Crowdsourcing influence: how can you leverage it?

High quality content is being developed cheap or free in almost every niche of publishing. Both start-ups like Yelp! and mainstream publishing firms are able to get crowdsourced content, and in that way drive down costs and drive up quality.

I’ve found myself in three discussions on this theme over the last week: at at number of discussion during Social Media Week London, which on right now, on a call with Outsell and at Yelp!’s first birthday party here in the UK.

The common theme is that the possibility is to not only generate cheaper content, but also more and different content at a totally different price point. In short – a totally new form of value proposition.

Analysing the impact of this new content is a real challenge for both vendors and for analysts.

Can vendors see who is influencing a CIO by looking at whom she follows on Twitter? It especially an important challenge for advertisers, and probably we’ll see a huge edge for vendors that are able to use advertising to analyse which online media are driving their sales. Of course, that analysis is much easier in consumer and small business markets, where you can more easily connect up a piece of content to a particular sales outcome. And, of course, such data only tell you about the behaviour of the most intense consumers of social media (who are concentrated in the US, rather than in the growth markets).

How can analysts learn from crowdsourcing to either reduce their costs or develop new products? Crowdsourced insight and opinion comes with much more risk, not only of error but also of not being able to see the information, experiences, assumptions and sources that writers are using. Perhaps the real opportunity is for analyst firms to develop new information services, perhaps releasing limited amounts of their own research for free to seed a wider interpretation.

Discussion and interaction has to be a valuable tool there, and it will be especially interesting for analyst firms that are already developing community programmes.

Both vendors and analysts also need to think about digital media for lead generation. Some analyst firms have picked up on that (and we have a nice story about Forrester which reflects that, coming up later this week). There’s a huge difference in the quality and conversion rates of clicks through from higher-quality content to analysts websites. And when will see start to see analyst firms monetizing clicks through to the vendors from the analysts’ content?

We’re also seeing events and social media rising up in overall marketing strategies, as both analyst firms and vendors give more support for bloggers and vloggers in the hope of getting leads.

More distantly, it’s unsure what the impact of eReaders, such as the iPad, will be on analyst firms. Are the analyst firms about to develop new content that’s more suitable for mobile devices? We can’t see big analyst reports making it big on mobiles, but there must be an opportunity for a diffusion channel for analysts firms, the way that titles like Harvard Business Review, HBR OnPoint and Harvard Businessmanager act as diffusion brands for Harvard Business School Publishing.

Key to all of this is the issue of evaluation and measurement of influence: we’ll we paying more about that next week.

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