The evolution of social media continues to spawn new business models that suggest advertisers just need to let go. Similar to AOL and Yahoo, Examiner.com recently began pushing a content social model where brands sign on to advertise and writers for the network get a heads-up about specific topics.
The advertisements and marketing campaigns draw attention to the brand and the writers' original content attracts attention to the network of news sites through search engines Google, Bing and Yahoo. It's another example of how social content meets search.
Scripps and HGTV signed on with Examiner.com a couple of months ago to give it a whirl. The biggest initial challenges were based on getting comfortable with not having complete advertising control over the brand's message, explains Jonah Spegman of Scripps and HGTV. The brand did not provide content direction to the writers, who have leeway to write positively or negatively about the shows. "We had to make the decision to be comfortable evolving from structured advertising deals into more dynamic digital word-of-mouth marketing," he says.
Spegman says a recent campaign tapped into the Examiner Connect Program to promote awareness for an HGTV show called Property Virgins. This campaign included a display campaign against relevant Examiner content sections from writers that focus on real estate and homes to call attention to the organic articles that Examiners writers wrote about the show, for example. The campaign launched six weeks before the show was scheduled to air. There are two similar campaigns running in market now, both geared toward building awareness and promoting consumers to watch HGTV shows.
Within a week of campaign seeding, HGTV saw hundreds of articles and posts about the show. The content development created valuable earned-media impressions, as the Examiner.com readers shared and pushed the content through social media sites. "We're finding that we're getting two to three times the impressions from earned media versus paid by using this type of organic content creation," Spegman says. "Traffic to the show page also tripled after launching the campaign. The show had other advertising drivers behind it, but we were excited to see a double-digit growth in ratings."
Tom Woerner, SVP of national sales at Examiner.com, calls the network of sites a "content-generation platform" -- a new way to support brands tied to local news. When a brand signs on, editors at Examiner.com approach writers in the network related to the brand's specific topic.
For some HGTV programs, such as the second season of Selling New York, debuting the first week in January, the editors might approach luxury lifestyle writers or those who write about social society life in New York, depending on the promotion topic. Woerner claims there is no editorial control in the pitch to writers through the Connect program. And brands have no guarantee that the writers will not produce content with negative overtones. Writers are financially compensated based on page views and traffic to content, and are encouraged to tweet on Twitter or post a Facebook status update.
It's a sign of the changing times, Woerner says. Social media meets content.