“You can’t just go out there and grab anyone who’s talking about #climatechange, for example, because there’s no telling what you’d get in that sea of information,” Gorcys said. “When it comes to UGC, we’re looking for the best stuff, the stuff that enhances a story – the stuff that engages.”
But it’s not just engagement for engagement’s sake – time is revenue.
“Our strategy is to use user-generated content to encourage community and get people more engaged,” Gorcys said. “The more engaged they are the more time they spend with us, and the more time they spend, the more ads they see. That’s how we’re monetizing right now.”
Behind the scenes, Nat Geo has been tapping into a cloud-based social curation solution from LiveFyre to power social engagement within its community. The platform, which exited beta on Tuesday, allows brands and publishers to automatically collect, categorize and store social content within a social library, a sort of dynamically updating archive.
LiveFyre also handles the rights management, reaching out to users directly for consent to leverage their images and other social content. [Permission is important. Crocs recently got into hot water for using an Instagram photo of a 4-year-old girl wearing a pair of the company’s rubber sandals in a gallery of UGC photos on its website without asking for the OK first.]
From there, brands can use the culled tweets, Instagram posts and Facebook pics in future marketing campaigns or they can display the content on their owned and operated properties through LiveFyre curation apps, like media walls, real-time feeds or galleries.
“We’re trying to help brands discover all of the interesting conversations people are having about them on social media that they don’t even how are happening,” Scott said.
Of which there’s quite a lot – especially images. According to Mary Meeker’s 2014 Internet trend report, 1.8 billion photos are shared via social media every day, a large number of which are untagged and therefore hard to discover.
For its part, Ditto’s algorithm can spot thousands of different untagged objects – “A car, a bike, a tree, a Chihuahua, guacamole, a Michael Kors bag,” Rose quipped – and place them within a growing family of around 600 scenes, whether that be a wedding or a ballgame or restaurant or a movie theater. The algorithm can also discriminate reversed mirror images, as well as obscured logos, say an unzipped sweatshirt that splits the logo in two. [Ditto is even selling its data to government agencies looking for ISIS references in social images.]
At present, most of Ditto’s clients, which include P&G, Kraft and General Mills, use its service as a social listening tool to determine an ad campaign’s influence or to see how their products are being used and talked about on social media.
But Rose envisions brands using the tool to create audiences or directly engage with individual people based on the photos they’ve posted – segmentation that goes beyond the like. Few people will likely remember having reflexively liked a turkey stuffing brand, for example, but most people will remember the photo they posted of the family gathered around the table for Thanksgiving dinner.
“Sure, brands can look at the number of people following them on social media,” Rose said. “But if they’re actually trying to aggregate an audience based on likes or follows and not affinity, that’s always just going to be a fail.”