More and more companies and organizations are embracing user generated content (UGC) to help their brands come alive. Instead of bragging about their own virtues, brands that are winning at UGC let their customers help define their brands through submitted videos, photos, comments and reviews. Instead of pushing out messages, brands are offering up a platform to give their key targets a voice, letting them do the promotion for them. Here are some brands across industries that are having success with UGC campaigns.
Kaiser Pernamente Washington recently launched its #thisishealthy campaign, which asked blog visitors to share photos of their healthy lifestyles. The brand used select images online, on outdoor ads and more, showing real people enjoying activities that they consider to be healthy. Living life outside or with their families, not talking with a doctor in a white coat.
Fashion brands are trendsetters with UGC, with pioneers like Zappos partnering with video platforms to quickly turn quality user-submitted video into compelling campaigns. Fashion brands have also helped define how brands should interact with users should they want to use their imagery or videos. Crocs recently drew scrutiny after a customer claimed the brand used her photo without permission. Now, consumers must reply to a Crocs request with #CrocsOK to let the brand know it’s clear to proceed—a practice brands should be mindful of as UGC gets more sophisticated.
Lenovo recently tapped a notable socialite vlogger to spotlight its Yoga Tablet 2 in an effort to get the attention of trendsetting, traveling techies. “The computer brand enlisted vlogger Oli White to document an 18-hour journey through Marrakesh…As part of the ‘Travel Your Way’ campaign, White asked his fans to suggest things he should do in the city, which enabled him to promote the device’s key features such as its 18-hour battery life, 13-inch screen and high resolution rear camera.” Users drove the experience and served up opportunities for the brand to shine.
Nonprofits have an opportunity to tell the stories behind the organizations with UCG. One that is doing it well is The Keep a Breast Foundation, which is designed to educate younger women about breast cancer prevention and early detection. It launched the #checkyourselfie campaign, which asks women to snap-and-share selfies to signify a commitment to stay on top of their breast health.
Wells Fargo Bank has launched several UGC campaigns; a current one is called The Untold Stories Collection and asks individuals to share stories at #MyUntold about what it’s like to be African American today. The stories are repackaged as features and videos. Surprised a regulated company dabbles in UGC? Wells Fargo makes its user generated content terms & conditions clear up front.
Thinking about a user generated content strategy? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
UGC is about the user, so brands need to have a comfort level with allowing audiences to drive the message (within reason—brands have the right to delete content that is offensive or harmful).
Starting the flow of content can be as simple as hijacking a hashtag that’s already in use and reaching out to users directly to request permission to use their images or videos. Hashtagify.me is a great place to start; a free account will let you look at all-time top 10 hashtags across your industry.
Consider how long the campaign will run, and resources available to maintain it. For a longer campaign, a dedicated, brand-owned microsite where the gallery of user-submitted content may be more successful.
Though hashtags are becoming easier to use on Facebook and other sites, they’re still best for Instagram and Twitter. Using those social sites as your main forum for posts about your user generated campaign will help it get more eyeballs.
Promote your campaign. Targeted social advertising on Facebook and email campaigns where users can simply click though are effective for driving traffic and attention to your invitation for user generated content.
And finally, don’t forget to thank your fans for their content. Sure, they’re helping you promote your brand, but they’re also allowing you to share one of their personal memories. A little #love can go a long way.