Rise of the Citizen Brander

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One of the biggest changes that social media brought about was around content creation. In the early 2000s, anyone with access to the Internet and a minimal amount of technical skill, could be heard. Blogs were one of the first mediums people utilized to express themselves and from there the evolution continued. This evolution has gone through two distinct phases and I believe we’re about to enter a third.

Citizen Journalist – Anyone with a perspective and a passion for “something”, could (and did) create a web log using tools like WordPress or TypePad. They supplanted standard journalism and some gained notoriety. The primary form of communication was text based, 2-3 paragraphs.

Citizen Reporter – With the rise of Twitter and smartphones, everyone became a conduit for information. Not so much a deep analytical dive into a subject matter, but more of a viral alert at 140 characters. Think of how news traveled out from the shootings in Aurora Colorado on July 20th. What’s left of the journalistic core, got potential leads from Twitter and will continue to do so.

Citizen Brander – With the increase in smartphone usage and the utilization of a handful of social-mobile media tools, businesses are seeing a rise in user generated content that inadvertently builds on their brand. Below is a list of some of the tools that your customers may be using.

We’re all familiar with this Instagram by now with its 85 million users and some are creating content about brand experiences they enjoy. Riding a Ducati and flying United are all brand experiences that businesses would be hard pressed to get customers to pay attention to. People acknowledge people.

Viddy is Instagram for video. As of May, Viddy had 28 million users and was adding 300,000 a day. This app allows you to create and share videos are a maximum of 15 seconds long.

Ptch allows you to pull Instagram photos and Viddy videos in and create vignettes of an experience. (It also takes images and video from other sources as well.) My example of a video featuring BOARDlife can be found here.

Cinemagram  Think Instagram for Gifs. One of hottest trends over the past several years are Gifs. They look like mini-mini-movies or animated photos and last 1 – 5 seconds and repeat. This app allows you to create your own. It’s easy to imagine someone doing an incredible trick on a snowboard in the halfpipe and using the very short video of that to create a gif. (On a Never Summer of course!)

If you’ve ever played with Tumblr, you realize that members are very fond of a few things and collect/share content around that subject matter. Some love Harley Davidsons, while others love Rugby. Most love two or three things. They curate content around that topic, pulling in as much as they can on a daily basis. Content spreads virally between members. Some members have a voracious appetite and the mobile app is all about user generated content.

I’ve posted many times over the last five years, about the fact that brands are now controlled by their customers and at best, businesses can think of themselves as brand stewards. (Don’t believe me. Imagine that 50 million people on Facebook think your brand is trash, even though you tell them you’re the best. People don’t trust brands. People trust people.)

The Citizen Brander is someone you want in your corner. Part mobile influencer. Part 24/7 consumer. As social networking moves to mobile and leaves Facebook, I expect to see more and more of these users.

By Michael Myers

I'm an Associate Teaching Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. I also consult with startups and established brands. I'm currently focused on artificial intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and culture. I am married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, biking, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive and/or surf. I'm passionate about architecture, design, street art, photography and the art that tattooing has evolved into.

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