There are literally hundreds of social media channels, with new networks emerging all the time. These new media channels give consumers an unprecedented power of voice. Both individually and collectively, consumers now have the ability to interact with and influence brands in a growing number of ways. Moreover, the content generated through these channels has the power to influence other consumers. This is a power that brands should be harnessing and integrating into their overall marketing strategies.
User-generated content can be an effective tool for engagement. This is especially true with millennials. Millennials find user-generated content 35% more memorable than other types of media, and 50% more trustworthy. This is requiring brands to rethink their marketing campaigns to include more interactive engagement strategies. Many brands are finding success with campaigns that solicit user-generated content. But a good amount of brand-related content on the Web is unsolicited.
One popular form of user-generated content is the blog. While the blogosphere is nothing new, its influence continues to grow over time. There are currently more than 152 million blogs on the internet. As of 2013, 34% of Fortune 500 companies were creating and sharing content through blogs. But there are also a growing number of unofficial company blogs that exert influence on the marketplace. Brands like Nike, Starbucks and Apple all have multiple “unofficial” blogs that are run by fans of the brand. Many consumers look to these unofficial channels as sources of credible, unbiased information.
So how can brands leverage the popularity of unofficial blogs and utilize these conversations to their advantage? As with any social media, brands need to monitor what is being said about them online. User-generated content is a reflection of the brand in the marketplace, and an opportunity to measure consumer sentiment and engagement. By listening to the consumer voice, brands can gather information that can help shape future marketing messages. Without proper monitoring, brands could miss many of the conversations that consumers are having about them every day.
In my opinion, barring any copyright infringements, brands should allow these unofficial blogs to thrive. Consumer blogs generate buzz, and are typically run by advocates of the brand. And with the benefit of peer-to-peer sharing, brand messages have the potential to impact consumers who would otherwise not have any interaction with the brand. Of course, not all user-generated content will be positive, but through effective monitoring, brands can mitigate any potentially damaging content. And it may be more beneficial to have negative comments on an unofficial blog than on any of the official brand channels.
As with other forms of social media, unofficial blogs represent the voice of the consumer. Listening to that voice should be at the heart of any sound marketing strategy.