I made my way through the UGCX social media sessions on Monday with iPhone on hand and laptop in tow. The crowds were not only hungry for the sponsored breakfast, but for applicable business models and key takeaways. Okay, so, why user-generated content? And the answer was… not obvious. But, from what I witnessed in these panels, the pros around customer-driven conversations outweighed the cons. With UGC, both small and large companies can tap community insight on cost avoidance, loyalty customer satisfaction, and sales strategies (i.e. qualify products). We’ve moved away from pushing messages to pulling the needs of the masses and the attributes of a brand.
Here are some insights from the panelists and keynoters on their social media programs:
- iStockPhoto COO Kelly Thompson insisted on putting the crowd to work for you. For example, by enlisting the help of their most involved members and tasking them with responsibilities, iStockPhoto Inspectors voluntarily examine thousands of images for quality control. iStockPhoto essentially hires competencies and innovative skills. Communities will act as your first line of defense, so figure out a way to fuel the fire and utilize / mobilize them.
- Marty Collins, Group Marketing Manager, Microsoft said her team reports community management metrics to executives. By diving into the extrinsic values – content number count, page views, time on site – she is able to quantify intrinsic values such as level of sentiment, interactivity (measuring how in-depth conversations are), and pace at which questions are answered.
- Along with Marty, Matt Warburton, Ex Director of Community Management of Yahoo, pushed the aggregation model (RSS, tagging, tapping wisdom of crowds) as the best way to scale up. He suggested communities to scrape other websites to find potential content-generators. Such third party content can be repurposed and featured. Lastly, if a company is ready to be aggressive, idea engines and suggestion boards should be implemented to give customers an outlet for constructive feedback. However, companies must be able to take action with the suggestions or risk losing trust.
- Associated Content’s Andrew Snyder said the most trusted forms of media come in the form of recommendations by like-minded individuals. Andrew insisted on working with brands (consumer-facing, e-commerce, or local ones) to create original content in an agnostic fashion.
- Craigslist founder, Craig Newmark, saw his personal “brand” grow to 50 million unique hits per month by building a culture of trust. He attested to this culture of participation following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when relocation services were offered on the site. Queue Thomas Paine’s quote -– according to Craig, that was the moment when he decided neither to lead nor follow, but get out of the way and allow the New Orleans site to evolve. Despite his admittance on being a bad manager, Craig has been adamant about soliciting feedback, listening to it, and asking for more feedback.
Social media is now about the people. “Sometimes, the brand takes a back seat to the individuals who represent the company,” said David Dalka. I’m curious to know how Tuesday’s sessions went and look forward to more stories on how other big companies employ user-generated content in their social media programs.