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Social Media Research - User Generated Content is Gold

Getting Key Influencers on Your Side in Social Media

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Social Media Research - User Generated Content is Gold

User-Generated Content in Social Media - One Man's Treasure

Courtesy of Ean Bowman, Photographer Stock.xchng Copyright March 22, 1004

User-generated content of social media has become the new currency -- the gold -- in social media. The importance of user-generated content in the world of marketing, branding, and advertising is its capacity to influence purchase decisions, brand affinity, and brand loyalty. It is the strength and promise of this influencer phenomenon that has drawn the attention of the Razorfish agency. In their introduction to Fluent: The Razorfish Social Influence Marketing Report, Razorfish says that:

Social Influence Marketing (SIM) is about employing social media and social influencers to achieve the marketing and business needs of an organization.

Razorfish is an industry leader in social influence marketing. They helped bring the term into the industry vernacular and, with their proprietary Social Influence Marketing Index, they have investigated a metric that can support the understanding and application of social media as it intersects with brand.

In the Fluent Report, Razorfish describes the immediate future of brand management as:

Traditional top-down branding will become increasingly impotent as social media grows. Consumers continue to rely on personal networks to learn about products and services. Consumers are shaping brands as much as brands themselves are. Brand management will require greater transparency and a stronger connection to consumers than ever before. Today, consumers do not have complete trust in the marketing efforts of brands on the social platforms - making the brand management tasks all the more difficult.

Mapping Digital Relationships in Social Media

Once the stuff of sociology journals and anthropology chronicles, visual representation of social networks has become mainstream. Now Facebook aficionados refer to social graphs, which are a visual representation that uses nodes (circles representing individuals) and edges (lines that represent how individuals are connected) to represent the digital relationships of a Facebook user. Social graphs can also function as a map of social influence. As market researchers study how these digitally-based relationships influence the day-to-day transactions of those engaged in social media, their work is refining how marketing and brand innovation will take place.

B2C hasn't gone away, but its role has definitively changed. A report commissioned by MySpace in April of 2007, called Never Ending Friending, states that B2C + C2C = value creation. In the three years since the report was released, companies have seen the numbers that demonstrated that formula. When consumers use social networking to communicate about specific products, ad hoc market research communities are established by default. The advantages are readily apparent.

  • There is no need to physically bring consumers together to act as a focus group.
  • The reach of popular social media channels is much greater than any inquiry a corporate market research team can establish.
  • Plus, social media is fast -- return-on-investment (ROI) can often be measured in real time.

The currency in cross-channel social media is a bartered deal tacitly arranged between a marketer and a consumer. The terms of this deal is that consumers will increasingly lead, and marketers will increasingly follow with investments in time, effort, and access - all geared toward desirable consumer engagement. The new metric is Return-on-sweat-equity (ROSE) and it will be measured in terms of a shared influence on consumer behavior.

The strategies and methodologies for digital marketing are continually evolving and the basic analytics for tracking the impact of business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing -- though well established -- are evolving, too. But is it enough for B2C to evolve? Or is it time for market researchers to turn the lion's share of their analytical attention to consumer-to-consumer (C2C) communication -- in the form of user-generated content?

Considering Social Media Market Research? Try This

As you gauge whether social media market research would be useful in your business, here are things to consider and try:

  • Find and track a C2C message back to its source. Do this a few times across different types of media, devices, products and industries. Keep an eye out for parallels to your own business.
  • Be patient. Wait until you know what you want to measure and what you can feasibly measure.
  • Remember this cardinal rule of research: Determine first how you will use the data you collect.
  • Decide what data you want to display, how you want to display it, and how you'll maintain it.
  • Do a mock-up of a dashboard for interactive data for your business.
  • Review third-party applications that offer integrated analyses of your data in real time.
  • Expand your exploration of social media tools. Tap in, listen, participate.

The "voice" of the marketer or advertiser must take place within an authentic, credible conversation with the customer. My About.com article Step-by-Step to Consumer Conversations That Last provides some guidelines for refining and measuring the influence of your marketing voice.

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