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How Online Communities Can Inspire Brand Marketing

  |  September 15, 2011   |  Comments

A social media platform helps brands connect with consumers - and turn out inspirational and viral consumer-generated marketing materials.

Presenting your brand to an online community and the individual users within it is a bit like meeting, for the first time, your soon-to-be spouse’s best friend. If you don’t make a good impression with one, your future probably won’t be too bright with the other. For this reason successful online community marketing takes value-based content, authenticity, and respect.

How wonderful would be, then, to find a digital marketing opportunity that affords the ability to blend all three? Marketers are drawn to communities that boast a loyal group of users because there’s a chance that loyalty will rub off on their brands, and the same is true of marketing campaigns that illustrate a devotion to the customer's point of view. Introduce such powerful sentiments as dedication and respect - whether on the part of the consumer who loves your brand or your brand in the way that it deals with the consumer - and you have yourself a recipe for a lasting relationship.

As a social media platform that invites consumers to participate in the creation of digital content, Tongal gives its brand partners a chance to demonstrate their dedication to receiving consumer feedback. What do they gain in return? Marketing materials so unique that they go viral. Such was the case with one of the site's most recent campaigns for the Duck Tape brand.


Two weeks ago a consumer-generated video created through Tongal ranked second on the AdAge Viral Video Chart with over two million views across the Web – just a few days after being distributed publicly.

But this Tron-themed video for the Duck brand wouldn't exist without a great community of consumers.

"Brands now are developing their own networks or working with existing communities through social networking, and there's all this consumer intelligence around them," says James DeJulio, co-founder and president of Tongal. "Give people a voice and a chance to participate and you can leverage consumer insight to pull your marketing up, rather than try to push it down." In other words, the Tongal "micro community" allows brands to learn exactly what consumers want from them instead of formulating their ideas in a closed room and requiring consumers to follow along.

Brands can use Tongal to introduce their product to new users - those Tongal users who have participated in projects in the past - but also involve their most loyal fans. Most brands promote their projects through social sites like Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else they have an existing presence. While on average a project has a foundation of users 65 percent of which has participated with Tongal before, popular brands and those with consumer equity can attract 50 percent new users based on loyalty alone.

What's so interesting about this model as it relates to community marketing is the collective mindset that's involved. Tongal participants work toward a common goal: creating the best possible final product. Most projects involve several rounds of submissions, with a winning idea being chosen in the concept stage that other consumers must then use as the basis of their video. Instead of being pitted directly against one another, they are required to work together and build off what others have already done. "They're willing to co-create to make the ideas better," DeJulio says. "There's an enormous amount of good will that comes along with that."

And that good will, in theory, reflects directly on the brand responsible for bringing those consumers together. Besides offering cash prizes the Tongal model provides participants with personal exposure, the likes of which stands to up their cool factor and even further (or launch) their professional careers. In the process consumers are spending an inordinate amount of time interacting with the brands; the average time on a brand's Tongal page is 2.5 to 3.5 minutes.

For a brand like Duck Tape, an online community of creative consumers willing to help it market its products is an invaluable resource. It's also a trend that we'll surely be seeing more of as services like Tongal and competitor Current TV, with its VCAM (Viewer Created Advertising Message) program, continue to emphasize its importance through high-profile campaigns. They generate marketing materials, but they also incite action, interaction, and excitement. The advertising, and the brand associated with it, becomes a stimulus for conversation in a way that extends beyond a project contest, all the while engendering the true notion that the brand is genuinely excited to hear it. Without a population of active consumers, this kind of wildfire couldn't exist.


And so the lure of online communities continues.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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