In a June 8, 2009 article from Marketing Vox and Nielsen BuzzMetrics SES Magazine entitled Turning Blogs and user-Generated Content Into Search Engine Results, Chris Aarons, Andru Edwards and Xavier Lanier state:
25% of search results for the world’s Top 20 brands link to user generated content
This is probably at once exciting and frightening for companies. Frightening for CMOs and CEOs who are not connected, and exciting for the pockets of social mavens emerging inside their organizations. Prior to Social Media conversations, brand-posted content dominated search results. But we are in a new world. A world where consumers can express their experiences immediately through social media technology. These customers far outnumber the employees of even the largest brands, and so, their self-generated content will dwarf what firms can create and they will do so at a staggering pace. When you couple this with the fact that consumers trust their friends recommendations at a 90% rate and other consumer opinion postings at 70% (Nielsen Study on Global Advertising), we may now be at the tipping point for who influences whom. Consumers still trust brand sites at a 70% level, but if user generated content continues to hijack search traffic, the brand site will likely not be the first place consumers visit after they have entered their search terms on Google or Bing.
Here’s a sobering thought for you advertising types out there. What if just prior to every TV commercial you spent millions of dollars on was aired, two consumer made commercials about your brand where shown first. But you have no idea of the content nor any clue who made them. I’ve just struck fear into the hearts of thousands.
What does this mean?
The carefully orchestrated messages brands weave and broadcast in the traditional mediums will have less influence on business results because consumers will get consumer perspectives first. Since consumers surround brands (sorry brand stewards it’s not the other way around) there is no way to stop this landslide of content.
What to do about it?
Influence the user generated content. If consumers see what others say about your brand, then take steps to improve the odds that what is said is positive. More effort will be needed to reach out into the community and demonstrate that brands genuinely think and feel what their customers think and feel. Brands that humanize their messages and practice empathy at key customer touch points will influence user-generated content. No customer experience occurs in a vacuum or inside the clinical environment of a marketing campaign, so don’t pretend it does. I’m beginning to shape a concept I am tentatively calling Customer Context. More to come on that.
Inspiration for this post came from the Socialnomics blog entry Statistics Show Social Media is Bigger than you Think. Thanks for compiling a great list of stats.