In 2007, when business pages first started appearing on Facebook, two friends, Brennan White and Matt Peters, recognized that marketing was changing. Social media was giving consumers a voice that allowed them to interact with brands, opening up marketing to the possibility of two-way communication with customers. They founded a social media agency called Pandemic Labs where they have worked with various big brands, including DirecTV and Dunkin’ Donuts. Then they caught on to the next big digital trend: Artificial Intelligence (AI).
They started Cortex in 2014 in an attempt to create a utility for creative decision making. Using AI, Cortex directs content creation based on your historical marketing performance and the data of your competition.
I was intrigued by this concept, so I sat down with Brennan and Matt to discuss their vision.
“This area of creativity has been this last holdout. There has been no software to help it…” —Matt
Software exists to aid various aspects of marketing, from project management to tracking social media posts, but before Cortex, there was no product to address the issue of content creation. “Everyone thinks you’re just supposed to be Don Draper and drink a bunch of scotch and come up with this like unbelievably awesome idea,” said Matt. That might have worked in the past when marketers and advertisers only had to come up with one great piece of content per year for an ad for TV or radio. However, because of social media, that same job might entail creating dozens or even hundreds of unique pieces of content per day. That strategy of drinking a lot of alcohol and coming up with good ideas isn’t going to work at that scale, and that’s where Cortex can help.
“The human and the AI together can do something better than either the human alone or the AI alone…” — Matt
People tend to worry about AI replacing human workers or allowing robots to take over the world. Cortex’s goal is not to replace human marketers. Instead, by enhancing the creative process, Cortex makes social media managers better at their job. Thus, “we’re not replacing you, we’re making you more important,” said Brennan.
“If anyone tells you there’s a right Instagram post for everyone, they’re lying to you.” —Brennan
So how does my software know what I should be posting on Instagram?
Essentially, it learns what makes a good piece of content. Each thing that can be recognized by AI is called a feature. Cortex can recognize various features, from post length and timing to the colors and objects in a photo. Cortex then works to figure out which of these features help you reach your specific goals. You might be optimizing for likes, shares or clicks, or someday soon, even a specific reaction on Facebook. Cortex is able to account for your data and your competitors’ data to figure out what types of content will perform well among your target audience. Since there are so many factors to think about when optimizing performance, it’s helpful to have AI analyzing the data and providing feedback, so you craft the best content possible.
“The most important thing that people need is the ability to write.” —Brennan
Finally, I asked Brennan and Matt for some career advice. They said to have a successful career in social media marketing, make sure you can write well without making any mistakes. You should be able to reliably write grammatically correct tweets and Facebook posts because billion dollar companies cannot have you using the wrong “its” while representing them.
Additionally, it helps to build a portfolio of creative work. Credentials are nice. The fact that you took IS6621 is great, but the sooner you can demonstrate your ability, the better.
For students in Professor Kane’s class who might be looking for a job, apply to Pandemic Labs if you want to work at a social media agency and apply to Cortex if you want to work on cutting edge technology for the marketing industry. Oh, and Matt asks that you please stop listing Microsoft Office on your resume as something that you’re good at.