How to put AI to work for your small business – Boston Herald

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How to put AI to work for your small business – Boston Herald

By Hillary Crawford | NerdWallet

Artificial intelligence tools encompass everything from chatbots to image and video generators, and they can be used by individuals and businesses alike. For business owners looking to leverage AI technology, one of the biggest hurdles is likely dipping their toes into the water. From there, the learning curve isn’t as steep as it seems.

“I’m very confident that something that you do right now is easily automated by AI if you’re running a small business, whether that’s writing marketing copy or building something in Excel or writing an email you don’t know how to word,” says Derek Pando, founder of Beeloo, an online business that creates printable activities for kids.

And the return on investment can be substantial in terms of both the time and money your small business can save.

Integrating AI tools into her team’s daily workflow has helped keep the workload manageable, says Lakesha Cole, founder of She PR, a public relations agency based in Tampa, Florida. Cole says she feels like she’s “added three new team members without the overhead.”

Here are four tips for incorporating AI tools into your small business’s operations — no prior experience required.

Look up AI prompts for your industry

AI tools can do a lot of things, but they can’t read your mind. And if your requests aren’t precise and direct, you might get responses that miss the mark.

“It’s only as smart as you are,” Cole says. “You still have to know what you want it to do.”

For AI-powered chatbots, she stresses the importance of learning prompts that are specific to your industry. If you’re not sure where to start, try searching online for prompt guides, suggests Joe Karasin, founder of digital marketing company Karasin PPC.

“Making sure that you’re not spending as much time trying to tell the AI what to do is also another pitfall that you could avoid by just doing a little bit of front-end work,” he says.

Cole says it took her team about three months of consistently using AI platforms to become adept at them. They logged the prompts that worked best so that they would be able to quickly reference them in the future.

Use AI to ramp up productivity

Consider the tasks that eat up the most time and whether AI can help streamline them. If you create content, for instance, you know that research sometimes takes longer than the writing itself does. Karasin estimates that he saves 15 to 20 hours per week using ChatGPT to find citations and resources for topics he writes about for clients. However, he stresses the importance of verifying the information for accuracy.

“I’ll do my research there, but my writing is still original,” he says.

Cole uses an AI image generator to accelerate the graphic design process for her business.

“It gives us the freedom to design the graphics that we need when we need it, and we’re not having to work around someone else’s deadlines,” she says.

AI chatbots can help you plan tasks, too. Cole tells them her goals and deadlines for a particular project, like a product launch, and asks them to map out a realistic timeline.

Think of AI as your marketing assistant

Among other use cases, Pando treats AI chatbots as a marketing tool. They can take his business’s blog posts, which are written by a human, and help condense them into social media posts tailored to specific platforms, like Instagram and LinkedIn. They also suggest headlines that Pando can work with and tweak, which can be helpful in the midst of a creative rut.

“I’ll say, ‘Give me five different short posts that I can use for social media,’ or ‘Summarize this into one paragraph,’” he says. “And so all of the labor that’s downstream from creating a core piece of content, we usually have the AI tools do the heavy lifting and give us lots of options and cut it down.”

Pando also gives AI chatbots tone prompts if he wants a certain post to come across as funny or exciting, for instance. Otherwise, they won’t necessarily know which voice to adopt.

Use AI judiciously and be transparent

“I’m very picky and choosy as to when I use AI or when I need to show up myself,” Cole says.

She makes the decision on a case-by-case basis, depending on the type of project or client, and views AI tools as a “starting point” instead of a stand-alone solution.

For Pando, it’s also about transparency. “I think small-business owners put themselves at risk of losing some of the magic of what makes a small business connect with people, which is the personal connection and the trust,” he says. To solve for this, Beeloo’s website includes an AI policy that discloses how the business does and does not use the technology.

“Now, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use it and to be better, but I think we’re going to have to be more transparent to maintain that trusted advantage,” he says.

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Hillary Crawford writes for NerdWallet. Email: hcrawford@nerdwallet.com.



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