Web 2.0 has empowered online users like never before. Because of this, it has opened up and increased the desire for marketers to tap into this group to unleash the potential to virally market products and services to levels only dreamt of previously. Here are 10 things marketers need to be aware of as they dip their toes in the water.
The Sixth Estate-respect its potential
If the 5th estate is the broadcast media then the 6th estate is anyone with a computer. Think about it, the 6th estate is, at this juncture, online users; every day run of the mill online consumers who can and do, crank out information, opinions and content, without the fear of any type of backlash. They can say virtually anything online and find an audience for it. Marketers can never underestimate the power of the this user. Regardless of their lack of an audience, all it takes is one piece of media that no one has ever seen. So never discount anything or anyone’s potential content or group in marketing your product.
The Marketing upside for user generated content will never be greater, so what are you waiting for?
But within that forum for their opinion, their thoughts, and their comments, lies potential. Marketing potential. The marketing potential of user generated content has never been greater than it currently is. The marketing impact and influence that user-generated content has over people, products, ideas, and decisions has never been more valued and never been more underutilized. User generated content if positioned correctly, can create a viral buzz for anything. The reason for this is that the growth of social networks is growing at a pace that rivals and exceeds the dot com boom of the late 90’s. To be more sucinct, a new blog, it’s been said, is created every second. THAT means, that someone is creating content. A user is creating content that COULD influence others. If a marketer has not immmersed themselves in all things social media driven, now is the time.
Marketers think they know how to position themselves
For marketers, the challenge has always been how to leverage and push their product. One key is to take the leaders, the movers and the shakers of user generated content and have them buy in. Or you position a product or marketing promotion in front of “a group” in which they want to participate, they want to crank out content and they want to share it with their peeps. The marketer can dangle rewards and other incentives to do this, and that can work but… The reward or payoff for the user, is the desire to be noticed, or found, or be recognized for their efforts in creating some viral multi-media based piece of content that “may” take on a life of it’s own. YouTube is a classic example of this.
Marketers should know that all creators of UGC are secretly hoping and looking for their 15 minutes.
Those people who don’t have an audience yet, may be wanting to grow to online stardom levels seen by those who have cultivated their sites over time. Some great examples of this would be The Drudge Report, Shoemoney, Guy Kawasaki, and Seth Godin. All of these folks have a loyal and large following. With the ease that it takes them to crank out a piece on something they may like or dislike or mention casually, they can influence thousands of people, who then can influence thousand of others. Instant traffic and instant credibility to something that previously had nothing. Therein lies the potential that marketers salivate over.
Marketers could theoretically get to these influencers and have them, for a price, (bare in mind that everyone can be bought, don’t be so naiive to think they cant) pitch or promote a product, a service, a sight, or whatever and in turn it will, if it hasnt already happened, have a direct and immediate impact on the audience of that influencer. An indirect example of this is Google adsense ads sprinkled all over sites with high traffic.
Marketers need to be transparent
Within social networks for example, people who blatantly pitch a product can be looked upon has disingenuous, and thus will never be taken seriously. So a marketer needs to immerse themselves within a group and become more of an under the radar type of person who slowly and yet effectively influences the rest of the group. By doing this they gain street cred and legitimacy whenever they speak about anything. Thus, if they tell or mention or post about widget x rocking their world, then the rest of the group may listen. If marketer y comes right out of the blocks and says, “check out this kick ass product,” they’ll never get off the ground.
Marketers need to incent and leverage the group
Traditional online marketers look at social networks in a similar fashion, with the thinking, “I can market right to this captive audience”. And they are right! With some specific niche based social groups numbering in the thousands and within those groups are thousands more, marketers can tap directly into those groups who are possibly waiting or are ripe to be pitched with products, services and offers. If the pitch is right and the timing is perfect, it can be huge. To that end If a marketer can work with and enlist users of THAT group to carry the flag on behalf of a product, if they can get that user to become an evangelist of that product, then they will have hit the mother lode.
Marketers need to realize, it’s a marathon not a sprint
Although a new blog is created every second, a new blog does not grow its base overnight. It, like any social group grows over time. Marketers have the ability to drive traffic using specific and traditional means, but there still needs to be some meat on the bone, once someone arrives to the group and or the blog. And that does not happen quickly. Marketers have to acquire some street cred. They have to be able to establish a presence either under the radar or not. Social users have the ability to fact check more than they ever have and they do, thus the marketer needs to realize that. If they smell a rat, you are done. So stay cool. If the marketer paces themselves, the reward at the end will be recurring and not just a one time deal.
Screwing up is viral too
If you think success is great and viral and exciting; then keep in mind that if you mess up, if you wrong the consumer, then you can expect an equally as strong and viral reaction. With that failure or error in judegment comes a stickiniess and a refusal to forget that can kill a marketing campaign faster than bug spray. What’s more, with a users ability to fact check, they will to see if you have done something in the past that caused someone to post and vent online and complain. They will find it, and when they do, you and your marketing campaign or efforts will fail. You’re done. So in other words, the key to your future success is predicated on your online reputation and past. If you make a promise, you better keep it. If you have a made a promise, you better have kept it.
Know your audience and why they are creating their content
Marketers have to realize that the premise of all user generated content is that you have this person who wants to be seen or heard. You have to ask the questions: Why? What are they trying to get out of it? What is the purpose? Do they want a job? Are they venting? Do they want to be a star? A wannabe journalist? The more you know about your market, your audience and the reasoning behind their actions, the easier it will be to create a plan that will enlist their help, or incorporate their readers or audience into what you are trying to achieve. It may just be that all their user generated content is for entertainment and nothing more. It might be they are doing it, because they can. Which is cool. It’s merely up to you to figure that out.
You will never know as much as them, deal with it and then embrace it
You think you are on top of things, but you have no idea. Unless you have built the social site they are flocking to or you are immersed in their culture, you will never know as much as them and you will never fully know what they are thinking. So never pretend to, if you do they will bust you. Remember that with the user comes a sense of entitlement. Its the new culture. I’m going to get mine and I have a right to it. It may be why they think they should be a star. And you know that all might be well and good but remember, as a marketer the idea is to influence, and push ideas, products and services. It doesn’t mean you have to sleep with them, it just means you need to know that they think they know more than you do. They might and if they do, let them. Just learn, absorb, take it all in and then go get it! Give them what they need and you get to profit from their efforts.