There are really only three stories in the world, as they say:
- Man vs. man
- Man vs. nature
- Man vs. machine
The last of which is a popular narrative in a world where automation has been putting people out of jobs since the industrial revolution. While it’s been a growing trend, how much have machines really put people out of work?
There’s a pervasive idea in Silicon Valley that software is going to automate everyone out of a job. Fortunately, that just doesn’t appear to be true. Machines put people out of jobs during the industrial revolution by automating things that didn’t need to be done by human hands anymore. But no one is sitting around waiting for those jobs to come back, and that automation allowed for other jobs to be created. At the end of the day, people are still working right alongside machines.
Humans, Meet Your Unicorn Software Overlords
The same is true of technology. There is a lot of software out there that automates the mundane daily tasks. Many of these new software distruptors have become unicorns—private companies that are valued at $1 billion or more, such as:
- Uber has disrupted the on-demand transportation business by making it easier than ever to share rides.
- Airbnb has disrupted the hospitality industry by allowing individuals to share other people’s homes and private residences with anyone looking for a room. The result is often a much cozier and less expensive alternative to a hotel.
- Palantir is another software company that is disrupting the industry. In this case, data analysis. What used to take a lot of human power to do — and in some cases things that a lot of human power just couldn’t do — is now done with automation.
- Snapchat is the hottest social network at the moment, disrupting the space by allowing people to live in the here and now without leaving a permanent record, in many cases.
- Magic Leap is disrupting the virtual reality space by doing VR differently than anyone else — by superimposing images using a retinal display.
The software companies aren’t being built to take away jobs from people — they are both enhancing our ability to do more in less time. That’s what automation is all about — enhancing our lives rather than making them more difficult.
How Can Man and Machine Best Work Together? Let’s Look at the PPC Space
Marketing is the best place to see a positive application of the symbiosis between man and machine. Automation can help a marketer in many different ways, but it can never replace a marketer. The reason is simple — humans are the creative ones, the ones who put the ideas into the machines.
Without humans, the machine doesn’t have a purpose or a goal. Humans are good a strategy and qualitative analysis, but computers can only compute what you tell them to compute. What computers can do is make the practical applications of your ideas scalable, so you don’t have to do repetitive tasks. Once you come up with the idea, you can set it and forget it.
Pay-per-click advertising is another extension of automation that only works with a human presence. The advertising draws in customers who want to know more about a given product, but then you have to know what to do with them once they are there. Machines can go out and find the customers, but it takes actual humans to close the deals. There’s a fair amount of automation going on in the PPC marketing world, so clearly brands understand the importance of automating some things instead of relying solely on humans to do all the work.
The human element is certainly important, but machines can accomplish in a few minutes what would take several humans months to do, and do poorly. Machines don’t forget, get tired, or get confused. But they still need humans to generate and input ideas and also to make sense of the data once it has been analyzed. Instead of thinking about it as “man versus machine”, try instead to envision a symbiotic relationship in which both parties benefit from working together. As the song goes, we all need somebody to lean on.
An Infographic to Break it all Down
My client, Global SEM Partners, has released a study on how PPC marketers use software with an accompanying infographic, which you can see below.
How do you see the future of marketing? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!
Featured Image: Image by NowSourcing in association with GlobalSEM Partners. Used with permission.
Infographic by NowSourcing in association with GlobalSEM Partners. Used with permission.