Traditional branding was all about the company. The business controlled their brand narrative, which meant there was a barrier between the business and their customer.
Today, that barrier is breaking. More and more companies are embracing audience-driven content in their branding efforts, which means the customer now directly participates in the company’s story.
David Berkowitz, the Chief Marketing Officer of MRY, a global digital marketing and technology agency, refers to this kind of customer participation as “storymaking” and contrasts it to traditional brand storytelling.
In his presentation at INBOUND 2015, Berkowitz said that storytelling is focused on and controlled by the company, but storymaking is all about the customer. It gives them a platform to tell their stories about the company’s brand, products, and services. Storymaking is considered a type of crowdsourcing.
Crowdsourcing can refer to any number of things, but it basically means using a large online community to complete a task. The task could be posting reviews (Yelp), providing updates on road conditions (Waze), or even writing an online encyclopedia (Wikipedia).
More and more large companies have been using crowdsourcing in their branding efforts with fantastic results. But these huge brands also have huge budgets and large social followings. So how can a smaller company without unlimited resources leverage crowdsourced content for its brand narrative?
Here are three easy ways to use crowdsourcing in your branding.
Engage with Comments
Whether it’s on your blog or a social media site, you should have a place where your audience can make comments. Comments are great for a lot of reasons. They give you an indication of your customer engagement, provide you with raw input, and give your customers the chance to make suggestions.
Here’s the important thing: you always need to follow up. If you get a positive comment, be sure to thank the person. If you get a negative comment - like a product complaint or bad review - you still need to engage with the customer in a positive way.
Ask Your Customers Questions
One really simple way to get your audience involved with your brand is to ask them questions on a social media site or in the comments section of a blog post. This is the equivalent of passing a microphone around in a crowded room. People love giving their opinions -- they just need the opportunity.
Try using surveys, polls, and contests to get your customers involved. Not only will it help boost engagement, it will also provide you with useful data that you can turn into more content. For example, you could ask them questions about a common topic, then use their answers to create a blog post or ebook.
Sharing is how you crowdsource your content promotion. By getting your customers to share your content, you’re basically getting them to do your marketing for you. The more they promote your content to other potential customers, the more your customer base will grow.
To encourage sharing, you need to create content that offers value to your readers. You also need to make it easy to share by including social sharing buttons on the page.
Storymaking: the Future of Branding
Today’s branding is the stories people tell about you, not the ones you tell about yourself. Crowdsourcing makes your branding efforts easier and more effective, which is why you should embrace it in your outreach strategy.
Do you have examples of effective crowdsourcing? Share them in the comments below!