Community tools are making it easier for a brand to connect with its audience across many locations.
Social networking and video sites were the fastest growing categories in online media last year and grew steadily over the last six years, a fact that any marketer would be silly to ignore. But while there's a whole lot of chatter about social media best practices and about developing content strategies, there isn't a more holistic view about how these two powerful media work together.
A brand's social media strategy isn't really a strategy if a content plan isn't at the center of it. After all, while individuals and friends can talk in circles on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr about -- well, basically nothing -- there really aren't many people who will friend or follow a brand that doesn't have something interesting to say or useful to offer. In most instances, that means content development. Entertaining videos, informative articles, useful tools, live events -- a brand needs to develop creative content outside its own product if it wants to stand out from the clutter. Once it has something worthwhile, people will be more willing to friend, follow, tweet, digg, or push whatever that button is to connect a brand to their world and friends. Once you've figured that out, a social media strategy should fall in place naturally.
Last year I mentioned the game-changing impact that single-sign-on functionality like OpenID and OAuth would have on brand experiences. Today, Facebook, Twitter, and Google have embraced additional open technologies that offer easier solutions for brands to get into the conversation.
Here are some things to keep in mind.
Social Media Changes CRM Forever
According to a Nielsen study done earlier this year, social media has overtaken e-mail as the most popular online activity. Forrester predicts that "in approximately two years social networks will be more powerful than corporate Web sites and CRM [customer relationship management] systems, as individual identities and relationships are built on this platform." That "as adoption of tools such as OpenID and Facebook Connect increases...registration forms as we currently know them will become antiquated."
CRM is forever changed as we know it, and it's only going to get more complicated as more people use single-sign-on and open functionality. Embracing these open technologies is key for CRM marketing, as well as having a content strategy at its center. The future model will hinge on offering a value exchange and the utility, entertainment, and information a brand has to offer beyond its product. Start by becoming familiar with how open technologies function within and around content. That doesn't mean you have to abandon your current registration and e-mail strategy, but you do need to let people have options and start to build trust and relationships that the space demands. First, earn people's trust and show your value, and eventually you'll earn access to their data.
Help Your Community Cross Destinations
When launching a new video show or creating a new brand experience, you must have a distribution strategy. It's equally important that the community you build and seek out should be able to move across that distributed network and platforms. This is where new open functionality like Facebook Connect, Sign in with Twitter, and Google Friend Connect come into play. In this column, I briefly discussed the need to find a balance between how you utilize a destination experience and utilizing a distributed network for your content. With new community tools emerging, it's going to become easier to find that balance.
A great recent example is the brand content show Green Eyes World from Sprite -- the first time Google's YouTube has added Facebook Connect to its platform. Why is this an important moment to note? Aside from YouTube opening its doors to a major competitor (Google Friend Connect and OpenSocial directly compete with Facebook Connect), this partnership builds a bridge between two major communities with entertaining video content at its center. Any interaction and data happening within one will easily update into the other. And that also means a potential for a broader exchange in data.
This increases the potential for organic distribution for brands and makes it easier for brands to talk to their audiences across multiple locations. In fact, if Sprite really wanted to take it one step further, it could add Sign in with Twitter and place this content within additional destinations (e.g., its brand site) to increase touch points and expand the conversation Web even more.
Use Social Media Before and After a Program Launch
Remember, any content centric social media strategy should exist before and beyond the durations of a program. Communities and social networks are a great way to get immediate feedback about a brand's general perception, especially during the content seeding phase of a video program. There are new tools coming out every day that make listening across properties easier to manage. If given enough time, it can help determine what content is working hardest for your brand. Some video content partners are even deploying social listening tools and communities as part of their offering.
Most important, just because a program ends doesn't mean your audience and participants stop talking. If you've taken the effort, time, and money to earn people's attention and show the value of a brand, continuing the dialogue after the program has ended is key. That could include notifying your audience when more content programs will start or just asking for feedback on how to improve your experience in the future.
Christine is off today. This column previously ran on June 16, 2009.
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As vice president, group creative director of Digitas's brand content group, The Third Act, Christine works across all brand teams to lead the creative innovation of motion media content. She has a unique and varied set of skills that weaves media, tech, and channel smarts to inform deep interactive experiences for clients such as American Express, Samsung, and IHG. At the advent of the digital revolution, she established Digitas' Final Cut Pro media lab and has since scaled it across offices.
Christine has a BFA from The Cooper Union School of Art in New York City, where she focused her studies on motion media, interactive design, and photography. Her work in the industry has contributed to top honors including silver and bronze Cyber Lions, a Caples Award, an OMMA Award, New York Festivals Awards, ECHO Awards, and The One Show Awards.
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