Co-founder & CEO of GirlsAskGuys, a digital community connecting girls & guys to help each other by sharing their experiences.
For the leading digital marketers, content and influencer marketing are popular strategies used to reach target audiences. This is so common that it is tempting to buy into the “content is king” mantra. However, this can be taken too far, when a brand pushes its themes down a one-way communication street at the expense of letting its audience interact with the brand and not each other.
I believe that websites and brands are best off designing a customer experience where dialog among the customer community is the most important consideration. The goal is to connect people with passion to people in need. People with passion are micro-influencers — individuals who are knowledgeable and eager to share information about a niche. This interactive approach multiplies your marketing impact many times over.
These findings are based on my experience leading GirlsAskGuys and its Spanish and Turkish sister sites, EllasSaben.com and KizlarSoruyor.com. The concept for the sites occurred during my bachelor days, when I discovered that asking the opposite sex for advice on relationships, fashion and beyond, was much more helpful than hanging out with the guys or reading magazine columns.
There are several key benefits of this type of community-driven content.
People with passion serve as micro-influencers.
Ask someone at a party about their job and you will probably get a sentence or two for an answer. Ask, instead, about hobbies or causes they are passionate about and you could start a half-hour interaction and possibly a long-term friendship. People love talking about their passions, so much so that we consider the concept of connecting people with passion to people in need as the reason for the existence of our web properties. The same passionate people who frequently interact on your site are likely to be heavy social media users and will often promote your site themselves and invite more influencers to join if their experience is positive enough.
Once you appreciate the people with passion concept, the next step is to understand individual customer’s passions in detail. To do this, my analytics team relies on a combination of subject-area tags for questions that a user clicks on in addition to deep, text-based searches of the terms used in a person’s contributions. That allows us, for example, to understand who is not only interested in exercise but specifically likes to wear cross-training shoes.
Some micro-influencers may already be popular through their blog, Twitter or Instagram accounts, or another social platform — but they don’t have to be. Our company has a team whose main job is to encourage potential micro-influencers to participate on-site and find their voice. Your community content-driven website could be the first opportunity to share their insights at large.
Brands are shifting from traditional digital ads to native placements.
Brands that are considering advertising on your site may have relied on display ads aimed at broad demographic categories in the past, but these are no longer sufficient. Even ads that are natively integrated into the website’s content are part of a passing trend, in my opinion — if they don’t have an interactive component.
Let’s look at how community-centric, interactive content magnifies brand advertising. First, imagine that our passionate runner from my earlier persona example lives in a cold-weather region and runs a few miles every day. This profile might align closely with running apparel and footwear that a sports brand wants to promote. We have developed an advertising offering that gives a brand like that the ability to distribute gift cards to this runner as well as a small number of other highly interested community members. There’s no obligation, but there is a likelihood that the recipients will mention their purchases’ performance on the website.
Interactive, native placement of promotional content also allows the advertiser to be more subtle — not a word you hear often in online advertising. For example, Gillette, a brand my company partners with, had an interest in nurturing online dialogue about shaving as part of women’s beauty routines. After one initially placed question generated conversation on one of our web properties, the community took over and continued to discuss this on an ongoing basis. The conversation is not about a product so much as it is about lifestyle, but Gillette’s brand cachet grows from the discrete reference in the “sticky” question we posed as well as further, organic conversation.
Community-generated questions magnify SEO.
Marketers rely on search engine optimization (SEO) to effectively relate their site content to search engine questions. Search engines are focusing ever more on serving up precise answers to highly specific questions.
Community-generated content is incredibly effective for SEO because the interactions among your visitors are timely and specific. Want to hear from the crowd about what the best 2017 car models were? That question was asked by a community member on our site, then picked up in Google’s Knowledge Graph along with a summary of our community’s answers and a link back to the site.
Conversations indicate need and product extension opportunities.
There are times when people simply want to chat, but for most information-sharing websites, a question posed indicates an underlying need. A 17-year-old asking about shampoos in June, in the U.S., could mean she’s going to her prom and looking for a dress.
How can you leverage needs identifications to extend your website’s content or your brand’s offerings? Put out feeler articles to assess whether they gain traction organically. For example, we weren’t sure whether our audience, which is made up of more than 80 percent millennials, would be open to a section about early parenthood advice and products. Based on a small placement of content about this theme, we learned this is a relevant topic for individuals transitioning from dating to stable relationships.
Content is a key to marketing these days, but it’s so much more powerful when you design your experience for community interaction first. It’s why connecting people with passion to people in need is the heart of our business and we believe it could have the same impact on yours.