Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What is UGC Saying About You?

The recurring nightmare of any marketer who has programs in the social space is user generated content that reflects poorly on her brand. The Internet is awash with posts, comments, reviews, photos, videos and more. How can marketers use positive UGC to their advantage while mitigating any damage from negative commentary?

Most of us do it simply—from moderating comments on blogs to using Google Alerts to see what others are saying about us/our brands. These solutions tend to be labor intensive, but they work for the small publisher or a brand that’s not too much in the public eye. When the volume of Internet buzz becomes great, however, protecting the brand’s reputation becomes a massive project.

The issue becomes even more complex when the marketer wants to advertise on social networks, which will be a growing activity according to eMarketer (August 29, 2008). How can he keep up with UGC on far-flung sites? It’s even worse when the ads are placed on networks, making it difficult to even entirely know where ads are being run.

Enter a firm that promotes a comprehensive moderation product. Keibi has a product that helps online communities identify and moderate questionable content. Content includes videos and images as well as text. They also offer moderation services.

In a lengthy presentation from a recent conference Keibi points out that moderation can be done at three points:

• Moderate all content before it is posted
• Moderate only user-flagged content
• Moderate most or all content (after posting) each day (slide 31).

Each level obviously requires a different level of effort and amount of human resources.

They stress the importance of well-thought-out terms of service. Enforcing the terms of service provides a safe environment that gives a good user experience and makes advertisers comfortable with your site (think Facebook and the difficulty it still has in monetizing its huge traffic; slide 44). Part of the presentation deals with legal issues affecting content (slides 44 – 63).

Finally, there’s a case study of Piczo, a teen communications site that has had success in creating a trusted site using these tools. From this chart (slide 68), they have the active cooperation of their audience, and that’s clearly a plus.

The entire presentation can be accessed from this page. Slides 18-44 are the most relevant for most marketers. The earlier slides give an overview of social networks. If you want a comprehensive overview of advertising issues associated with social media advertising, try this recent IAB publication. They list a number of kinds of advertising on social networks:

• "Overlay” video ads that appear part way through the video and cover only a small part of the screen
• Conversation targeting, essentially souped-up contextual targeting
• Building your own community; wonderful if you have a willing audience and the time and resources
• Brand channel (on a site like YouTube)
• Brand profile (think the Boone Pickens Facebook page)
• Brand wrappers, which are sort of templates under another name
• Widgets in all their many variations

There may be more, but you get the idea. Social networks are where people are today—all ages, but especially the young. Marketers need to be there also. Products like the moderation suite from Keibi are needed to give them confidence in being there!

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