Wednesday, December 9th, 2015 | 8 min read
In the past year alone, I dressed as a snowflake, did yoga on nearly every graffiti-lined street in Austin, and wore a footed gold lame onesie with teased 80s hair, all for the sake of participating in user generated content (UGC) campaigns.
You might say I’m a bit “passionate” about the subject. Outside of my day job as the Product Manager for Sprinklr’s Content Marketing Module, I run a successful fitness and fashion blog. Yes, I am one of those whimsical bloggers you hear about. While I have been paid to create sponsored content, the real magic happens when I create unprompted content for a brand I adore and then see it recognized, shared, and engaged with by other consumers.
Likewise, I myself have sponsored UGC challenges and incited others to create amazing visual stories.
My time living and breathing consumer content creation has allowed me to see the process through another lens. For the best content creators, creating an image or video isn’t just about posting on social media; content is a form of art, a form of self expression. To acknowledge this next-generation artistry and resonate with content creators, branded UGC campaigns must create a purpose, drive community awareness, and celebrate participation.
Here are few of the many reasons why UGC should be part of your 2016 content marketing plans:
Have you ever seen a friend sporting a fabulous frock in a photo and then purchased it for yourself? You’re not alone. 86% of millennials say that UGC is a good indicator of a product’s quality, and 84% report that seeing UGC on a brand’s website has at least some influence on what they buy.
When you learn about something new and sparkly from a friend, sometimes you just want to share your enthusiasm with its creators. Research shows brand engagements rise by 28% when consumers are exposed to both professional content and a user generated piece of content.
As consumers, we tend to trust and seek the opinions of people just like ourselves. As a result, consumer content often outperforms brand-created content. Take, for example, CoverGirl: of their 251 million total views on YouTube, 249 million (or 99%) are from fan-created videos.
User generated content and consumer opinions go together like peanut butter and jelly; making a decision to encourage, discover, and leverage great UGC is a no brainer. Now for the challenging part: inciting great content creators to make interesting and relevant content inspired by your brand.
Based on my experiences, brands must do three things to ensure the success of a UGC campaign:
In order to inspire consumers to create quality content about your brand, people need to understand why you are collecting it and how you plan to use it. Brands who drive purpose successfully can create an influx of quality content. What many brands struggle to realize is that the purpose must be bi-directional. Not only must there be a reason for brands to collect the content; creators must feel connected enough to the purpose to want to create it in the first place.
Creating a purpose may seem complicated, but simple generally works best. A great example of a modest but powerful campaign is Apple music’s “Straight Out of Somewhere” campaign. Apple Beats allowed fans to create profile pictures using modified text from the cover of the critically acclaimed NWA Biography.
By attaching themselves to an iconic piece of music history, while at the same time providing fans an easy way to represent their hometown, Apple successfully created a compelling purpose for consumers to create UGC.
To create a successful UGC campaign, your fans and creators need to know how to share their content with you. Brands should advertise their promoted hashtag, where to share content, and how they plan to use the content. The best UGC campaigns kickstart initial content creation upfront by partnering with recognized and respected content creators and investing in paid social advertisements to reach content creators where they spend the most time.
During Thanksgiving, Purina asked dog lovers to share photos and stories about the pooches they were thankful for. To support this storytelling effort, Purina leveraged their sponsorship time during the National Dog Show to feature the hashtag and call-to-action, promoted YouTube videos of previously curated dog stories, and promoted short-form snippets on social media networks.
The combined paid media efforts helped to successfully drive fan participation.
When encouraging fans or product owners to create content for you, make sure to let them know upfront how you plan to recognize their effort.
For some fans, it will be enough to receive a “thank you” and acknowledgement from the brands they love. However, for the best content, brands should incentivize creation.
One of the most popular and most successful incentives is making your consumer the star of the campaign. For example, some creative brands have done this by turning user content into art, weaving them into fabric, and using their advice to create a guide to the best summer ever.
Perhaps one of the most successful campaigns to celebrate participation is the Coca Cola #shareacoke campaign.
Originally a regional campaign planned for the Australian market, the campaign was so successful that it soon ran globally. What stands out most about the coke campaign is the unique way they chose to celebrate participants with unusual names. After hundreds of messages came in from users disappointed they could not find their name on the bottles in stores, Coke created custom bottle printing machines in popular urban locations and an online site where you could create bottles with even the most peculiar names.
Coca-Cola directly attributes a 2% increase in U.S. sales to this campaign.
Marketers have known for a while that consumers trust other consumers more than they trust brands. Research shows that 88% of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from personal contacts, and 70% of consumers report always or sometimes taking action based on online consumer opinions.
This is why user generated content is so effective; it’s the natural evolution of online reviews (think Yelp 2.0). It’s also the ultimate expression of brand love and brand loyalty––if a consumer goes out of their way to show the world how much they believe in the brand through creating original content, that says a lot about how satisfied they are with the company’s services or products.
When implemented correctly, UGC can be an incredibly powerful addition to a brand’s marketing campaigns. Just follow the three best practices outlined above: communicate your purpose, drive community awareness, and celebrate participation.