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"We do not shy away from negative feedback, nor do we discourage it"

Lulu Phongmany
At the AOP forum on 28 April, we explored how an audience’s passion for content can be used to add value to your business - find out more about the event and access speaker presentations.

Before the event, we caught up with one of the speakers - Lulu Phongmany of iVillage.co.uk, asking her about the ins and outs of social media – from measuring success to the commercial opportunities around community.

How can social media be used to shape online content production?

The symbiotic relationship between content and community has been the core value proposition of iVillage.co.uk since we launched ten years ago. Social media in all its forms allows publishers to have an engaged conversation with their audience, which guides us in terms of the content we produce.

The most popular content on iVillage.co.uk was produced because we listened to our community. It’s a very simple, straight-forward and fruitful relationship. Publishers have to provide content that will engage our audience and social media helps us to gauge what our audience wants.

What techniques can be employed to optimise content quality?

Without a doubt all content or content ideas that emerge from social media needs to be curated by an editorial and to a certain extent an analytics team. What you get from social media interaction with your audience is raw data, which needs to be placed within the context of performance measurement data (Omniture, comScore) and of course your own editorial voice and house style.

What do you think are the editorial benefits being brought to traditional media practice?

For traditional media, there is an unprecedented opportunity to have a conversation with their audience without the formal investment. Online communities like ours take years and decades to develop and maintain. A strong, traditional media brand can use the likes of Facebook or Twitter to at least begin scratching the surface of interacting with their audience.

How do you use social media to measure the success and value of content to audiences?

This is a lot trickier to do than it seems. We have 150,000 registered online community members, but in some channels our community makes up more than 50% of our traffic. While we do have a core group that provide us with a two way dialogue, we know that a lot of our users are happy to take a back seat to this core group and just consume content.

It’s for this reason that we mine the community to gauge content value and then we cross-reference it with both traditional and emerging forms of online measurement. For example, we’re starting to work with a company that allows us to measure what people are copying and pasting into emails to send to friends.

You must measure from every angle to get a complete picture. It’s not enough to say you have 18,000 fans on Facebook. What are those fans actually doing? How are they engaging with your content?

To what degree should publishers control social media elements in order to protect their brands?

Just as you would with any form of UGC or external interaction, social media must be curated and properly managed. If you want to put your brand out there for public interaction, you should understand that you’re going to get both negative and positive feedback. You have to invest in someone internally to manage it all.

We have a professional team leading our Community working alongside a team of 250 passionate, committed and expert volunteers. In addition, each member of the iVillage.co.uk staff is a member of our forums and we are active participants in our own community as well as our social media efforts.

We set very clear guidelines to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and with respect, but it’s important to ensure that the rules are there to protect each participant and not just the brand. We do not shy away from negative feedback, nor do we discourage it.

To what extent do you think social media content can be converted into business for revenue generation?

We have already managed to successfully to grow as well as monetise our community. Last year alone we worked with Nintendo Wii Fit in the UK and American Express in the US to fully integrate our community into relevant advertising campaigns.

What we know is that for brands it’s difficult to create a genuine social media experience in such a short time frame. Our community is ongoing with internal investment propelling it forward, so they can hit the ground running.

Nevertheless we are very careful about who we allow access to our community as no dollar amount in the world is worth us alienating our community. With the Wii Fit campaign, our community was already talking about the product, so it made sense to integrate it into the campaign.

Lulu will feature at Empowered audiences – adding value to your business, taking place on Wednesday 28 April, from 14.00 to 17:30 at IPC Media - find out more about the other speakers and book your place online.

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