User Generated Content: Turning up the Generator

Many top brands now hand over brand-building to people outside the marketing department. Turns out fans and evangelists often demonstrate the most passion and understanding of the brand.

They also create an incredible amount of riveting content — and in this hyper-active, hyper-social world, that’s the foundation for thousands of unique and compelling stories.

When 70% of audiences trust peer reviews and real experiences over slick advertising, a knowledge of how to maximize UGC is a huge advantage. It’s genuine, engaging and person-to-person persuasive. (It’s also the greatest thing to ever happen to a stretched marketing budget.)

Here are four examples of how smart companies bring their brand advocates and user generated content strategy together.

Draw on their creativity

Starbucks celebrated the imagination and self-expression of their customers. The Seattle company scored major buzz during its White Cup contest by encouraging customers to doodle on their white cups, take a photo of it, and submit it as the best design. In just three weeks, nearly 4,000 people sent in their doodle.

Tip: Customers often have unique marketing ideas for your company. Create opportunities for them to share their perspective and spark fresh thinking. It’s like having fifty ad agencies on creative retainer.

Create your own heroes

CamelBak turns community members into heroes by putting them in the limelight. The #LivingColorful sweepstakes invited customers to submit photos through Instagram or Twitter showing how they use CamelBak water bottles. A social gallery featured all entries and weekly prizes boosted participation. Result: Instagram followers up 22% and a 19.92% increase in water bottle sales. [1]

Tip: Encourage people to create real-world content with your product. Upload their content on your social media channels and they’ll share with friends and followers on their social feeds. Instant audience amplification.

Let people own the story

Ideas that focus on the bigger social good are a powerful way to deepen the values you and your customers share. Toms’ One Day Without Shoes campaign asked patrons to go barefoot for a day to raise global awareness for children’s health and education. Instagram users uploaded their barefoot photos with the hashtag #WithoutShoes. In return for sharing their pics, 296,243 children received a new pair of shoes.

Tip: Share ownership of your story. Empower customers to make a positive impact in the world. UGC is a terrific way to establish strong and lasting relationships with people who share your vision.

Welcome pros and amateurs

What’s the view from the helmet of pro snowboarder Shawn White as he launches off the Olympic half-pipe? Ever wondered what a performance of a Beethoven concerto looks like from the neck of a 300 year-old violin? By partnering with more than 130 athletes and musicians, GoPro captures each unique experience and provides pro content side-by-side with their mix of user generated videos.

Tip: Find a balance between professional and real-world content. This way customers remain in the driver’s seat, creating and sharing their own stories, while also getting inspired and motivated by the real pros.

A cautionary tale

Keep in mind that giving people the opportunity to help steer your brand can often backfire. When Britain’s Science Ministry invited everyone to submit names for their new $287 million dollar research ship, the unexpected winner was Boaty McBoatyface. Despite a social media firestorm, the ministry ignored Boaty and chose to name the ship after explorer David Attenborough.

The wrap

Brands that involve customers as co-creators gain a loyal, energized and motivated audience. Factor in social media sharing, a hyper-connected world and shrunken marketing budgets and you understand why user generated content is so essential.

Time to fire up the generator.