The Quality Prism: The secret to co-creating brands through social media

prism

Guest post by Greg Narain (@gregarious) co-founder of Chute, a company that helps brands discover or collect relevant photos from social networks and incorporate the visuals into their websites and apps

Brands finds themselves at a challenging crossroads in their evolution. For decades, companies have utilized a command and control model as it pertains to their brands. Billions of dollars have been spent to carefully craft specific messages and deliver them via campaigns. However, as consumers continue to create and promote their own stories, brands now must decide how to integrate that content into their own stories.

At the heart of the matter is control. Brands are accustomed to crafting their message and controlling the way that message is delivered to the world. In fact, the entire marketing vehicle is hardwired to function on this very specific level. The quality of any campaign has become a metric of success, both financially for the business and as industry recognition for the agency.

Forward-looking brands, however, see a different opportunity in letting go of some of that control. Social networks have already proven an effective platform for distributing media. At the same time, consumers continue to demonstrate their creativity and capability to produce authentic, engaging content. The combination is hard to ignore, but the question of quality still persists.

Quality is like a prism – what you see is highly dependent on your vantage point. For marketers and publishers still constrained by their own idea of quality, the value of customer-centric stories is still impossible to see or understand. Others understand that customers are now telling interesting, relevant stories, but they cannot get past the lack of polish and quality. A growing minority, though, have learned the secret to unlocking this content.

Quality must be viewed through the lens of the consumer, not our own. If we focus on our own internal standards of perfection, we miss out on the opportunities to promote and leverage authentic content. The test of quality isn’t the aesthetics or production, but the value it creates. To that end, encouraging your customers to co-create with you provides you a broader base of content to draw from.

During the Visual Revolution Summit, I sat down with my friend Ben Huh — who is fairly familiar with what it takes to create a meme or go viral as the founder of Cheezburger. You can watch our discussion below and share your thoughts on the Quality Prism with #VisualRevolution on Twitter.

Here are some tips on how to get started:

1. Boost customer contributions

Your customers may not be professional photographers or writers, but they’re out there making content for you nonetheless. These contributions are real-time, authentic, and engaging – even if they don’t meet the same standard of quality brands are accustomed to publishing.

2. Incentivize

Getting quality content sometimes means rewarding the creators. This doesn’t mean you have to start raffling off huge prizes. Engagement in and of itself can be a reward – interact, retweet, compliment and promote.

3. Minimize risk

Create your brand voice and stick to it – even if it means you have to skip a meme, viral sensation, newsworthy moment or customer content. Keep it light, keep it classy. When it comes to tragedy or sensitive topics, if you’re unsure, just don’t post. Case in point: the backlash after AT&T’s 9/11 Facebook and Twitter post that came off more as a cold marketing tactic than a respectful tribute. A brand who got it right? The New York City Ballet, who created this moving film. It’s easy to fall into a scandal when rushing to jump into the discussion around a sensitive topic.

4. Move fast, (don’t) break things

Taking inspiration from the famous Facebook mantra, the cycles between iterations needs to be shortened. Often, the latest on Buzzfeed is already old news to Tumblr users, and what’s new on Tumblr is often already old news to Reddit users. And this transition from funny to old? That can happen in the matter of a day, which is also why real-time content from fans is so powerful. However, keep in mind point #3: faster publishing doesn’t mean the values or identity of the brand should be compromised.

The ultimate measure of how successful any tactic is remains the same: does it align with your goals and deliver as expected? There will always be a need for high-quality, professionally crafted marketing and branding. However, as consumers continue to tell their story with greater fidelity, there is an additional source of content (or minimally inspiration) to leverage for your brand.

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  • Jingcong Zhao

    I really like your perspective on content quality, that it’s something that should be viewed through the audience’s or the brand’s community’s perspective. Thanks for sharing.

    • Gregarious Narain

      Thanks Jingcong! It is a simple idea that we have wandered away from in many respects.

  • cactacstudios

    I also admit that quality has more value than quantity. Specially in this era where technology is available on the finger tips. Users now are very sharp to analyze what is wrong and what is right. You sum up the idea of quality very well.Good job.

  • John Smith

    I totally agree with this.

    The advent of social media has broadened the horizons of marketing online.
    Marketing experts emphasize businesses’ digital marketing presence
    on emerging social media platforms and develop strategies around the
    various implications of social media on the web.

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Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research firm focused on disruptive technology. A digital analyst, anthropologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging technology on business, marketing, and culture. Solis is also globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. His new book, What's the Future of Business (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold and flourish in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. Prior to End of Business, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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