CGM’s Dirty Little Secret

I’m going to tell you a secret.

Just because you create a campaign that requires audiences to create, upload, and share consumer-generated video doesn’t mean it will be a success.

Sure, it might satisfy a Web 2.0 component of your advertising strategy, but the fact remains that only a small percentage of your audience (regardless of demographic) actually creates video content. Although tools, technologies, and user interfaces are simplifying the video creation process, there are still many barriers to entry into this world for the average consumer.

Most videos uploaded to such sites as YouTube are created to promote the brand of the individual who created it. It’s an ego play or a showcase for talent.

So why does it seem everywhere you look there’s another promotion that requires audiences to create video around a brand they don’t own? Why do brands seemingly assume they’ll be deluged with video content submissions from throngs of starving, would-be auteurs willing to do the marketers’ work for them?

If you’re going about creating a consumer-generate media (CGM) or video promotion with the goal of having enough submissions to program a channel or fill a library (or even a Web page), you’ve got the wrong idea. The real power of any promotion built around CGM isn’t in potential quantity, but potential quality and potential reach.

Recently, we created a promotion as part of a campaign built around consumer-generated content for HBO’s “Entourage.” Living at MySpace.com and called (appropriately enough) MyEntourage, the campaign allowed audiences to create individual profiles for their groups of friends. Profiles were judged on the bases of originality, popularity, and content, with the winning group of friends receiving a prize package that included cars, phones, game systems, and trips to LA.

This was a huge promotion, with significant media support behind it. When all was said and done, there was a grand total of just over 400 entries. Though that’s not a lot, the real magic happened behind that number. Each “entourage” had hundreds, if not thousands, of friends (reach). Each finalist created profiles that were teeming with original, entertaining content (quality). The momentum generated from a small amount of entries was staggering. Local newspapers and news programs picked up on the finalists’ chances of winning. Audiences shared the winning content with friends, especially content created by the winning entourage, who created an entire original episode of the show starring themselves (see the results here).

At the end of the promotion, it wasn’t the volume of entries that made it successful, but the goodwill, built by consumers themselves.

Historically, promotional success was measured by the number of participants. In this new world of shareable content, we must take another look at what the true goals and objectives of these new, video-based promotions are and focus our efforts on turning the entries (or other solicited content) into actual momentum for a brand.

When building promotions around video submissions, be modest with entry goals and expectations. Ensure you provide all the right tools, assets, and guidance to garner results that will expand the promotion’s reach — even after it’s ended.

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