Incorporating user-submitted content into a marketing plan can prove invaluable to brands. Using UGC in marketing campaigns creates brand awareness and can foster brand advocates.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau defines user-generated content as “any material created and uploaded to the Internet by non-media professionals.” Brands have been using UGC for some time and usage is pretty much mainstream.
User generated content consists of contributions to products and services by people who do not have a capital stake in the production process,” said David Alan Grier, writer, author and speaker on issues of technology, society and organizations and principal of the consulting firm Djaghe, LLC.
Why? The proliferation of dynamic UGC is not only everywhere, it’s second nature to many. More than 20 billion photos have been uploaded to Instagram, 500 million tweets are sent daily, 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube per minute, according to Digital Insights.
Millennials in particular spend 30 percent of their time on UGC and it is 50 percent more trusted than other media by that age group, according to Ipsos MediaCT data. UGC is 20 percent more influential on Millennials’ purchasing than other media types. The study also found that peer reviews are trusted as much as professional reviews.
Those social networks make up a huge existing content stream — with millions of users — that can add authenticity and credibility to brands. Those factors alone can be as powerful as word of mouth. After all, friends on social networks are very interested in what their friends are recommending, sharing or talking about.
Here are factors to consider with a UGC marketing effort:
Planning for implementation is imperative. UGC is not a campaign. It is merely part of an overall strategy used in a marketing campaign. For instance, you might want to consider steps for each phase of a campaign to promote the UGC effort — the build up, the actual campaign and closing the loop with the targeted audience by rewarding them or highlighting their contributions.
Clear it with legal. Ensure your company is adhering to all terms of service, end-user agreements from the social networks and platforms from which your content’s coming.
Keep the brand voice consistent. Don’t get all hip just because you’re using UGC if that doesn’t fit with your overall brand’s voice.
Establish goals and measurement for success. When using UGC for a marketing campaign, have goals laid out and define how you will measure success well before launch. The approach to curating content should align with the brand’s goals for using UGC in the first place.
Figure out your targeted audience. Is the UGC effort going to be a free-for-all of content coming in related to the campaign or will it be more niche group? Strategize on who you are trying to reach and how you will reach them to get your UGC submissions.
Have a plan for handling UGC. Some questions to discuss: Will a team be verifying the UGC? Will you be getting rights clearance for use of that content? Will you provide attribution from the originator of that content? News organizations typically have guidelines or even procedures in place for the use of UGC. Have a plan for how to handle UGC and a backup plan if things go wrong.
Context and relevancy are key. UGC should not be just dumped somewhere and then call it a day. How, where and in what context the content is placed will make the content go that much farther and mean more to the audience than simply burying hundreds of thumbnails on a web page.
Using user-submitted content in marketing campaigns is a cost-effective way to demonstrate brand loyalty and increase reach, according to Iconosquare.
UGC photos and videos should be packaged in a visually appealing manner. “Make your content marketing look and feel like the information your audience’s family and friends share on social media. Don’t overlook the fact that people consume photographic information in 13 milliseconds,” Heidi Cohen wrote in a recent post about UGC efforts on Instagram.
User-submitted content is not synonymous with social media. Content is shared on social media networks, but there are other software platforms including Community Content by ScribbleLive and CNN’s iReport, where such content lives.
“User generated content has a range of meanings as far as marketing is concerned. It can be getting ideas from the crowd for new products and services like Lego did or having your crowd of customers come up with your next tagline,” said Joy Schoffler, founder and principal of Leverage PR.
UGC Plan Should Fit Accordingly
What should brands consider when using UGC for their marketing efforts? Katherine Johnson, Customer Success Manager at Community Content by ScribbleLive, said brands should decide whether to curate content, what tools they’ll use and assess their current level of engagement when considering UGC for the marketing efforts.
“It’s important to know the brand’s current engagement level so they are able to align goals accordingly,” she said.
UGC is simply a dynamic content element of an overall marketing campaign. Johnson said having a campaign supporting UGC excites users and gives them an incentive to submit their content.
“Brands that incorporate what their audience/fans are already posting or talking about are able to collect UGC naturally,” she said.
The driver behind UGC is brand advocacy — getting your consumers to use your product or service and upload a photo or video to document it. Take that one step further by offering an incentive to your fans with a contest and that’s UGC gold.
Jeep’s Summer Instagram Contest
Jeep is encouraging people to share their “epic #jeepsummer moments” on Instagram for a chance to win weekly prizes. Users submit their Instagram photos using the #jeepsummer hashtag. Each time the hashtag is used, Jeep will donate $1 to the United Service Organization to support military members and their families, according to the company website. Each photo submission is a chance to win a 2014 Jeep Wrangler Altitude.
Documenting Creativity With UGC
The LEGO Group, the second largest toy manufacturer in the world, has extensive digital community galleries that are fostered through UGC around their products.
One of their latest efforts is the “Build a Gift for Batman” Building Challenge allows Lego fans to build a gift out of physical or digital LEGOS and upload a photo of the creation to their online gallery. The top three winning models will be featured on LEGO.com and will receive a “Build a Gift for Batman” Building Challenge Winner badge on their LEGO.com Gallery page. So far, there are 428 photo entries for this project that ends Aug. 19. Other fans can like or comment on the entries.
This doesn’t include the LEGO Rebrick standalone fan site, which the LEGO Group launched in December 2011, and encourages those 13 and older to share links from Flickr, YouTube and other sites of their own creations, according to a case study.
A company spokesman was careful to point out in a 2012 YouTube video that Rebrick is a fan site about “user grade” created content, not a marketing platform nor a “covert marketing scheme or insights gathering mechanism.”
Celebrating LEGO creations with ReBrick
by LEGOReBrick via YouTube
Driving Brand Awareness Around Event
Ahead of the 2014 Boston Marathon, John Hancock launched a #WeRunTogether digital mosaic to drive awareness around their sponsorship, create a content hub and promote their non-profit partnership with CrowdRise, according to a case study by AMP Agency.
The 2014 Boston Marathon: #WeRunTogether with Resilience
by John Hancock via YouTube
The campaign encouraged people to share why they were participating in the marathon around the #WeRunTogether hashtag with their photos, videos and posts on social media. AMP worked with John Hancock to create eCards with the #WeRunTogether theme, according to the AMP website.
What were your favorite #WeRunTogether moments from the 2014 #BostonMarathon? http://spr.ly/6185ik83
Our Favorite We Run Together Moments from the 118th Boston Marathon
via Facebook on May 9 at 7:00 PM
The effort was promoted with promoted tweets and sponsored Facebook posts. John Hancock raised more than $27.8 million for One Fund Boston and the hashtag was a trending topic.
2014 Boston Marathon: #WeRunTogether
by John Hancock via YouTube
As evidenced by some high-profile campaigns and disastrous ones, the power of UGC as part can work for or against brands’ marketing might.
Make sure the campaign fits in with your existing branding voice and strategize to leverage the best use for that content to meet your goals. That will go a long way toward bringing value to your marketing efforts.