User-generated sites offer defined target, but little control

The idea of posting client's content on user-generated sites, such as MySpace and YouTube, to get in front of a very defined demographic is appealing to most. But PR pros say the practice is still new and thus requires a bit of research before attempting.

The idea of posting client's content on user-generated sites, such as MySpace and YouTube, to get in front of a very defined demographic is appealing to most. But PR pros say the practice is still new and thus requires a bit of research before attempting.

"I think they should consider it," says Mike Spataro, EVP of Web relations and the new media group at Weber Shandwick. "But like anything in our industry, you have to know the user, the destination, the audience, or journalist in order to thrust your products and clients into that environment.

"I don't think it would apply to every brand," he continues, "and I'd do an awful lot of research to better understand that community before I'd recommend it as part of a PR program."

Spataro says his group hasn't leveraged this practice yet, "but we consider it for all of the consumer campaigns that we look at. You have the chance of getting some great visibility, but only in the right circumstance."

Many believe the practice is best suited for entertainment and gaming companies, but Mike Manuel, social media strategist at Voce Communications, says communities focusing on all types of industries will make it easier for a larger number of industries to take part in this practice.

"I think it's changing," Manuel says. "There's such broad adoption. People are becoming more acclimated to these new technologies, and the barrier to entry is lowering for creating and distributing content. You will see this practice occur across a wider spectrum and demographic of industries."

Manuel says that a certain level of education is involved when it comes to explaining this practice to his clients.

"I try to council clients to understand while they can do their best to participate in the conversation, the reality is that the company has no control over what the community says about it for the most part," he notes. "And that's a tough thing to swallow for companies that are used to having control over their message, brand, and how they are perceived."

Key points:

Utilizing user-generated sites allows clients to reach a targeted demographic

Posting content on user-generated sites/communities must be considered, but with caution

Agencies and clients will have minimal control over what is said on such sites

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