Behind Every Great Brand There Is A Great Audience

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brand2.jpgThanks to the explosion of social networking and video-sharing capabilities across the Web, savvy marketers now understand the power of the Internet to directly connect us with our key audiences. Never before has it been so important, impactful and simple, to garner direct consumer feedback and encourage brand loyalty – positively impacting everything from marketing campaigns to actual product design. However, most marketers have approached user-generated content (UGC) as more of an experiment than anything else. Whether we like it or not, it’s not going away and we should all begin to view social media as something that needs to become fully integrated into the marketing mix. Why? Social media builds long-term assets for your brand while simultaneously centralizing and empowering your brand advocates – who will be anxiously waiting to see what you roll out next. And if you’re still reading this and believe what I’m saying is true, here are a few best practices to help you ensure that your customers’ enthusiasm and loyalty are maximized to the benefit of your brand.
 
User-generated content and social media are about developing assets – don’t treat them as a one-off marketing exercise.
 
Social media is the gift that keeps on giving: the more comments and content submissions your site receives the more freedom you have to truly explore and learn from the perceptions of your brand. Leveraging UGC and social media is a fairly new strategy and thus many companies are reluctant to dive right into it without proof of concept. However, in almost all of the cases I’ve seen, companies have been pleasantly surprised, if not ecstatic, with the results of their social media community or campaign.
 
Based on these initial successes, many of which have been highly publicized, it’s evident that the concept is proven and now is the time to take social media and UGC to the next level. And by that I mean transitioning from one-off campaigns to establishing longstanding destinations that foster community. After all, how can your brand realize the lasting benefits of UGC if you don’t make it a regular part of your promotional calendar? Using social media for branding is an ongoing state of being that requires maintenance and commitment. And let’s not forget – once you’ve given your consumers a place to share their opinions and connect with like-minded fans, the last thing you want to do is lose their attention and loyalty by denying them access to your brand community.
 
I understand that many UGC promotions start as just a one-off campaign designed around a theme, holiday or event. If you’re one of the savvy marketers who have followed this path, good for you as you’re still ahead of the game. However, now is the time to think about the big picture and expand upon these efforts – especially since building a loyal and active community takes time. It took nearly 10 years to build WebMD into the popular community it is today, and if we had viewed our initial successes, which were not huge, as a one-off campaign, this valuable destination on the Web probably wouldn’t exist today.

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