How Do You Use Consumer-Generated Media?

Online businesses should be taking advantage of CGM and adapting their online marketing so that it is interactive with their consumers. To begin adapting to the new CGM, you simply need to:

  • Observe, listen to, and engage customers and potential customers in your target market
  • Provide your customers and potential customers with a convenient way to communicate with you and participate in your marketing.

Understanding the trends in CGM is what will give you the competitive advantage. Listening to and leveraging such media may be the most important source of competitive advantage for any online business.

Leverage CGM by having systems in place to help you listen to, and understand, what your customers are saying about your company, your products and services, and even your competitors. Pay as much attention to unsolicited commentary as possible. Invite active consumers into a discussion to help gain more control over the buzz that is being generated about your operation.

Different companies use CGM for different reasons. The most important uses of CGM are to:

  • Get in sync with consumers—Use CGM to find out what consumers are looking for from related sites and use that information as a way to come up with new content for your site, your social media, or your corporate blog.
  • Track your online ads—Use CGM to identify what buzz words people are using to describe your operation and use this information to help you decide what keywords you want to use in your ads and where the best place is to advertise.
  • Track your competitors—Use CGM to find out what is being said about your competition. Implement any positive elements from what they are doing and avoid any negative elements.

Consumer-generated media is a great tool in helping online businesses understand their target markets—what they want and what they need.

Where Do You Find Consumer-Generated Media?

You will find consumer-generated media everywhere on the Internet. Discussion forums, message boards, and Usenet newsgroups were among the first generation of CGM; blogs, wikis, podcasts, and videos represented the second generation, and now CGM is everywhere—Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, LinkedIn, Flickr, Delicious, Digg, Diigo, blogs, rating and review sites—absolutely everywhere online.

CGM can be in the form of text, images, photos, videos, audio, and other forms of media.

There are all kinds of Web sites dedicated to all kinds of CGM that allow consumers to rate products and services, or give feedback. A few such Web sites include:

  • Trip Advisor—http://www.tripadvisor.com
  • Yelp—http://www.yelp.com
  • Epinions.com—http://www.epinions.com
  • PlanetFeedback—http://www.planetfeedback.com.

Consumer-generated media can give many organizations unfiltered insights into their customers’ experiences. It can create interactive relationships with consumers and also provide a new way of advertising and promoting products,
services, and packages.

CGM—Opportunity or Threat?

CGM comments have the power to influence anyone who sees them and are a very valuable research tool for any online business. It creates a competitive advantage as it allows you (and everyone else online) to find out how your consumers really feel about your packages, products or services, customer service, staff, and virtually all aspects of your business.

CGM comments give online businesses the opportunity to listen to what consumers are saying and to learn what it was about their products or services that encouraged (or discouraged) the purchasing decision; and it gives them the
opportunity to act accordingly. For example, amusement park marketers can gain unfiltered insights into customer experiences that in the past they could have gotten only through surveys and comment cards.

The Effect of CGM on Corporate Reputation

The growing popularity of social media networks provides even more opportunities for consumers to give their opinion or complaints. Today, virtually every online consumer creates CGM through their social media channels or their posts on review and rating sites. Because consumer-generated media is everywhere, traditional marketers and advertisers no longer have control over the messages being circulated about their company, products, or services. Nor do they have control over the medium in which those messages are being presented. When a consumer uses a search engine to search for a particular company, brand, or product, it’s almost certain that postings created by other consumers will be among the top results.

Understanding and monitoring the impact CGM has on consumers’ decision-making process is extremely important for online success. CGM comments are online forever, archived until the person who posted them removes them. It is estimated that the number of comments will grow by about 30 percent each year.

CGM leaves a digital trail, which means it is a highly measurable form of media. It can be converted into market research. It allows companies to gauge their brand equity, reputation, and message effectiveness. It is important for companies to take into account the scope and effect of CGM and use it to help them make more-informed decisions.

There are any number of review sites, rating sites, groups, message boards, and forums where people can post what’s on their mind, whether it be to tell of their harrowing experience or the exceptional customer service they received. Any one of these can affect your business. You need to pay close attention to what is being said in both traditional media and consumergenerated media.

Some consumers will go so far as to develop a video to show their displeasure with an organization’s response (or lack of response) to their complaint. Check out United Breaks Guitars on YouTube! This video has been shown on CNN as well as on YouTube. At the time of writing this book, United Breaks Guitars had 7,513,364 views and 40,992 ratings where individuals had taken the time after viewing the video to rate it. The video has a 5-star rating, so everyone loved it and many passed it on or told others about it. Rumor has it that United Airlines is now using the video in its customer service training.

You could lose the chance to demonstrate a commitment to customer service by not addressing complaints. The news cycle has accelerated tremendously, and consumers’ expectations that companies will frequently and directly communicate with them has been raised, thanks to the Internet. If there is no response from your company on a given issue, consumers are likely to spread the news and further speculate about the issue. Along with other traditional forms,
blogging and engaging in social media should now be part of any company’s media outreach.

Why Consumer-Generated Media Is Important

Consumer-generated media is the fastest growing media online and should be as important to your business as it is to other consumers. Listening to and leveraging consumer-generated media may well be the most important source of competitive advantage for any company. Studies have shown that when it comes to product information, consumers place far more trust in other consumers than they do in manufacturers, marketers, and advertisers. By listening to CGM and to what your customers are saying, you can gain truthful insights as to how they view your business, products, and services.

Consumers consistently rank word-of-mouth as one of the top information sources for making purchasing decisions. According to a recent study, 90 percent of consumers trust recommendations from people they know and 70 percent
trust opinions of unknown users, whereas only 27 percent trust experts and 8 percent trust celebrities. The rapid growth of this trend poses both challenges and opportunities for marketing, advertising, and public relation teams.

It is also important to monitor what is being said about your business and key company officials so that you can do damage control for any negative comments and leverage the positive ones.

What Is Consumer-Generated Media?

Unlike paid media, such as print or banner ads, consumer-generated media is created solely by consumers, not professional writers, journalists, or publishers. It is created by consumers, for consumers. It can include anything from facts, opinions, impressions, experiences, rumors, ratings, reviews, complaints, praises—anything. CGM is made available to other Internet users through their participation in groups, review and rating sites, discussion boards, blogs, and other social media networks. CGM encompasses opinions, experiences, advice, and commentary about products, brands, companies, and services, and is usually a result of personal experience.

According to Pew Internet & American Life Project, 90 percent of consumers have used the Internet to research a product or a service. Consumers are using the Internet to consult with other consumers. They are reading sites dedicated to consumer opinions, consumer reviews, and personal experiences. They are frequenting discussion boards where they share information, give feedback, ask questions, or simply read what others are saying.

CGM is viewed by consumers as trusted third-party advice and information; they are using this information to form their own opinions on your products, services, and packages and are using this information to help them in their purchasing decision.