Vital Relationships: Content Producers and Brands

copyright Armando Alves

One of the things that makes the web amazing is that anyone can create content for it. Whether it is a news video for YouTube, a blog post, a set of photos or a tutorial on how to build toys. If you can imagine anything, you can share it on the web in one of these forms.

Right now, you can even build a small work of art that anyone can print in 3D.

And then there’s social media. Those online channels where these content producers (authors, musicians, thinkers and tinkerers) share their work and even let others comment and contribute with ideas. With or without a copyright claim.

These are the people who make the web great, because they take their time and effort and accept the risk of sharing it expecting little or no compensation.

In such a trove of content, links, mixes and remixes, authorship is in serious peril of getting lost. Pinterest recognised this problem and did what was in their reach to fix it. Facebook also started giving more credit to outgoing links as a result of the changes in the Edge Rank Algorithm.

Let’s jump back for a while now. Among the web brands are trying to find their place in the dialogue, trying to be close to their stakeholders, to stay interesting and relevant in their lives.

For Brands, Facebook turned out to be the channel where this communication could take place. Soon brand and marketing managers came to realise that being a part of the web means producing content. It can range between a simple photo of your product, taken at the right setting and with a clever remark, or it can be much more elaborate as an info graphic or extensive white paper.

Building great content takes time but it’s worth it. That’s usually where some agencies step in, helping their clients set up an interesting content plan.

When the setting is right, this content plan includes searching the web for User Generated Content that is valuable and can be shared with the brand’s community of users.

But can we? Just because something is online, it doesn’t mean you can just take it as your own. If you’re just another user, someone like you and me, chances are that you can just add a small caption stating who the original author is. I do that all the time on my blog, finding photos tagged with a Creative Commons license and linking back to the photographer’s flickr account.

On the other hand, Brands need a stricter approach. It doesn’t matter if something is under a creative commons license, it is still good practice to check with the author and explain how they would like to use that image or video in their Facebook Page for example. Given Facebook’s limitations in design, it is also important to look for ways to award due ownership with a ribbon or small mention in the photo saying who the author is. This way, other users can either search for the person online or look in Google Images for the original version.

The alternative is to pick up something interesting online and publish it as if the brand itself had created that piece of content. Most often than not, brands are going to get away with it. Every once in a while however we find situations where the author sees the miss-use of their content and demands explanation, showing that the brand or community manager is speaking to the community from the top of a soap box, not really respecting them as important stakeholders.

In a nutshell, instead of nurturing a community, of building a setting where people feel motivated to work and produce content on their own for nothing else than the recognition for a good accomplishment, we set up an auditorium where people feel they have been robbed or that their peers are being treated unfairly.

A constructive approach to this problem is to develop a community outreach plan as part of your content strategy. This plan will aim to motivate the community to build content on their own and be rewarded for it in some way, not just by seeing their work shared and recognized.

The benefits to this approach are many, one of them being that Brands can reduce the ammount of budget they spend on producing content on their own and, as an outtake, gain reach within a user’s own social network. For agencies, developing these outreach plans is a clear business opportunity.

And after all, don’t we all stand by a social approach to how brands communicate ? Don’t we all want to see the web as a place of conversation and lasting relationships? For that to happen it is of the utmost importance to find middle ground between brands and stakeholders and to have a strong backbone in dealing with situations where we may be pushed towards a less ethical approach.

Sure, saying “no” comes at a risk, but what is is truly important is never easy to do.

Photo by Armando Alves @ Flickr.

A collaborative list of social media events

writting

Even though Lanyrd is such a great resources to find events in Lisbon, the truth is that the teams organising conferences or presentations around social media forget to use these tools. If you don’t believe me, see for yourself.

So when a friend asked me about such conferences I was left pretty much speechless. But I figured it was an easy fix.

In yet another night plagued by insomnia I read up on Sheetsee.js by Jessica Lord. 45 minutes later I had built a list of Social Media Events powered by a Google Form and the corresponding Spreadsheet.

You can find it here. Please feel free to add to the list as well!

 photo by limeryk @ flickr

Every consultant should build a company

Pirate Storms House (of cards)

It doesn’t matter how well you know your trade, if you are a marketing, public relations or IT consultant, or any other for that matter, you should build a business to know what your clients are going through.

This thought has stuck in my mind ever since Photowalke.rs got off the ground and we had to deal with a world of financial complexity.

You need a business model, a business plan, an accountant that knows what he’s doing (and can communicate it), you need to invest your own money from the get-go, and you need to let go of the fear that it won’t work. Right now, you haven’t even begun to do actual work.

But let’s skip ahead and imagine you have finally jumped those hurdles and can finally run at your own pace, working up a strategy to grow, setting a plan and counting how much you will need to put that plan in practice. You come to realise that you have very little margin for error.

And now this guy shows up. He’s a consultant and works for a marketing agency or some general business consultancy and tells you of a world of marvellous plans and amazing strategies that may grow your business 10 fold ! You agree on a fee, after you’ve stretched your investment budget beyond its limits and he starts off with a digital campaign of seo, cpm, cpa, cpc, remarketing, social media, crm and the kitchen sink.

In the end you get a bunch of powerpoint slides with reports and figures, great results and amazing KPI’s from each of the digital campaigns he was running. Yet your business grew by 2 or 5%, at most. At this point you may get a speech about how much you both learned from the experience and how you can improve for next time.

This is a common pitfall in some consultancy models and one that many small businesses may fall into because they work on a tighter budget.

I have always been a firm believer that a consultancy is a relationship that grows in unison (as I’m sure most agree) and complain regularly about not getting any feedback about business KPI’s. Did the campaign lead to any sales? Are customers making repeat purchases?

But even if everything goes according to plan, there is still the problem of the manager thinking he is all knowing and powerful. Rarely do I hear stories of managers listening to feedback the consultant got from his research or observation of reactions to a campaign. Those in charge of management and operations tend to look at consultants and agencies as mere executors of a plan and disregard the valuable role they can have in bringing community insight to the organisation’s strategy.

Photo by furlined @ flickr.

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