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Insights from the Cheezburger Network

November 24, 2011

Ben Huh, the founder of the Cheezburger Network which owns megasites Cheezburger.com, Failblog (which developed 20 million viewers per month in a short time) and dozens of other humor-content social media sites, spoke at the MSI (Marketing Science Institute) social media conference in Berkeley this week.Several of his points caught my eye.

First, his mission is simple and compelling: “Make everyone in the world happy for 5 minutes a day.” His viewers look at his sites as providing a break, especially when things get stressful. They quickly create a smile or a laugh. What a great, focused value proposition that is appealing and credible.

Second, the power of audience-created content is enormous. He asserts that users create more content in one day than the media does in a year. There is simply a lot of motivation to create out there if people are given an opportunity. His firm gets some 17,000 inputs each day from people who contribute for no pay. They are driven in large part by the process, a chance to exercise their creativity. The challenge for Huh is to evaluate and select those to use. The challenge, more generally for other brands, is to channel that motivation and talent.

Third, brands should consider little social vs. big social. Big social is the mass-media approach to driving messaging, which is offering-driven, self-serving and has boundaries around what is acceptable. Little social, in contrast, is where the audience is in charge of creating content. As Huh notes, “They won’t tell your story, but they will tell theirs.” The larger message is then a culmination of these many small messages. The brand may be at the core, but the users run with it. To illustrate the power of little social, he opines that the media is no longer the exclusive source of rock stars – they can also come from the Internet.

Fourth, nothing lasts forever, no matter how clever and how interesting. New content is needed and a system to make that happen is a key success factor of social media.

Looking at the Internet through the eyes of humor sites provides a different, but insightful, picture of the social media world we are facing.

David Aaker

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