Earn, Aggregate And Re-Use

by , Jul 24, 2009, 5:00 AM
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Marketers are being challenged to leverage existing social networks to effectively reach audiences. The question many ask is, "How do we make the most of word of mouth marketing, especially when it resides on third-party sites in the form of tweets, comments and status updates?" One way is to aggregate this earned media and re-use it in the context of a purchase path.

First, I want to note that earned media is not always positive. Customer sentiment is shaped as a result of experiences with your products and services, and this is an essential part of the evolution of the corporate website. Simply creating a broadcast of product information with nothing but glowing reviews does not build the trust and credibility that is required to succeed in a world where transparency has become expected.

This is important to keep in mind as you begin to aggregate and re-use this media in a new context. A natural tendency would be to filter out negative comments and only display the positive ones. However, social media has created levels of transparency and immediacy that we have not had in the past. Within seconds of a customer experience, they can share it across hundreds of places with thousands of people.

For many brands, this negative feedback is a huge sticking point when considering how and where to integrate customer created content. A common fear is that a sales deal will be lost if a customer reads something other than a glowing review. Let's face it, the reviews are out there and everything can be found via search.

Instead of fearing negative comments, embrace them. Brands have the opportunity to build credibility by interacting with customers on tough issues and helping to solve problems. Establishing trust can begin by creating a blended experience of sponsored communities with what is happening on social networks. Rather than filtering the conversation, the goal is to facilitate conversations with your customers and the market as a whole.

Showing that you care goes a long way, and can even help increase the quantity and quality of earned media. Then, as if earning media is not challenging enough, the task of aggregating it can be just as difficult. Social media has created a proliferation of places where earned media resides. Literally dozens of formats have emerged, ranging from tweets, comments, status updates and reviews.

But there are solutions to help you manage this dispersed content. Emerging standards like Facebook Connect, OpenId and open programming interfaces are making it possible. Also, most companies already have invested in a content management system (CMS) to create and publish corporate content, and these tools usually have the capability to consume content from third party sources via RSS and XML. If you are tagging favorite tweets or bookmarking earned media, hooking this feed to your CMS is a good way to centralize comments while allowing marketers to re-purpose this media across several touch points.

However, simply aggregating and re-purposing earned media is not enough. Brands should go the extra step and become facilitators of conversations. Consider the placement of earned media that support learning or buying so that, when a customer is ready to engage, you have provided the opportunity for them to interact with the people who made these mentions.

There are several places it makes sense to repurpose earned media. If you are wondering where, think of the paths a customer takes on your site. Is a customer looking to learn about the experiences of others, seeking answers on a product they own or simply wanting to become part of a community?

If you have not clearly defined the various scenarios on your site, look at your web analytics application. This data will not only give you insight into click streams, but it will also indicate which pages are less sticky. Placing earned media on these pages can be a good way to keep them engaged.

The end result of this process is that you will have taken the first steps toward turning earned media into a managed asset that you can re-use and re-brand in many contexts. The inclusion of user-generated content into your corporate Web site harnesses the activities taking place all over the Web, creating a much more dynamic site for your visitors. In turn, your corporate Web site will be a more effective tool to help your organization serve its customers and build brand awareness in new markets.

Editor's note: If you'd like to contribute to this newsletter, see our editorial guidelines first and then contact Nina Lentini.

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