Can Artificial Intelligence really replace Community Managers?

As technological improvements and innovation continue to amaze us on daily basis, it’s hard not to think about the implication this will have on humans, the jobs they do, and how they can prepare for the future.  The fact that it is hard to explain to my parents what my job involves now as a community professional, or even some of my friends who are my age, and I can’t even begin to think of how I will someday guide my children on how to prepare themselves for the future of the job market.  My parents could tell me that computers were going to be important as I went through my education and encouraged me to learn the basics, but I am certain that back then they couldn’t have even dreamt of what the job market offers now.  A bit of a side note, but when my grandma came to visit me for the first time in Canada, she used to sit there watching me do my homework, typing away on my computer, in awe, as this was probably not something she thought she would see in her lifetime.  We all spend good chunks of our spare time interacting with friends, foes, and strangers through various social media channels, and it is a relatively new phenomenon in terms of really understanding and applying that the information we are able to gather from those interactions; granted the analytics technology is catching up quickly and community professionals and companies are not far.

We all spend good chunks of our spare time interacting with friends, foes, and strangers through various social media channels, and it is arguably still a relatively new phenomenon in terms of really understanding and applying the information we are able to gather from those interactions.  Granted the analytics technology is catching up quickly and community professionals and companies are not far behind making use of that information.    All the research I have been doing about the community management profession indicates that this is still an occupation in its infancy and that there are still many opportunities to grow in this field.

The question becomes if we can grow quickly enough to be a match to technological advancements,  between automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities designed for monitoring and interacting with communities.  I can’t help but wonder how long it will take to substantially change the role of or perhaps eliminate the role of a community manager completely.  Some would argue that the technological advancements will only help streamline the mundane tasks allowing community managers to focus on the engagement and delivering organization’s goals.

 

Let’s for an example take bots, you will run into them in various social media channels and many will not even realize they were not talking to a real person.  The bots can be great for delivering some basic knowledge, a reference to training materials, break the ice and invite the users to stay a while.  Many sites you visit today will automatically offer you a chat window, where you can ask your questions or state your concerns, and this has been a useful tool to keep you on their site longer, obtain some information from you, and hopefully be able to sell you more of whatever you are considering to buy.  Some of these are run by bots but many are still allowing you to have an interaction with another human.

 

While the bots and automated tools might be able to rapidly fire answers to some basic inquiries, the question becomes what happens when you have an unsatisfied customer whose concern needs to be the addressed with more sensitivity and finesse than a bot could ever be trained.  Technology is getting close.  Some of the more advanced AI tools can now perform sentiment analysis and alert the community managers to action accordingly.   While this is all great I do wonder how AI is able to outsmart humans when it comes to human emotion and qualities.  Regardless of how much time you spend communicating in the digital world, it is still often hard to determine the tone of the author.  The technology today is already helping us with assessing the sentiment of messages and making recommendations for actions, but it goes beyond just the sentiment.   Computers are already being trained to recognize and respond to sarcasm and also recognize facial expressions.

So are we doomed?  Hopefully not!  As Zeynep Tufekci, states in her Ted Talk there are still things we as humans need to do:

“We cannot outsource our responsibilities to machines.  We must hold on ever tighter to human values and human ethics.”  –  Zeynep Tufekci

It is easy and scary to sit and think of all the ways technological advancements will impact our lives and not always for the better, but what is more important is that there are people out there thinking about solutions.  If some of us truly will lose our jobs due to such advancements, we certainly can hope that things like demonetization and universal basic income are something we can fall back on.  Peter Diamandis, discusses this very topic in his latest post. Is the end of community management ever so close with technological advancements?   I certainly hope that’s not the case.  But we will really have to stay on the very tip of our toes keep on top of all of the upcoming trends and technological advancements to have to keep up as community professionals.  Where do you think we are all going as community professionals in next 10 years, do we still have time?

 

 

Photos Courtesy of https://pixabay.com

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