Is your brand attracting creators?

videographerWe used to watch TV. Now we make the videos. We used to read the content. Now we produce it. We used to look at the pictures. Now we take them, upload them and distribute them. We have evolved from spectators to creators.

OK, not all of us, but according to Forrester’s recently updated Social Technographics Ladder, a full 24 percent of all people who went online in 2009 performed one or more of these activities. Forrester calls them the Creators.

And while there are many more people labeled conversationalists (a new category for recognizing people who regularly update their status), joiners and spectators, I think that the 24 percent is the most interesting number.  For starters it’s a full 14 percent higher than a year ago.  Secondly, it’s 24 percent of the number of people who go online; without a doubt that universe is quite a bit larger than it was just a year earlier. So the actual number of people creating content grew even more than 14 percent.

Forrester's Social Media Ladder

Why does this matter? For the simple reason that it’s an opportunity for brands and marketers everywhere.  Here’s an example.  Budweiser produces a spot and it ends up on YouTube. Out of nowhere, one person comes along and creates her own tribute. Just for fun. Just because she wants to. Nice to be a brand with that’s loved.

But in another case, HP runs a campaign and discovers (or plans for) a similar phenomenon, except that in this case hundreds of people come along to create content. Why? Because HP invited them to. Granted the company offered up prize money. But that’s not always a requirement. Consider Art of the Trench. Burberry puts up a website with fashionable images of people wearing trench coats and simply invites anyone with a digital camera and internet access to add to the portfolio. And so it grows.

There are more examples that prove not just willingness but downright enthusiasm.  TJX Corporations’s YouTube caroling page got people to sing their favorite carols with very little convincing. Lonely Planet TV regularly receives videos from amateur content creators as they travel the world.

A few months ago I started The Next Great Generation, a community blog for Gen Y to share its thoughts on everything from life and work to brands and technology. So far nearly 100 writers have volunteered to write, edit and manage the blog in return for an opportunity to develop their voice, build their personal reputation, and be part of a community. Granted some were already “creators,” but for many, this was their first foray into content creation.

It strikes me that any brand, charity or organization can build a community of people who will photograph, compose, and produce content. They’ll shoot instructional videos on how they use your product, create parodies or interpretations of your last TV campaign, write stories, post recipes, and take photographs. The evidence is everywhere. From the equivalent of 130,000 full length feature films uploaded to YouTube every week, to the growing list of crowdsourcing startups confident there’s a business model in user generated content.

In Here Comes Everybody Clay Shirky suggests we need to unlearn the lesson that getting paid is the primary motivation for people to make an effort and do any serious work. Instead he reminds us that people don’t simply want to consume media, they want to produce it, shouting “Look what I made,” in the process.

Granted not every brand needs community created content. But is that the point? If consumers want to create it, if they’re willing to generate it, if it further induces them to become a highly effective medium as they pass that content around, don’t you want them creating it?  It’s one more way to listen, engage, inspire, build and mobilize your community.

Want content for your brand? Want a community of contributors who’ll spread the content around?  All you have to do is invite them and make them feel appreciated for their efforts. What are you waiting for?

Photo by: chibart

Ladder by:  Forrester

Thanks to Jason Falls for the inspiration for this post.

12 comments
Kim
Kim

Thank you for the inspiration. It is so important to be a "Creator" or even just a "Spectator" (not in the "Inactive" group). Sharing ideas, information, and opinions enriches the lives of all who participate in the process, which also includes reading and observing. For the creators, motivation is key. This is sometimes hard to maintain, but the end results are rewarding.

Lisa Hickey
Lisa Hickey

It's funny -- as someone who has been in advertising her whole life, I used to HATE testimonials. Some days, I'd even hate ads, especially if clients and other forces conspired to make them annoying, intrusive, or just plain boring.

But wait, what you're talking about are testimonials, done creatively, by people who are passionate about a brand -- with almost total creative control ceded by the client. WOW! I can't wait to see where this takes us next. Better product development, for example, because brands themselves would do well to realize the power of people who truly like what they have to offer.
.-= Lisa Hickey´s last blog ..lisahickey: @knealemann @eriknorwood Love you guys! But really, YOU inspire ME. How do you think I got here? #ff =-.

Mike Scheiner
Mike Scheiner

To your point Edward, this area will continue to grow, and be segmented into two types of creators: those who are "advocates of the brand" and those who the "Look what I made" group. As we now know and realize, user generated content speaks volumes in terms of believability, endorsement and of course entertainment. The bigger question comes down to those brands who will be willing to allow "the sharing" of this user generated content without any filters? What you also point out is a new type of brand loyalty and advocate: Social content brand advocates.

Jeff Shattuck
Jeff Shattuck

Edward,

This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I LOVE that the barriers between those can and those who can't afford to have dropped to nearly nothing. One of the best summations of this tech-driven phenomenon was penned by Sun's CEO, Jonathan Schwarz, back in 2005. He called the new age The Participation Age, a phrase I just relate to so, so strongly. Here is a link to his original post:

http://blogs.sun.com/jonathan/entry/inevitability

Jeff
.-= Jeff Shattuck´s last blog ..Reflections on “It Might Get Loud.” =-.

Rich
Rich

"All you have to do is invite them..."

Ah, simple words, so seldom used. Brands ask customers to do a lot of things ("Try us, Buy us") in a very internally focused way.

Asking customers to do or create something for the brand is very externally focused ("Do something that matter to you")

That needs a shift in mindset inside companies. Hopefully, Edward, with more examples like the ones you've shown, people will feel more comfortable asking their customers to help them.
.-= Rich´s last blog ..Artists of the World Unite! =-.

Ted
Ted

Love the two points in the last paragraph: (1) ask and (2) appreciate/thank. It takes commitment to do these two points well, but it's not rocket science.

My team studies the university recruiting (HR) process and the two things that college students want the most is: 1. a platform to showcase what they can do (ask) and 2. direct responses (even if short) from employers (appreciation). I have no idea why more companies don't do these two things, but they don't.

Also, love the heck out of this blog. I'm following.

hallicious
hallicious

I really love the concept of user generated content, but think that it's at odds with copyright law and big business Marketing/PR departments' need to control the message.

Letting fanatic fans and employees show their love for a company/brand is hardly a bad thing, but there are internal traditions that have become barriers needing to be broken down.

We're getting there. :)

-chris
.-= hallicious´s last blog ..Internets Anonymous =-.

Dylan
Dylan

Great topic, Edward. I believe more and more that a brand's presence will come down to its willingness to challenge and inspire its Core Creators (Core Users who are also Creators). So far most advertising has focused on messaging to that 70% of Spectators from the ladder, but there's a twist. In focusing on Core Creators, you are providing even more content for that 70% to absorb, usually at little to no additional charge to your brand. Meanwhile, by recognizing your core group, and sometimes rewarding the best efforts, your brand actually creates a greater sense of a community. All of a sudden your regular consumer finds new identity and new action. They no longer view themselves as idle patrons, but active representatives. This is a strength that has been portrayed quite literally by the campaigns for Windows "That was my idea" (I'm A PC) and Domino's recent (We Listened). Obviously, CPB already has their brands jumping on that bandwagon to varying extents.

Jackie Adkins
Jackie Adkins

A huge factor of this increased number of content creators has to be the breaking down of barriers to create content, especially when it comes to video. With flip cams and higher quality webcams, as well as smart phones, it's way easier to upload video than ever before, and will only get easier.

I know the creator group scares a lot of corporations because they're worried they'll run into something like the American Airlines guitar song. But the reality is if this lower amount of control scares you that much, you probably have some deeper issues you need to deal with (and these vocal creators will probably let you know about those issues pretty quickly).

Some have shown they're willing to embrace the creators, and I'm excited to see how the relationship between the creators and the brands/businesses evolves over the next few years.
.-= Jackie Adkins´s last blog ..The Secret To Achieving Your Social Media Goals =-.

edward boches
edward boches

I think testimonials are boring. Not always, but often. They seem forced, contrived and formulaic. There is a different with co-creation and expression. Look at this http://bit.ly/5vrp6m, Canon's new the story behind the still. May or may not get crap, but some of the You on You stuff was pretty good, and the photos on Trench are OK, too. Doesn't take long to look at these two examples and come up with a lot more ideas.

edward boches
edward boches

Faris:
Like a fellow thinker/blogger who's not shy. Thanks for leaving the links. Big fan of your stuff and now you've just reminded me that I have to remember to read it more often.

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