A recent eMarketer study has found that there are currently about 64 million creators of user-generated content compared to 69 million users of user-generated content. The study reports that by 2011, this gap will close to about 95 million generators versus 101 million users. Which mean that generators and users are nearly equal in number. That’s right, nearly equal by a margin of less than 10 percent and falling.
So is this a threat for marketers and brands or an opportunity? Well, either way, even big bricks and mortar retailers like Wal-Mart who have traditionally relied on their stores to be the central hub of information exchange are now realizing that the web will either work with you or against you. The explosion of both content generators and content users shouts from the mountain that brands can no longer control the dissemination of information centrally. Instead, information, and sometimes mis-information, will spread like wildfire without the brand even being involved in the conversation. But if brands starts participating in the conversation – which means listening, educating and engaging – they can harness the power of the people and use it to their advantage.
These numbers signal that the sea change is not only coming, it’s already happened, and the brands that understand it and leverage it properly will succeed. But yes, it requires change. It requires a change in the way we think, change in the way we act and change in the way we do business. Ultimately, for consumers and brands alike this is a good thing. The brands that can not only allow user generated content to be created about them, but actually take part in the discussion will be stronger and rewarded by consumers with their loyalty. Consumers will feel empowered to affect change, build trust for a brand, take part in the improvement of products and services they already use, and/or share the love they feel for a brand with their friends.
At the end of the day, this is what marketing is all about – reach the consumer where they live and get them to act. The objectives have not changed, only the playing field. Brands may no longer have home field advantage, but that doesn’t mean they can’t win if they can move themselves off the bench and into the game.