The growth of the social web has meant one thing to a lot of people: information overload. So much so that folks are regularly sharing content without consuming it — we’ve all been guilty of this at one time or another. You get a headlined Tweet or Facebook post from a particular writer or brand X and you pass it along, never bothering to click through and actually read or view the content.

David Spark makes some interesting observations about this in a recent Mashable article titled “Why Sharing Online Content Might Be Too Easy”:

None of this “sharing without consumption” behavior surprised me, but I thought these users were in the minority, and that it would never be pronounced enough to be noticeable. That was until I saw one of my own posted videos receive more shares than views. It was a low discrepancy, 52 shares and 48 views, and I didn’t see any bot-like behavior. Still, it was clear to me that sharers were more interested in being seen as someone sharing my video, entitled “How do you get everyone to watch your video,” rather than actually watching it.

My situation is not an anomaly. SocMetrics, an influencer identification service, was able to uncover 100 more similar cases of shares exceeding views.

So how does a brand rise above the content clutter and stand out? How do marketers get their customers to actually read an article or view a video? Rob Fuggetta, CEO for Zuberance, a company that helps brands leverage word–of–mouth, says look to your brand advocates — energize those folks and encourage them to share your brand’s content.

“There’s a trend that has been taken place whereby consumers don’t trust marketers and advertising, but they do trust their peers and friends,” says Fuggetta. “What traditional media channels and advertisers continue to face is a loss of trust between brand creator and consumer. That’s why brands need to be building relationships with brand advocates to act as marketing partnership with friends.”

Before rallying your advocates, though, you’ve got to first identify who they are. And surprisingly, a brand’s best advocates are not always the customers who buy the most. They are the customers whose word–of–mouth brings the most profitable new customers to your door, regardless of how much they themselves buy. Identify those people by sending inquiries to your CRM database on their likelihood to recommend your brand on a scale of 0 to 10 (Fuggetta calls this the “ultimate question”) with 0 being low and 10 being high. Those who answer 9 or 10 are the ones you want to energize.

You can also scan the social web for evidence of brand advocacy – like testimonials on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks.

Once you’ve identified your advocates, give them what they need to go out and spread the word. Keep in mind, though, that not all brand advocates are alike. Some are willing to create content, while others may prefer to share offers and still others may only be willing to give a testimonial. Brands, therefore, need to develop some kind of learning system that helps them figure out what their advocates are willing to do. And by all means, don’t annoy people by asking them to do something multiple times they haven’t responded to in the past.

Also, find ways to identify with your advocates and build a strong sense of community. Reinforce their brand experience and reward engagement by showing genuine appreciation for the work they do on your behalf. This gives them a stake in the brand and will encourage advocates to share on your behalf. And — at least in theory — that sharing gives you a better chance of actually getting others to read or view your content. After all, wouldn’t you be much more likely to click through something a friend or colleague sends versus what’s coming directly from a marketer?

We’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts and comments on how to get people to actually engage with branded content.

1 Comment

  1. S. Kucharzyk

    To start with; the concept of “branding” is so last century. There’s a reason why “brand trust”, as it has been presented, has been lost.

    Also in your article you’ve married the general public with product reviewers which clouds the issues of motive and motivation and recommendation and purchase.

    Clearly the model that you speak to exist otherwise the specificity of your remedies wouldn’t ring home but it does nothing to address the root of the problem; how to effectively communicate to, influence and sway the buying power of the general public … whose ear is no longer tuned to the “messages” of advertising.

    Let me suggest: that the function has to meet the need. Trendy will meet desire regardless of creator. Prudence will meet price over quality.

    Let me ask: How tangent or abstract is … Interest … to the marketing campaign?

    July 26, 2011

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