It’s an exciting time to be a content marketer. The tools and techniques for engaging an audience have never been better, but there’s a danger lurking in the intersection of technology and content – the danger of an over-dependence on technology in which bits and bytes replace the human creative impulse.

Great tools now exist at every stage of the content marketing continuum – from ideation to measurement. With the ever-present need to continuously create great marketing content, modern marketers need these tools. We couldn’t survive without them.

So how can these tools be used to produce high quality, engaging, creative content that gets people excited? Here are a few suggestions:

Rule the Tool, Don’t Let the Tool Rule You

One thing content marketing software and systems do well – perhaps too well, is produce alot of data – data to judge social impact and drive conversions; data to slice and dice profiles to create detailed personalized content for every individual in our audience. The list goes on and on.

And that’s all good stuff, but swimming in a sea of data can be overwhelming. It’s tempting to use one or two favorite data metrics and miss the larger picture. You can rule the tool by using your own skills and experience to evaluate the data the system is providing. Your experience as a content marketer is as valid a metric as any big data dump. Trust it.

It’s a Path Not a Panacea

Systems, frameworks and tools provide a clear path through the content marketing jungle to the best performing, highest quality content. But as Melissa Lafsky points out in her excellent article, “Don’t Let An Obsession With Data Kill your Content Marketing,” there’s a tendency to “oversimplify, assigning numerical value to things that don’t necessarily exist in the confines of numbers,” and relying on them too heavily. When you’re planning your next content marketing campaign or strategy, invoke the human element with the collective efforts of a focus group and/or the talent of your team to drive the strategy and storyline.

Tools aren’t Perfect, Either

Even the best tools can fail you.

For example, a recent GPs failure on my new “latest and greatest” cell phone was enough to drive me back to printed paper. I ended up ignoring the GPS and drove by my knowledge of the traffic routes and still made my appointment on time. The point is – our technology is not infallible. When in doubt, trust your instincts.

Guided Creativity

The ultimate balance between technology and creativity is what I call “guided creativity.”

Guided creativity uses the system, tool or process as a guide to enhance the quality and value of content for both the author and the audience, but relies on the human touch for the ultimate experience.

In the case of a curation tool, for example, the tool collects the content that the defined audience is most interested in (very handy!) and then human content curators add context and creativity (i.e. experience, reflection, perspective) to make the content more valuable to the audience. Simply doing an automatic curation and hitting “publish” to meet a content quota is a sure way to lose engagement and audience.

Content marketing analytics that provide data on consumption, sharing, lead generation, and more can guide future creativity by highlighting what content did and didn’t work in the past so you can write more about what your audience wants now. The two challenges with that are over-saturation on a hot topic and, even more importantly, missing the wave because by the time you get your content out, the market has already moved on.

A new tool that I believe meets the goal of guided creativity is Inbound Writer. Inbound Writer lets content writers predict content traffic performance before the content is written, based on the topic and target website. It works by running potential topics through its algorithm and “scoring” the audience value of the topic, much the same way lead generation scoring predicts which customer prospects are likely to turn into a sales opportunity. Inbound Writer’s scoring system identifies topics that work better than others and, more importantly, tells you why. Their analytics offer insights into audience and conversion targeting. It can save hours of time on research and fruitless guesswork at the ideation stage.

As Thomas Edison famously said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

We’ve got some great technology that can help with the “perspiration” of content marketing, but they’ll never be able to replace that tiny, but vital, spark of human creative inspiration.