As we move towards the close of 2006, you should be asking yourself "How can we take better advantage of user-generated content in 2007?" I recommend that you convene a brainstorming session before the holidays to consider this topic, let ideas percolate over the holiday period, and come back to work in January 2007 with at least one pilot project to implement in the first quarter. To get your creative juices flowing, here are a few pointers as to what others are doing.
- Boston-based urban streetwear retailer, Karmaloop’s customers model the retailers’ clothes, populate its marketing blog and e-newsletter with their contributions, and design and distribute virtually all of the firm’s marketing collateral. More than 5,000 of them actually sell the products and earn points towards clothes or money.
- National Instruments’ customers--scientists and engineers--answer each others’ technical questions, contribute their own custom code (Virtual Instruments, or VIs) to the community for re-use, and evangelize new ways to apply NI’s tools to measure and monitor new kinds of signals in a mind-boggling array of application areas. The cross-discipline knowledge sharing is key to NI’s continued growth and profitability. The ability for a radiologist to pick up tips from an astronomer, or for a circuit designer to get ideas from a sports performance technician, is part of the benefit of using NI’s solutions and frequenting its vibrant online community.
- Weight Watchers offers a very popular members-only service that consists entirely of customer-generated content; members contribute recipes.
- Cisco Systems, Microsoft, IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Hewlett-Packard are among the many high-tech firms that provide user-to-user customer-support forums that set the standard for high-tech self-service. Now, most technology companies offer some form of tech support online community forum. Increasingly, this customer-generated content is being integrated into the firms’ incident tracking and issue resolution applications. When you go online to diagnose, troubleshoot, and resolve a technical problem, you are typically provided with targeted search results from both the company’s own expert-maintained knowledgebase and from the relevant user forums. It’s not at all uncommon to find the best answers in the customer-contributed forums.
- In late November, the BBC, which has long welcomed and cultivated user-generated content, announced that it is launching “the first all user-generated news program featuring material sent in by the public.” According to the U.K.’s Digit information service for digital and graphic designers, the BBC “receives around 10,000 emails a day with story suggestions, comments and pictures from the public. This material will be culled down to into weekly features, called ‘Your News’ which will be presented by Richard Bilton, and reporter Laura Jones will run weekly features with a wide range of audience driven content.”
- The Financial Times reported that Reuters and Yahoo! have teamed up to gather, screen, and syndicate user-generated news photos and videos submitted to a Yahoo! Web site called You Witness. If your photo or video passes the screening, you’ll receive attribution, and, in the cases of really prime footage or shots, even compensation. This is an interesting way to leverage some enabling infrastructure investments the two firms have already made. Yahoo! can take advantage of Flickr’s functionality and community. Reuters was an early pioneer in publishing open APIs for stringers (both paid and unpaid) to submit news stories.
I’m looking forward to seeing news footage--(not just dogs catching Frisbees footage) from far-flung places. For example, young Ugandan journalists at URDT (my favorite third world example of customer co-design of successful grassroots integrated rural development) will be able to upload their locally produced video documentaries about local issues and politics. Ditto for budding photo-journalists from every corner of the world.
- Frito-Lay’s “Crash the Super Bowl” contest to create the winning ad for Doritos to be aired during the most coveted (and expensive) TV advertising slot in the United States--the annual Super Bowl football play-off. According to Stuart Elliott of The New York Times, over 1,000 entries were submitted within about 10 weeks--(my favorite is entitled: “Back-up Plan”)–pointing out the upside of saving millions of dollars on content creation as well as the perils of relying on customer-created content! You can view the ads here and vote on the five finalists starting January 5th.
- In the same article, Elliott mentions that CWTV television network and its advertiser, Sunkist, are co-sponsoring a video submission contest with a reward of letting the winner appear in an episode of the TV show “One Tree Hill” filmed in the winner’s hometown.
2006 was the year of customer-created content. Have you missed the wave? It’s not too late. Grab your surfboard and take the plunge!
One of the ideas I have for customer-generated content that several of you have requested is a shared, easy-to-search repository of slideware. Many of you spend a lot of time presenting ideas to others. You often need good, quick, convincing examples of ROI, business cases, and stories to help make your case for the investments and initiatives you want to drive. Would you be interested in having access to a shared repository of PowerPoint/slide examples you can use? Do you have some great slides that have worked for you that you’d be willing to contribute (with attribution, of course)?