Data is the new currency. More and more, companies are turning their attention to creating new ways to generate consumer-generated content (CGC). Those who are  successful can increase their value to shareholders. And if you look at the biggest CGC networks in the world, you see some familiar names on the list.

Facebook (30 Billion viewed and shared CGC per month)
Twitter (15 Billion viewed and shared CGC per month)
Bazaarvoice (700 Million viewed and shared CGC per month)

Given what we know about CGC, one of the most important aspects of it is engagement. While the old school thought is if you create the content, people will engage with it; and while volume definitely drives engagement, the type of CGC that is generated is an important factor. The main types of content that drive engagement are:

  • Content that resonates with a user’s online purpose
  • Content that appeals to a user’s emotions
  • Content that appeals to a user’s needs

Understanding what an open network allows is key to understanding the value of that network. If you look at how most open networks function, it all starts with CGC generation. You need to have a source –  not the applications that collect, but the organization that is fed the collections. A company like Twitter is a source of data. It creates open services that allow 3rd parties to push data in and take data out of the network. The network gets bigger through more than just direct collection at twitter.com. The easier the access, the more data is generated.

Suppliers are further up the chain, providing large amounts of aggregate data in bulk to companies that provide services. A company like GNIP was one of these providers of Twitter data and last year, Twitter acquired GNIP and was able to immediately monetize their own data. The goal of any supplier is to first create the CGC network, make it big enough to power entire markets and then monetize that data through bulk wholesale contracts or other large-scale data services.

Even further up the chain is the notion of service providers – companies that take the CGC and enhance the value through services. Much of this happens by way of data analysis of behavior and user segmentation. Determinations of who is talking about what, patterns of behavior over time, and understanding large segments of users can help forge new products, enhance existing ones, or just increase customer service. If you are interested in where all of this is going, read my blog post on “Reality Mining

Source > Supplier > Service Provider

Ease of Access (Network Accessibility)

An important piece of building an open network is continuously generating CGC. Once you have that content, it becomes very important to create ways to easily interact with it.  The easier it is to access network content, the more content is generated. Analytics are a drug; once you have it and you start making smarter decisions based on it, you crave more. Making data easily accessible for analysis is the key to growing the network. Twitter perfected this model by opening their network from the start, which is why Twitter analysis is preferred by most companies. Facebook, however, has a “semi-open” model, allowing access to data of only people you know.

Contribution leads to lower cost of ingestion

Reciprocation models should be used during valuing customer CGC contracts. The more a customer contributes value back into the network, the less it should cost for them to pull data out. It is a typical process in getting clients to consistently contribute. The health of an open network is determined by consistent contribution, validity of data, and frequency of access. A contribution relationship creates clients who want to find new and interesting ways to get content on the network.

Analytics

Validation of network usage depends on consistent analytics. The more people that use your network and view CGC, the more value it has. Products are used to generate CGC, product revenue is secondary. Once you realize the value of the network and what people will pay for content (anonymous, raw, and usage metrics), you could give away your products for free or a huge discount because the goal is to increase the network size. But nothing in an open network will be successful without analytics. It should be the primary focus when building an open network. People want proof; data is the only proof.

Global Data Supply Chain

All CGC network providers become part of the global data supply chain. They are not competitors, they are part of an ecosystem that should work together to build more and more ingestion points. We are just beginning to understand and use CGC and the global leaders need to build and create the global network of content to help usher in a new era of user demand. The market expects immediate answers and through all the largest CGC providers, patterns of behavior give way to new predictive models and interpretive features.

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CGC is key to an open network but understanding how data moves through that system, what data is accepted by the system, and where new sources of data will come from is important to success. Always be willing to share data in order to get data. Volume is the measurement of success.