Tag Archives | Blog

A Shift To Curation

Content Curation

No that long ago, blog writers were the primary curators of content online, and we’d all tune in to see what they’d recommend next. Ads would try to place themselves next to premium content on premium channels, but the connection was loose at best, and readers knew the ads were paying for the placement, so they would still get ignored.

However, as companies realized there was value in being the source of new, interesting and unique content, curation became a viable marketing tactic. Through Twitter, Facebook, and other curation channels, companies would find and share content related to their own products in hopes of attracting the sustained interest of their target market.

Over time, as trust shifted and consumers were more willing to look outside of the traditional sources for new content, additional verticals started to adapt to this trend, including ad networks and daily deal sites.

In the last post I talked about ad networks that have taken on the role of content curator, so this time I’ll give a few examples of daily deals sites that have harnessed the power of content curation.

Fab

The first example of this trend is Fab.com. As Sarah Lacy noted recently on PandoDaily, “Fab Isn’t an Ecommerce Company; It’s a Content Company with Sales“.

Part of what makes Fab so successful as a daily deals site is that their users trust Fab to source the best and most unique products, and share those products on a consistent basis. The prices are great, but it’s the great content that keeps the users coming back for more.

Gilt Taste

The Gilt Groupe believes so strongly in this mix of content and commerce that for the launch of their food site, Gilt Taste, they hired the former Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet magazine, Ruth Reichl, to serve as the editorial advisor. According to Ruth,

I believe that Gilt Taste is the next generation of food media, giving you everything you love about food in one place: ideas, inspiration, recipes, stories, and the ability to buy the best. It’s going to be the food magazine of your dreams. With this site, we’ll be able to create a community where people who love food can come together and share their experiences.

Pinterest

Looking beyond daily deals sites, we see networks like Pinterest tapping into this new trend, and growing substantially as a result. Pinterest allows anyone to curate their own content around specific topics, and others can then subscribe to topics that match their own interests for the latest updates. Brands looking for an easy way to curate content and share it with their audience have quickly adopted the platform, and I’d expect that trend to continue as the Pinterest audience continues to expand. For a look at what some of the first brands to make the jump into content curation through Pinterest are up to, check out Whole Foods Market, Etsy and West Elm.

By becoming the source of curated content, brands can shift some of their energy from push to pull marketing. Instead of constantly pushing out messages through banners spread far and wide, they can pull in their desired audience by sharing content those customers will enjoy, and then retain those customers for long-term interaction with the brand. This gives the brand additional opportunities to develop a deeper relationship with their customers without additional media spend, and puts the focus on a channel that they have much more control over.

Curating content that customers will enjoy does take time, and you can’t be everywhere at once, so brands need to choose channels wisely, but for those that have the personality and the resources it takes, content curation can be a great way to attract and retain an audience that will trust the brand for more than just a one time sale.

Gowalla and Incase Team Up For Location-Based Sponsorship

Gowalla Incase

Gowalla, a location-based social network, and Incase, an Apple accessory manufacturer, have teamed up to create one of the first ad campaigns to live exclusively on a location-based social network. (They’re calling it a ‘collaboration’, but it’s still a proof of concept even if Gowalla isn’t getting paid for it.) The campaign features six Incase-branded virtual items which are modeled after actual Incase gear. When Gowalla users check in at any Apple Store around the world during the promotional period, they receive one of those six virtual items, and a few lucky users will even receive an actual Incase Slider case in addition to their virtual item.

Gowalla Prize

This ‘real prize’ functionality debuted during Gowalla’s 10 and a Half Days of Christmas promotion, but this is the first time it’s been sponsored by another company.

Gowalla Real Prize

Lastly, if a user collects all six virtual items, they receive a special ‘Incase Pin of Glory’ to mark their accomplishment. (Pins are one feature of Gowalla’s system.)

Since Gowalla, Foursquare, Loopt, Whrrl, Brightkite and the rest of the location-based social networks are all relatively new, they’re all still trying to figure out how to monetize their service, which should make this an interesting space to keep an eye on in 2010. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that location-based social networks will be the space to watch in the coming year, as they have the potential to revolutionize how companies advertise to consumers on a highly targeted and hyper-local level.

Incase Foursquare Sponsorship

Currently the two leaders in the space (at least in terms of buzz) are Foursquare and Gowalla, and each service is trying slightly different methods of advertising to their users, with each method having unique advantages and disadvantages. Gowalla gives users items related to the locations that they check in at, such as Incase items at Apple Stores, and a digital icon of Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It book at all stops on his book tour. Foursquare on the other hand shows users sponsored locations that are near their check in location, offers users coupons and specials based on check ins, and also counts the number of times that a user checks in at a location, turning Foursquare into a hosted loyalty rewards program. Regardless of which advertising method comes out on top though, expect to see each service adopt parts of what works well with the other services as each continue to refine their offering.

To test drive this campaign, I visited the Apple Flagship Store in San Francisco and checked in on Gowalla. The first time I checked in however, nothing out of the ordinary happened, so I returned later that day and checked in again, and received an Incase Slider Case item in return. There wasn’t much more to it though, which left me feeling like they could have done so much more with the idea. (Note: I did receive a tweet the next day, shown above, which said that I was the winner of an actual Incase Slider case. While I’m excited to have won, I think the points below are still valid.) A few potential ideas/changes that crossed my mind:

  1. Explain the campaign in the item messaging. Had I not been actively reading the Gowalla blog, I would not have known that the Incase item was any different from a normal item that you receive when checking in on Gowalla. At the very least, Gowalla should have included some information about the campaign and the fact that you can receive a special pin for collecting all six limited edition items, as this would go a long way towards increasing the repeat engagement of each user, and highlights the specialness of the item. Taking the sponsor integration a step further, if Gowalla included a web browser in their app, they could include a link to the Incase product page in the message, and if a user wanted to find out more about the featured product, they would be just a click away from detailed information and potentially even an online storefront.
  2. Turn each item into a coupon. If Incase wants to convert Apple Store shoppers into Incase customers, they should use the message attached to each item as an opportunity for them to give Gowalla users a special deal on Incase products. The timing is perfect, since they’re reaching a very targeted audience at or near the point of purchase, and they’re also able to specifically target early adopters and heavy social network users who are the most likely to be using Gowalla at this point, and are also the most likely to help spread the message to others. Even better (for Incase at least, though maybe not for users) would be to turn each item into a small coupon, and allow users to combine the six items together to create a larger coupon, creating an incentive to collect all six items that has more real-world value than a virtual Gowalla pin.
  3. Get users to share. Encouraging users to collect all six items is a great way to motivate repeat visits, but if Incase wants to spread the word from the initial group of influencers to a larger audience, they need to incentivize the sharing of items with others. Perhaps it’s a coupon that is only activated when one user gives an item to another user, or a contest where the person whose item is subsequently picked-up and dropped-off by the most users wins a prize from Incase, but a little motivation can go a long way toward the spread of information from user to user.

As the Gowalla/Incase campaign shows, advertising on location-based social networks can be integrated into the experience in a fun way that adds to a user’s enjoyment of the service, rather than detracting from it. And while Twitter continues to struggle to find the best way of monetizing their service without angering their users, Gowalla and Foursquare have both introduced advertising very early in their growth, which should help users accept ads and other promotions as a part of the user experience. As they continue to grow however, the key will be for location-based social networks to work closely with sponsors to help create campaigns like the Incase sponsorship that integrate ads in a non-invasive and additive way, so that users welcome and respond well to these ads, since they will ultimately provide value to both the sponsor and the user.

Samsung Sponsors NOTCOT With More Than Just A Banner

NOTCOT Netbook Resource Center

Samsung’s NOTCOT sponsorship is a great example of how a company can go beyond the banner to integrate itself into the uniqueness of a blog and speak directly to that blog’s audience through custom content. It also shows how the continued transition of ad dollars from traditional media into online media will fund new opportunities for advertisers to reach their online audience in new ways as blogs capitalize on the customizability of their medium.

NOTCOT Theme Integration

The Samsung Go sponsorship includes a special section in NOTCOT called the Netbook Resource Center, which covers netbook news and accessories (they call it ‘fresh mobile lifestyle content’) and lives inside of a branded wrapper featuring images of the Samsung netbook done in the traditional NOTCOT style. There’s also a traditional banner that leads each post, and a rich media banner at the end of each post that’s co-sponsored by CNET, and lets readers see reviews, change color options, view the netbook from different angles, and compare prices.

Samsung Rich Media Banner

(Tip for Samsung: If you’re going to feature the CNET Editor Rating in your banner, make sure you actually give CNET a netbook to rate.) Lastly, posts written ‘out in the wild’ on the Samsung netbook receive a special banner style tag that’s appended to the lead image.

Samsung Wild Banner Tag

The result is an integration that lets the blogger keep control over the content, allowing her to continue to make the content that created her audience in the first place, while Samsung can wrap it in advertising that goes well beyond the traditional banner and works to become a part of the overall experience.

While the POPURLS sponsorship allowed UPS to brand business news without paying any writers for the privilege, the NOTCOT sponsorship is on the opposite end of the spectrum, and allows Samsung to speak directly to their target audience by paying a writer to create an entire section of specialized content dedicated to related news. The end result is that Samsung has more control over the message, though that control must be balanced with the idea that blog writers know what will resonate with their readers, and should usually just be left alone with a minimal amount of guidance.

Uncrate TrendHunter Sponsorship

In addition to NOTCOT, Samsung also sponsored Uncrate and TrendHunter, which highlights another interesting aspect of this campaign: The difference in integration between the three. While NOTCOT created an entire section dedicated to netbook posts, and redesigned the blog’s theme to includes the Samsung Go, Uncrate and TrendHunter have just appended the leading and trailing banners to their netbook posts and placed the content aggregating banner into the sidebar, giving their sponsorships a much more traditional feel. As blogs continue to evolve and take over the role that traditional media used to serve in the consumer’s consumption of media however, I expect more sites to go the route that NOTCOT has pioneered, offering advertisers a much more customizable and comprehensive option for integrating a brand and its products into the overall experience.

While this was obviously a one-off campaign that required a lot of planning and integration, it’s not hard to imagine how blogs and advertisers can use this as an example of how to think outside the banner and reach their intended audience without feeling like the brand is being forced upon them. However, the key will be to avoid sponsorships that feel like the blogger was bought and paid for, and work to create sponsorships that feel like a natural extension of the content that the sponsored blog would cover anyways.

The Good:

  • Sponsorship highlights the brand in a natural, non-intrusive way that’s specific to the blog being sponsored.
  • Innovative placements cut through a viewer’s ad blindness.
  • Content doesn’t feel forced, and integration is a natural extension of the blog’s typical subject matter.

The Bad:

  • Expensive one-off requires a lot of planning and setup, and would be difficult to roll out on a large scale.
  • Consumers are wary of sponsored content, which can affect their opinion of any review.

The Future:

  • Brands work closely with blogs to integrate themselves into the experience, going beyond just a banner ad or sponsored post, and becoming a much larger part of the new digital media.

NOTCOT Netbook Resource Center