June 20, 2008
Collaborative online users, your consumers, are driving today's online marketing environment. According to Universal McCann, content consumption off websites jumped 153% in the last 9 months. With 53% of online users consuming content outside of a publisher's site, through widgets, RSS readers, social networks and mobile devices; traditional ad networks can no longer effectively nor efficiently reach their audiences through display ads on websites.
So - as a company - how do you market yourself when you are no longer driving your own communications? Marketers and brand champions have to look for new and innovative vehicles to reach audiences with relevant content that is meaningful to the consumer, where they are consuming media. This is where Brandstreaming comes into play.
A Brandstream is a consistent flow of content created by a brand. This information is used to engage a consumer or prospect typically within news feeds. A Brandstream includes (but is not limited to) blogs, podcasts, videos, press releases, product reviews, pictures of the company picnic, whitepapers and customer feedback vehicles. Consumers receive a company's Brandstream via an RSS News Feed. However, Brandstreaming is not simply pushing information out to consumers however. A Brandstream shares and communicates a company's ideas, beliefs, passions, thoughts, and values - it defines the company - while it communicates the brand and engages.
Social Media is providing brands a new way to connect to their audience and to define their brand. And, just as Social Media and RSS News Feeds are changing the way people connect with one another and how media is consumed it is also changing how people connect with companies. Lifestreaming is driving services such as FriendFeed that support this constant flow of content coming from the Social Web and in turn, companies are leveraging Brandstreaming to connect with these consumers. In turn, Brandstreaming is evolving as the next generation Social Media tool for companies to reach their audience.
A brand is a living-breathing organism. Brandstreaming is the life of a brand. It is the people within an organization and their communications out to - and with - their consumers (and prospects) online. By providing a new online medium for people to interact, engage and meet with a brand, in real-time - Brandstreaming is changing the face of communications between companies and consumers. Brandstreaming is creating new ways to engage social connections and information sharing between companies and their consumers. But be careful, Brandstreaming is not simply building and delivering a portal of information about a company.
Brandstreaming is organic - it offers the ability to hold a discussion with the consumer, to engage and to exchange information. This discussion, the constant exchange of information between the company and consumer builds trust - a relationship. Brandstreaming shares and communicates a company's ideas, beliefs, passions, thoughts, and values. But to truly take advantage of Brandstreaming, a company must maintain a constant exchange of information with the consumer.
An example of a company who is executing Brandstreaming is Cisco. Cisco was searching for a strategy that would enable them to engage in one to one discourse with their consumers and to promote their brand. The Cisco Brandstream was designed as an integrated Social Media ad network campaign with the goals of driving 1) traffic, 2) newsletter sign-ups, and 3) RSS subscriptions.
Effectively, Cisco's Brandstream strategy is built on content across multiple online distribution channels. This content - Cisco's brand life - powers the Brandstream. It shares and communicates Cisco's ideas, beliefs, passions, thoughts, and values - that defines who Cisco is. But how did Cisco engage in discussion with their consumer? Cisco accomplished this by leveraging their consumers' Lifestreams as a lead nurturing technique via content advertisements in RSS News Feeds. For more about Cisco's strategy and results, you can find the case study here
As companies design and build out their Brandstreams they are connecting with their consumer's Lifestream via content ads in RSS News Feeds that access the Lifestreams. For a company to participate in their consumers' Lifestreams is critical to becoming a part of their inner circle, to enter into a discussion. And - Lifestreaming is growing as evidenced by the rise of RSS usage alone. According to the Avenue A | Razorfish Digital Consumer Behavior Study, fifty-six percent (56%) of online consumers now use RSS News Feeds. Smart marketers and brand champions are leveraging RSS News Feeds to engage, interact and exchange information between a consumer and a company.
Cisco's Brandstream includes video, press releases, customer stories and product updates all delivered to their consumers and prospects through their Lifestreams via RSS News Feeds. Throughout the strategy, design and execution of its Brandstream, Cisco stayed true to their mantra "sell the offer, not the product." This is critical to success when invited into a Lifestream - the Lifestream user is pre-disposed to relevant content - aren't we all? And, to ensure their success, Cisco's agency worked closely with Pheedo to build and deliver Cisco's Brandstream within Pheedo's network of News Feeds.
Why is this so critical for a company looking to reach and engage consumers and prospects alike? RSS News Feeds and the resulting explosion of Lifestreams are dramatically on the rise. RSS News Feed use is growing faster than all other Social Media platforms, including social networking and video sharing as evidenced by the 153% increase in RSS users in less than a year. (Universal McCann Study, March 2007 - June 2008) Tapping this key communication and information exchange vehicle, Cisco designed an RSS feed strategy tailored by channels (ex: IT Professionals, Consumer Technology) and specific feeds (ex: Wired, Dr. Dobbs) that were most relevant to their target audience, offer and product category. Cisco's RSS ads and content powers their Brandstream strategy while gaining them access to their consumer base's Lifestreams.
A practical example of how to do this is by placing advertisements in News Feeds that reach the Facebook audience. But it is more powerful and further reaching than Facebook. News Feeds are consumed via Twitter, FriendFeed, Google Reader, Bloglines, Netvibes and more. Mike Rich, senior vice president of AOL Entertainment states:
AOL, has embraced a "distributed content" model: It can no longer rely on consumers coming to it as a destination, but now must distribute its content, pushing it to online users wherever they happen to be spending their time.
Through Brandstreaming specific audiences can be targeted wherever and whenever they are consuming content. But more importantly, Brandstreams communicate directly with consumers already interested in a company's services. One to one marketing achieved.
Brandstreaming fosters interaction between people and companies. Feedback is immediate - encouraging discussion between companies and consumers that in the past relied on traditional market research methodologies - lengthy, expensive, dated results. Valuable feedback can now be heard, collected and acted upon in real-time. The consumer has the power to influence messaging, products and communications. Companies can truly engage with their consumers who will be heard and as a result will feel heard - the opportunity for a real conversation unfolds.
While Brandstreaming provides the opportunity to reach and hear from people in new and engaging ways it also comes with high stakes. Leveraging the right platforms, tools and messages is critical to success. Brandstreaming is uniquely positioned to alter the world of media. Actually - it is already happening.
However, the true power of Brandstreaming will only be realized when marketers and brand champions design integrated online strategies across Social media outlets to speak with, engage, listen to and respond to their consumers - in real-time.