By Interactive Strategies
Jan 23, 2014

The Power of User-Generated Content

User-generated content is good for everyone. For marketers, it helps them strengthen the relationship between brands and consumers, thus increasing impressions and word of mouth advertising. For consumer, it provides validity to their opinions and recognition to their contributions. It’s a win-win.

So as marketers, what can we do to capture the precious, often-sought material that is user-generated content? Well, that’s a good question. Here’s a good start:

1. Run Targeted, Online Contests That Spurs Users into Action

• Facebook is a great place to run contests because both parties are already there. IS, for example, recently ran a successful photo contest for American Chemical Society that was hosted on Facebook. You can check it out here.

• Instagram is also a great place to run contests because we’re visual creatures and it’s the perfect platform for brand followers to be creative. It has also been proven that by using this platform, brands can obtain 25% more engagement than any other social platform.

• Direct email shouldn’t be forgotten as well. While it tends to miss out on much of the hype in today’s digital landscape, studies support its efficacy in calls to action when leveraging your mailing lists for contests.

2. Incentivize Users to Share Thoughts and Opinions

But how much? It doesn’t need to be costly, and the answer remains and shall remain: it depends. Just make sure you recognize that everyone’s time is valuable. Make the users' actions worth their time. Here are some Examples:

• Spurring useful market research can be as simple as offering coupons or free samples for products or services.

• Philanthropy: If you post a picture we will donate $X to Such-&-Such relief via red cross. A synergy of corporate ethics, news-jacking, and user generated content that will be sure to have your brand smelling like roses.

• Surprising the creator of a positive review shared on social media (with the right Klout score) with a gift card to your restaurant/store, etc.

3. Just Ask

• If you find useful user-generated content, its creator is probably a fan or follower of your brand. When this is the case, they often don’t mind sharing their contribution for their chance to bask in their moment in the sun. Ask their permission to use their content, and they'll be feeling the love. 

Once you have precious user content, leverage it how you see fit to bolster your brand’s communications efforts. Smart companies will look to use user-generated content in its content mix and marketing messages more and more due to shrinking budgets. 

But don’t take my word for it; let’s scope some well-executed campaigns from large brands:

The Old Spice Man

First the TV spots with the unnamed “Old Spice Man” rolled out. Soon after, the Old Spice team solicited questions from its social followers about the unnamed character. The submissions were carefully tracked and filtered down to only the interesting/humorous questions OR social media influencers, such as celebrities. The chosen inquiries received a prompt personalized direct response in the form of a short and witty YouTube video. This created quite an online buzz and yielded even more questions and interaction. The extent of the virility of these videos was record breaking. It led to a spike in the company’s website traffic, Facebook interactions (800% increase), and Twitter followers (80K in just a couple days!). Most importantly, according to Nielsen, sales increased by 107% and changed sentiment about the brand from “my dad’s deodorant” to a youthfully relevant brand image it has today.

Heineken’s Ideas Brewery

Heineken ran a “Reinvent the Draught Beer Experience” contest challenge and asked fans to design the ultimate draught beer drinking fantasy. The winners received cash prizes in addition to a trip to Heineken’s Amsterdam brewery for a workshop. This brand took user-generated content beyond increasing sales and looked inside the mind of the consumer for insights on what they wanted and opportunities to innovate. They still employ such tactics today (see above).

Doritos Crash the Superbowl

This campaign invited the brand’s fans to create their own commercials to air during the Superbowl (There’s that moment in the sun) as well as win a $1M prize. Over 2,000 video submissions were entered, two million votes counted, over a billion impressions overall and most importantly it got people talking about Doritos.

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