Approximately 2 billion internet users are active on social media. That’s almost one in every four people in the world. They are constantly updating their statuses, tweeting their every move and thought, uploading new photos and videos, or posting new thoughts and conversations. This is a whole lot of information that marketers could be using to target customers and sell products to them by using artificial intelligence.

Related: Tips for getting your social media strategy plan right

According to these new statistics from Statista, “these figures are still expected to grow as mobile device usage and mobile social networks increasingly gain traction”. Facebook remains the most popular social network with 1.7 billion active users. Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger are in second and third place with 1 billion users each. Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter are also included in the top 10 list of social networks.

Statista goes on to say: “Due to a constant presence in the lives of their users, social networks have a decidedly strong social impact. The blurring between offline and virtual life as well as the concept of digital identity and online social interactions are some of the aspects that have emerged in recent discussions.”

Artificial intelligence can help us understand

And it is for this reason that artificial intelligence can help us understand what it is that people want by studying what they’re saying on social media. There are tools that can quickly surface social posts and conversations between consumers and businesses – some examples include on platform analytics, Kissmetrics and Google Analytics. These are the tools that allow businesses to really engage with consumers by understanding their thoughts and needs.

But there’s still a lot of insight which can be gleaned from these posts. Technology being used collects what people are saying without understanding why. That’s because the reasons for why can be quite hard to understand – particularly for machines.

Related: The role of machine learning in engaging your customers

We’re seeing word and phrase trends rather than deep understanding

Writing for VentureBeat, Sprout Social’s Aaron Rankin asks: "Subtleties that connect underlying people, issues, and the causal basis are missed by the best algorithms and the best practitioners. For instance, sophisticated pollsters, pundits, and analysts failed to call the recent U.S. Presidential election and now are now scrambling to explain it. Might the answers be hiding among billions of social posts?"

He says that AI systems are not up to this type of deep understanding yet, but that the research is on the right path to get there.

“The day may come when AI is closer to a human’s level of deep learning and understanding when AI effectively makes sense of complicated and vastly large piles of data in quantities that human brains cannot efficiently process,” Rankin says.

What AI can already do

Where AI is already incredibly helpful is where it's being used as social media monitoring tools. They allow you to ‘listen’ to what is being said about your brand, your competitors and your industry in general. You can then use this data to understand your audience better and improve your marketing strategy. You can also be alerted to conversations about your brand or industry, and chime in at a relevant time. This allows you to be seen as an industry expert and useful resource.

The reality is it will take time for AI to ever replace authentic human conversations and interactions. Tools are already improved to the point where they can create strong bonds with customers. But it’s up to your staff to reach out and ensure those leads result in conversions. To read more about the importance of social media monitoring, have a look at our recent article. It’ll give you some tips of how you can improve your online strategies and provide support for customers.

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