Brands have awoken to the new age of content marketing, where the opportunity to tell a story directly to customers, with all the benefits of virality and SEO to boot, is the new way to sell stuff. But the problem lies in creating the gosh-darn stuff, in a time when the voice of the customer trumps Don Draper's.
Stefania Pomponi, President and Founder
Pain points in business don't exist for long without solutions, and there are a few out there. Some are quick-and-dirty-hire an intern. Some are more measured, like crowd-sourcing-Zoopa and others' model. Some are long-term, community-building projects, like Tide Moms or Red Bull's community. Personally, I worry a lot about how writers, journalists and bloggers are going to be not only incentivized, but also, paid for their considerable time and effort. Further, are we as a planet just creating more noise when we create content?
The price of content keeps going down, purely on a pay-per-post model. Whether you have your PR firm hire bloggers, or use a platform like Skword, you can find posts that cost no more than a few dollars and will meet your basic expectations. But the crowd-sourced solution does not make for a community experience with the brand. On their side, bloggers may be motivated by monetization, but they are also an independent bunch, and the best of them want to feel that they are being appreciated as contributing to a community of quality. They want to feel chosen and to establish a personal relationship with an agency or brand.
Enter Clever Girls Collective
, a start-up based in San Francisco that is working with brands such as American Express, Dove, Ford and many others
to create a content community that will protect bloggers' creative freedom, while at the same time feeding the brand's desire to bring real-world customers and users into the discussion of their brand. Clever Girls has built a stable of 8,000 bloggers, whom they have not only chosen-human element here-but with whom they have a one-to-one engagement.
The key to making this both efficient and trustworthy is the platform that Clever Girls launched this week
called "Fanny." (No, it was not named for Fanny Pankhurst.) Fanny is not a hub where bloggers post; rather, it is a technology platform that matches brands to bloggers. Further, it provides brands with analytics that prove the marketing value of the posts themselves. Commissioned bloggers write about the product or service, and then the posts appear in their own networks, blogs, on Facebook and Twitter. Fanny can measure the post's reach and report it back to the brand.
Fanny scores a hit by serving up metrics in a palatable way for Clever Girls' customers, who, according to the President and Founder, Stefania Pomponi, come mostly from the communications side of the enterprise. "By providing the communications management with data that visually reveals the bloggers' reach and engagement, we can supply them with the kind of compelling ROI analysis usually determined by website analytic companies." Or put another way, Fanny helps the communications guys act like marketers.
In this post
by Vijay Sundaram on influencer marketing, he discusses the shortcomings of influencer identification platforms like Klout and Kred that serve up individuals without the surrounding context of content. Clearly, platforms like Fanny take influencer marketing to the next level by supplying that greater context in a fashion directed by the brand. What is still missing for marketers, however, is a platform to provide not just context but also purpose, whether in the form of "gamified" feedback to the bloggers themselves or the kind of "collective" cohesion that can only be supplied by human interaction - the extra step that Clever Girls Collective takes in its blogger interactions. Leaving open the question of whether or not one can sustain community with 8,000 people, the Clever Girls Collective's refusal to rely entirely on technology for its business plan is interesting.
This element of purpose may never be entirely "solved" by an algorithm, which may not be attractive to the investment community but is reassuring to those of us who are keen to provide business value in a human way. While Clever Girls' model may not provide investors with the kind of "hockey stick" scaling opportunity that they look for, it has a stickiness borne of careful strategy and personal outreach. Congratulations on their launch of Fanny, and here's to their success.