Kia and its Souped-Up Content Machine

One of the most memorable jams in the history of the NBA Slam Dunk contest went down In 2011 when eventual champion Blake Griffin took to the air from the foul line, snagged a feed from teammate Baron Davis, and rammed it home. It also became one of the most memorable branded social media shares in history because Davis tossed Griffin the ball through the sun roof of a Kia Optima. In one weekend, the Official Car of the NBA claimed the worth of its sponsorship in earned media from millions of tweets, video shares, and Facebook posts.

A mere two years later, Kia is looking to pump up the numbers on the social sharing of its content by getting fans more involved as content creators. From a dance video contest the Kia ran in support of its Party Rock Anthem commercial for the Kia Soul last year, the brand learned that social media users love sharing content. The contest, which pitted two videos against each other and got Facebook users to vote, received in excess of 20 million shares.

“We have a lot of user generated content surrounding the brand. Video is one of the most successful forms; it’s absolutely organic,” says Kia Motors Social and Digital Media Manager George Haynes. “[Marketers] talk about having a two-way conversation with customers, and UGC on social media gives us a way to extract those stories from the human element involved in our brand.”

Haynes spoke to Direct Marketing News this week on the occasion of the release of a new platform from Thismoment that focuses on helping big brands create social sharing content machines of their own. The new technology enables automatic optimization of content for all devices, with a special view toward mobile. Nielsen’s Q4 2013 Cross-Platform report, released today, says that smartphone users spent 89% of their mobile media time using apps.

Thismoment’s new Content Cloud enables brand social media staffs to create “playlists” of content, much of it UGC culled from fan postings—either solicited or organic—and then share that content with consumers to drive higher engagement across all screens and channels.

“There’s already a huge investment being made by brands to create and post content on Facebook or Instagram or YouTube, and they’re buying mobile advertising as another way to try to connect with consumers,” says Thismoment CEO Vince Broady. “So that investment’s being made, but where are people converting? They are converting on apps and installs.”

Kia’s Haynes, who had already been using Thismoment’s platform for content sharing, sees brands becoming publishers themselves with the advent of new capabilities such as Content Cloud. “We start with mobile. It’s that huge,” says Haynes. “People are shopping in our showrooms and comparing us to competitors as they go through the shopping process. What this tool has the potential to do is help us make that content play faster.”

One of the key reasons for this is a Content Cloud feature that allows brands to quickly obtain permissions from consumers to use and share their content. Broady claims that, in a beta test, a large packaged goods brand got a 95% approval to use content from posters. Widespread use of hashtags by advertisers is making this possible. “If I’m a Procter & Gamble brand manager and I see a social media post with the hashtag ‘#thankyoumom,’ there’s a high probability that the user had my brand in mind,” says Broady. “So the poster will get a message saying, ‘Hey, love your pic. Mind if we use it?’ and they can okay it legally right on the spot.”

This is a bigger coup than one might presume, according to Haynes. “It’s a huge deal, because you want to make sure you’re mitigating your legal exposure,” he says. “It allows us to use a one- or two-step [process] to use photos from an event we’re aligned with immediately, instead of two weeks later when people are no longer focused on it. Timeliness means a lot in our world.”

Especially for Kia, perhaps, which can no longer count on a month of shares from an Optima-clearing jam. Spokesperson Blake Griffin has announced he won’t seek another Slam Dunk title.

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