For many working in online communities, the work is challenging, empowering and very rewarding—though unfortunately, it can often be time-consuming and repetitive. It can be hard for community managers to catch a break, let alone make time for any type of vacation away from their computer. And when they're lucky enough to have found a perfect time for self-care, community managers always have that thought looming in the back of their minds: What's happening in the community? Are things getting out-of-hand? Is it being monitored properly? Will I come back to a mess?
This is just one instance where AI in community can come in handy.
Now, most community managers have trusted moderators to rely on and help alleviate some of this worry—indeed, 66% of online communities have at least one moderator. Additionally, community managers can always rely on their Super Fans to keep the community tamed and their internal team members to manage any issues while they're away. But having some AI tools in place can give a certain peace-of-mind that's hard to come by, since they're predictable and the outcomes foreseeable.
AI in community, however, isn't just a nice-to-have when community managers are away. That's because AI works to alleviate some of the more time-consuming tasks that not only keep community managers glued to their desks, but also makes their job repetitive and tiring. This is a key reason why Venessa Paech, Co-Founder of Australian Community Managers, makes the case for AI in community. In a recent webinar featuring Venessa and Bill Johnston, Venessa notes, "I think that a lot of those working in community feel as though they might as well be a bot simply because there's no time to add value as a human being. They're so busy doing monotonous and repetitive tasks, and AI can help alleviate this burden and empower them to add more value as a human."
But before we explore how AI can assist and empower those working in community, let's first take a look at what exactly AI is.
What is AI?
AI, or artificial intelligence, is more or less known as a computer simulation of human intelligence. Bill, the CEO and Founder of Structure 3C, however, explains his working definition of AI in community as, "Agent or a set of agents that are connected to a real time data source or sources…[these agents] have the ability to interact with either the community members on the front line or with the community administrators/ the business on the back end, and that technology or set of technologies is making progress towards a specific goal or goals."
While AI is a set of technologies that are capable of learning as they go, humans are deeply embedded in the AI process. Humans feed AI the knowledge they need in the form of data to make decisions, and so, as Venessa explains, "This is not fully autonomous machine intelligence just yet—there are humans deeply involved in this loop that work to train the data being used and refine the data layer."
Scaling Community Operations with AI
One way that AI can help online communities is by enabling organizations to scale their community without increasing operational costs; in other words, scaling while remaining lean. This is because AI can take over all the more monotonous tasks that traditionally fall to the community manager, or those working on the community team.
But "replacing" the repetitive work of the community team isn't the end goal—it's really about enhancing the work process and output. For instance, think about new member onboarding—AI can be used to help onboard new members at a larger scale, and more efficiently, since it can be personalized to onboard in a way that resonates with that specific member. As Venessa says, "Using AI to to assist with onboarding, or to assist with escalation around moderation [is the type of AI] that's been happening for a while."
Enhancing Customer Journey with AI
AI can help community a lot when it comes to being able to personalize at scale in a way that would be extremely time-consuming for a human to do. The level of personalization that AI is able to execute on such a large scale can greatly enhance the customer experience within the community.
"When it comes to content matching," says Bill, "There's so many opportunities for personalization, which we've been doing forever in various forms and number recommendations." AI in the most simple form can be used to recognize what a member is interested in and then recommending content or actions for a member to take based on their unique set of preferences. By tailoring the community experience to member preferences, members will not only feel as though the community delivers on what they're looking for, but they'll also be more engaged.
Ultimately, Bill concludes, "[Using AI in community] is like having an extended team, if you will, who collaborates on your behalf."
AI can offer communities a unique set of benefits that provide customers with a better experience while also alleviating community professionals of some of the most time-consuming tasks. This, in turn, enables community professionals to have the time to make more "human," connections and increase the genuine relationships that the community is built on.
If you want to learn more about the role of AI in community and its ethical implications, be sure to check out the full webinar.