CGM basics and fundamentals. This is really important.
Sometime in late 2002, during a glorious early morning shower, the term "consumer-generated media" (CGM) jumped off my tongue like a sudden, gripping epiphany. The emotion was so strong I yelped to my wife, "Erika, I've found it!"
I've yet to recover and probably never will.
When The Wall Street Journal explicitly referred to "consumer-generated media" last week in a Marketplace cover story on marketers who tap blogs for consumer insights, it became clear CGM is advancing to an important, long-overdue tipping point of marketer understanding.
To tip the term further along, I'm dedicating this column to CGM basics and fundamentals. Trust me when I say this is really important.
What Is CGM All About?
The fastest-growing media is one consumers create and share among themselves. It's trusted and TiVo-resistant. It presents long-lasting sources of influence. Listening to and leveraging such media may well be the most important source of competitive advantage for companies and brands.
Unlike paid media, CGM is created by consumers. It's often inspired by relevant product or service experiences and is frequently archived online for readers convenience and other consumers or key marketplace influencers. Examples of CGM include blog entries, consumer email feedback, message board posts, forum comments, personal Web sites, and personal email.
My company estimates over 1.4 billion CGM comments are archived on the Web today. That number is growing 30 percent annually. None of this is terribly surprising when you consider the Pew Internet & American Life Project estimates 44 percent of online consumers have created online "content."
CGM can be influenced, but not controlled, by marketers. Don't let the viral, guerilla, buzz, or street marketing folks suggest otherwise. CGM delivers high-impact, targeted ad impressions well outside the scope of conversation among "familiars," a big reason it bears an important distinction from word of mouth. Search in particular magnifies CGM reach and effect by matching those who create it ("speakers") with curious, information-hungry preshoppers ("seekers").
Most important, CGM leaves a digital trail. It's highly measurable, allowing advertisers to gauge brand equity, reputation, and message effectiveness in real time. Advertisers must take accountability for the scope and effect of such media and use it to make more-informed decisions. One important first step is to understand CGM various forms. Here's a primer:
CGM is rapidly adopting the same rich-media formats we see in online advertising. This, too, needs to be understood. A few examples of CGM2, or consumer-generated multimedia:
Consumers are dictating the terms of media reach, frequency, and impact. We must stay on top of this. Increasingly, we live in a consumer-controlled surveillance society, and CGM the currency.
Watch your back, Jack!
Pete Blackshaw, whose professional background encompasses public policy, interactive marketing, and brand management, is executive vice president of strategic services for Nielsen Online, a combination of Nielsen BuzzMetrics, a firm Pete helped cofound, and Nielsen//NetRatings. One of Pete's key focuses is helping brands interpret, manage, and act on consumer-generated media (CGM). A former interactive marketing leader at P&G and founder of consumer feedback portal PlanetFeedback.com, Pete cofounded the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). He authors several blogs, including ConsumerGeneratedMedia.com, and is the author of an upcoming book from Random House, "Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000: Running a Business in Today's Consumer-Driven World."
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