Path from unaware to conversionIn Marketing, earned media is king. Google has tons of engaged, rabid fans. So do Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Craigslist, etc. Each and every brand that excels online decided, early on in their dominating trajectory, that they would build and nurture relationships with the outside world. When you value customer relationships as a crucial element of life time value, those customers go on to produce valuable fan created content, fan sites, blog posts, tweets, Facebook likes, Youtube videos, and so on. The ripple effect created by fan produced content is as impactful or more than any other content type you can produce. The volume, velocity, tone and share of earned media within a category is a crucial metric to track, optimize and benchmark, as this is directly related to the growing, or shrinking, value of your most important customers

What are the types of fan created content that you can leverage?

Blog posts, reviews, social network interactions, photos, videos and sometimes, entire sites may be built around your product or brand. As it’s impossible to eradicate all forms of speech about a brand, it’s better to nurture and encourage the kinds of content that will drive the highest return on investment, rather than simply ignoring the rich tapestry of information that fans will create. Thinking positively about, “user generated content,” let’s consider a few businesses that dominate in digital:

  1. Apple – anybody can publish a song to their itunes catalog or app store, and their payouts in the most recent quarter were $400 million for publishers. Ratings, reviews are a crucial component to delivering trust for many publishers in these programs, as a result, an entire industry has evolved to support, nurture and grow the amount of positive reviews in Apple, Amazon and other marketplaces.
  2. Google – anybody can add their profile, which then adds enormous value to the search engine in their ability to target, track and optimize advertisements that are custom tailored to you, personally. Without that, “user generated content,” including things like date of birth, gender, marital status, it’s harder to increase the value of their ads and provide extra services to advertisers.
  3. Amazon – several Harvard Business School studies have attempted to quantify the impact of Amazon reviews to customer purchase behavior. Always, the correlation is strong between a lot of highly positive reviews from fans and high volume of sales.
  4. YouTube – everybody is now a superstar. Fred, one such star, has made not one but two movies with Paramount, the parent studio of Nickelodeon. He might not be a multimillionaire, but he may never have gone Hollywood without YouTube and his huge fan base. Fans who share, discuss, comment and video reply to Fred’s short videos.

There are a few standard use cases for fan created content:

  • Increase in awareness – to move people from, “Un-aware,” to, “Aware,” of your product or service, you would leverage fan created content in a social networking context or similar communication environment to enable a conversation. The conversation would include product name and a brand or service oriented message. The primary target of the campaign would be to simply spread the message and create awareness. This fan content strategy is the step that is the furthest from the conversion event.
  • Social proof – by showcasing content created by people who have a perceptual  affinity with the visitor, you can measurably move them from, “Awareness,” to, “Interest.” This can be done by leveraging advertising, profiles, related links and similar. Amazon’s collaborative filtering is one way to approach this, as is Facebook StoryAds, which showcase names and likes with brand advertisements. A successful social proof strategy will move the right percentage of the population from the awareness stage to the interest stage.
  • Search engine optimization – sometimes fan created content, when leveraged on an e-commerce site, will contain descriptions and verbiage not found in the original product description, but still highly relevant to the product for sale. As a result, some people will find the product detail page from a search engine in part because of the fan created content. In this context, fan created content can be directly correlated to increase in traffic and revenue, moving people from, “Interest,” to, “Action Completed,” whether that was a purchase, white paper download, registration and referral of friends, etc. An interested prospect is likely to seek out information via a search engine. In the US, more than 90% of adults use a search engine, where a smaller percentage use Facebook or another social network. Thus the highest reach of interested prospects can most easily be reached via search, as a last step in a long process of moving a population from un-aware to action completed.

An example of the value of fan created content:

Is there a correlation between market cap and the number of videos on youtube? Let’s examine a few random companies:

  1. Apple – 1,520,000 video results, Iphone – 1,770,000 Market Cap 415.71 Billion
  2. Google – 4,190,000 video results, Android – 1,470,000 Market Cap 188.03 Billion
  3. Salesforce – 25,900 video results, Market Cap 15.86 Billion
  4. Netsuite – 732 video results, Market Cap 2.88 Billion
  5. Citibank – 37,800, Market Cap 90.26 Billion
  6. Chase – 682,000, Market Cap 141.47 Billion
  7. Yahoo – 2,780,000 video results, Market Cap 19.52 Billion

Sure, the search for, “Chase,” on Youtube won’t turn up everything related to JP Morgan, nor will the search for Citibank return everything related to Citigroup. However, in broad terms, it’s very easy to see that the larger brands have a much, much larger footprint of fan created content. In the case of financial companies, for what should be obvious reasons, some of the user created content is detractor created content, with a message to stop or discontinue.

Without knowing anything else, from the numbers, you can easily see that the larger, more successful companies have more fan created content. Every time somebody creates a piece of content image, movie, picture or other media in celebration, enjoyment or satisfaction with your product or service, it should be shared, promoted, encouraged and showcased. The larger and more successful you can make the virtuous cycle around aggregation of fan content, sharing and promoting, the more successful your company will be in the long run.

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