'Branded Conversations' frame social media in 2007

February 4 will not only kickoff Super Bowl XLI, it will mark the major league debut of what I call brand-focused 'user-involved' social media content, or 'branded conversations.'
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor
February 4 will not only kickoff Super Bowl XLI, it will mark the major league debut of what I call brand-focused “user-involved” social media content, or “branded conversations.”

In “Super Bowl 2007: Social media kickoff” I present the NFL, Doritos and Chevrolet brand-focused “user-involved” social media promotions created around the yearly super bowl of commercials; All three solicited user involvement in the development of brand commercials to air during this year’s super bowl game.

I define brand-focused “user-involved” content as:

Promotional fare “created” by “users” at the behest and direction of corporate brands and designed to support the marketing and communications missions of the sponsoring corporations.

I often underscore at this Digital Markets Blog that despite the Web 2.0 “democratic” appeal of the crowd-pleasing “users are in control” mantra, such is far from the case.

In “Web 2.0: ‘The Media’ still in control” I point out the conceit behind Time Magazine’s “look at yourself in the mirror” 2006 person of the year issue:

It is a Web 2.0 irony that a 80 plus year old mainstream media publication proclaims that “The People” control “The Media” now, given that “The (Time Magazine) Media” controlled the conception, writing, publication and distribution of its “Power to the People” issue, not “The People.”

How can “The People,” or millions of readers, be in control of a massive for-profit production and distribution feat, as proudly described by Time?:

The 2006 Person of the Year issue—the largest one Time has ever printed—marks the first time we've put reflective Mylar on the cover. When we found a supplier in Minnesota, we made the company sign a confidentiality agreement before placing an order for 6,965,000 pieces… the incredible logistics of printing and distributing this issue were ably coordinated by our director of operations. 

Are MySpace “friends” in control of their no-fee profile pages? Only by the calculated design of infrastructure owner News Corp.

Are YouTubers in control of the clip-culture videos they upload? Not according to YouTube’s Terms of Service. 

The YouTube “community” is publicly coddled nevertheless and Tom is everyone’s friend at MySpace.

In “YouTube vs. MySpace: Is friendly bankable?” I underscore how YouTubers and MySpace “friends” are risky targets for high-quality brand marketers.

How do brand marketers join the social media conversation then? By controlling and branding the conversations, while asserting that “users are in control.”

Beth Comstock, President, Digital Media and Market Development, NBC Universal, put forth a content power to the people message in her OMMA keynote last September, while showcasing NBC’s “branded conversations”:

Comstock's social media user generated content slogans:

Content is still king, but the monarchy has been overthrown

Invasion of the pronouns, all about “me”

From content produced by “big media” to content produced by “small media”

Anyone can create and deliver content”

What did she present as "evidence" that "users are in control" at NBC, however? A slick, professionally produced NBC promo video promoting NBC’s YouTube contest designed to get “ordinary people” to create NBC sanctioned promo videos for NBC’s “The Office” show!


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