it), artificial intelligence can do wonders to support your business productivity, creativity, and efficiency. 

How do you plan on using AI in your business? I’d love to hear from you!