My agency just launched STL Tweets, a community website that identifies, collects, and organizes Tweets into a variety of passion verticals. We think this is the ultimate resource for St. Louisians who want to know what the rest of the community is talking about – right now. The site also allows people from the community who are deeply connected to a specific passion area to act as curators. Check it out.
Archive for the ‘Web 2.0’ Category
Our agency (Infuz) does a lot of work within the context of social media. And being a curious lot, we recently created a site that allows users to ‘listen’ to conversations of voters via Twitter. An interesting experiment to say the least.
Pete Blackshaw of Nielsen Online wrote an excellent article for ClickZ summarizing the issues that should be top of mind for CMOs. You’ll notice a few common threads that run through a number of these.
- It all starts with listening to your consumers
- Conversation (including CGC and social media) is more important than ever
- Authenticity matters
The age of steamrolling brand ideas into a consumer’s head with glossy print ads and :30 second spots has come to an end. Brands have to stop pretending to be what they’re not. It’s time to get real.
Let’s wrap up with a few additional thoughts on how brands can leverage CGC to engage consumers
Provide toys and apps that are fun and enable creativity
Not all consumer-generated content needs to result in free-form creation. Online toys are a great way for brands to let user create “content” while entertaining themselves and their friends. Online apps like Line Rider and Make-a-flake are great examples of CGC tools – both succeed because they are simple, fast, and fun.
Apps like the Snakes on a Plane phone call from Samuel L. Jackson require little effort on the part of the consumers but pay off big time in entertainment value.
Not all CGC needs to be shared
The producer and consumer of content can sometimes be one in the same. Branded apps and games can allow users to create their very own, private creations.
Back in 2001 my team re-launched Conefactory.com for Edy’s/Dreyer’s Ice Cream. The new site allowed kids to run their very own virtual ice cream factory and create custom flavors for a fictional town. The kids had full control; from selecting ingredients, to naming flavors, to setting prices. A fancy algorithm on the backend determined flavor favorability from the community each day and rewarded our junior CEOs with ConeCash.
Tap skilled amateurs and semi-pros
As we discussed in an earlier post, skilled amateurs and semi-pros rarely create content just for their love of a brand. But that’s okay. Enlisting semi-pros has virtually no downside so long as the brand is transparent about who is actually creating the content. Also, costs are much lower and the creative can sometimes be better than an agency can produce because semi-pros don’t have to run through bureaucratic minefields. For the marketer, it’s a take it or leave it proposition.
Consumer Generated Products
Consumer generated content is a natural segue to consumer generated produces. Snakes on a Plane (the motion picture) enlisted the public to play co-producer/director/writer and Jones Soda allows it’s consumers to create/name flavors and even design their own labels. Note, the vote for your favorite flavor/color contests don’t really qualify as CGP.
Did I miss something? If I did please feel free to post your ideas on how brand marketers should be using CGC.
In this post I’ll begin listing my thoughts on how marketers can actually use UGC/CGC. Feel free to join in.
Even the best agency can’t polish a turd
Marketers often look past the most powerful form of consumer generated content: word of mouth. I have personally spent countless thousands of dollars based entirely on reviews posted on sites like Amazon and TripAdvisor. I have also spent well over six figures on automobiles (both new and used) based on Consumer Reports Used Car guides, where rankings are based primarily on consumer input.
Companies who fail to deliver innovation, quality and top-notch customer service are doomed in an age where CGC/WOM channels play a huge role in driving consideration and conversions.
Rule #1 of CGC is to make sure your product doesn’t suck.
Encourage consumer generated value
When embarking on a marketing program that leverages CGC, design it so the content generated will be of value to other consumers. I’ve seen hundreds of branded contests with the goal on catalyzing CGC, but too often the resulting content provides no value. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is a great example of a CGC program that provides value for both the creator and the brand’s target consumer.
Grab the long-tail – with caution
Blogs, podcasts, and social networks can provide unique opportunities for marketers to engage influencers within a relevant niche. The key word here is “relevant”. If your product isn’t highly relevant to both producers and their audience, don’t waste your time.
Also recognize that social networks, whether explicitly private or not, are personal spaces. You are an uninvited stranger and interruptive marketing doesn’t work here.
As always, provide value and relevance first, engage users later. I have a hunch sponsored widgets will lead the way in providing relevant connections between brands and consumers who use social networks.
Professional or amateur, most content is produced with a specific audience in mind. Most UGC is produced for a micro audience; friends, family, and possibly a special interest group. Rarely do amateurs (users) produce content for an audience outside their small sphere of acquaintances. Professionals obviously focus on much larger audiences.
Relevance, quality, and uniqueness/creativity drive content appeal. As each factor increases, so does the potential size of the audience and the degree in which they’re engaged. Most UGC is only relevant to a very small audience. Andrew, you would have no interest in browsing my daughter’s Facebook page, believe me.
Relevance + Quality + Uniqueness/Creativity = Value
Every producer makes a value promise to their audience. Even my wife and kids would have zero interest in our vacation pictures if they were poorly lit and blurry. Fred Rutherford repeatedly failed to deliver his value promise to the Cleavers because his slideshows ran far longer than their interest.
Occasionally UGC will appeal to a large audience due to it’s absurdity or shock value. Television programs like America’s Funniest Home Videos have made a cottage industry of UGC for almost two decades. But rarely does an amateur intentionally design content to appeal to a large audience, and when they do, they usually fail. This is a key point many marketers don’t seem to understand.
Add a brand contraint and you really have a tall order. Unlike user generated content, consumer generated content is supposed to say something compelling about a brand. Too often UGC appeals to a large audience because it is pornographic, violent, grotesque, or degrading – exactly the kind of content most brands want nothing to do with. Amateurs, for whatever reason, have great difficulty creating content that is G-rated-funny, inspirational, or creative.
Brands who have attempted to initiate CGC to reach a large or influential audience are often disappointed with the results – but you won’t read this in the trade press.
The idea of CGC appeals to marketers because “authentic content” is thought to make a stronger connection between brands and consumers. CGC is viewed not only as entertainment, but as a testimonial for the brand. A the very least, CGC should say something positive about the brand. Tangerine Toad aptly points out that CGC like the Mentos/Coke videos say nothing positive or negative about either brand.
In part IV I’ll delve into UGC created by skilled amateurs and semi-pros.