User-generated content (UGC) might sound as a lazy marketing technique, however, the contrary is true. It is extremely important to think your UGC campaign through to close any gaps and to prevent any uncertainty. Your audience is possibly not as knowledgeable about marketing. Besides, UGC can help your campaign go viral. Of course, your UGC marketing effort needs to be supported by other marketing efforts to get the word spread. Social media plays a big role in this. In this blog post you will read everything you need to know about UGC and how you can set up your own UGC marketing campaign.
ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a perfect example of a UGC marketing campaign done right. It was so effective that word wide people were participating in the campaign and even celebrities were doing the challenge. ALS is a disorder that involves the death of neurons. The disorder weakens your muscles which will, in the end, make you unable to breathe. In case you haven’t heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, something I cannot imagine, the challenge is as follows. When you get nominated by someone who did the challenge, you have to upload a video (within 24 hours) of you dumping a bucket full of ice water on your head. There are some rules attached to it. For instance, you can only forfeit with a charitable donation. However, many people who did the challenge also made a donation to support the research to find a cure for the disorder. Before doing the challenge you say by whom you were challenged. Afterwards you name the people you challenge to do the same. You also tag these people in your Facebook post. This created a huge amount of awareness since everyone wanted to tag their friends and family. The video below shows exactly how it’s done.
The campaign was launched in august 2014. Initially the idea behind the challenge was to raise awareness for the disorder, and it did. 2.4 million ice bucket videos were uploaded on Facebook. The ALS Association received $100 million in donations. Five other organizations focussing on the ALS disorder also received a substantial amount of donations. This campaign was so successful that the ALS Association revived the ice bucket challenge this year and plans to make an annual event out of it.
Before going into depth, let’s first define user-generated content. UGC is defined as
“any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats, tweets, podcasting, pins, digital images, video, audio files, advertisements and other forms of media that was created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media websites”.
However, contrary to many believes, it is no longer about just creating and distributing. A definition I like better is:
“User-generated content is original, dynamic content created by those who matter most – the fans of your brand.”
Probably the best example of UGC is Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia filled with information created by people on the internet. However, Wikipedia is not a marketing effort for some brand or product. Neither it is part of a viral marketing campaign. A review for a certain product or brand is also a type of UGC. This type comes a bit closer to UGC as a marketing tool. However, reviews are informational and are often times not shared a lot. Reviews are not designed to elicit a viral marketing campaign. Before we look at examples of UGC campaigns I will discuss the important elements that support UGC.
There are many advantages to UGC. One that is often perceived as most important is that it is a relatively cheap and cost effective marketing technique. Your audience is creating your marketing elements and are sharing them for you. Social media is most often used as a platform for using UGC, and is a free channel for your marketing. However, do not cut corners on your budget for your UGC. Under-promoted or poorly thought through UGC campaigns will never go viral. Besides that, your audience will identify and connect with real people like themselves. Therefore, the UGC will be perceived as real and genuine and will be more accepted than marketing created by a brand. Moreover, UGC is designed to be shared and that creates awareness. It can even create a buzz with people outside your audience and can elicit free PR publicity for your brand or product.
Social Media Marketing
In the last blogpost I already discussed the importance of social media marketing and integrated marketing for a campaign you want to go viral. Social media has become a big part of our lives nowadays. Today I will discuss a bit more how to use social media to promote your user generated content marketing effort. This article of Forbes discusses why most social media strategies fail. It is a very good read, and I recommend it to everyone interested in doing social media marketing.
Social media can be used both as an instrument driving awareness and as a platform for sharing the content made by your users. The latter also raises awareness among friends and/or followers of your users. As briefly mentioned before, you need to promote your UGC in order to create a buzz. Social media is a perfect platform for this, especially if you also want your users to publish their content on social media as well. Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or a combination of these can all be used as a platform for promoting your UGC depending on what the content needs to be. Last week integrated marketing and the importance of it was discussed. Integrating different social media platforms also helps reaching the right audience through the right channel. Pictures can be easily shared through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. YouTube is a perfect platform for sharing any audio visual media. This platform can also be easily integrated with other platforms. Like with the ice bucket challenge, YouTube and Facebook were integrated to form a platform for the UGC campaign. Users could either upload the video on YouTube and then share it on Facebook or directly upload the video on Facebook.
In terms of sharing the content and finding the shared content, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have the hashtag that helps identify the content posted by users. For the ice bucket challenge the following hashtag was used: #ALSicebucketchallenge. Urge your audience to use a hashtag. In that way your audience can find each other’s content which creates a sense of community. Twitter also has a part of their webpage saved for trending hashtags. Getting your hashtag in that part of the element is a great way of free publicity that gets more people aware of your campaign.
There is one last thing I would like to share about this topic. There is an interesting article about social media in the promotion mix including some tips in effectively using social media. One tip that in my opinion is one of the most important ones is
“Be Outrageous – People talk about things they find to be somewhat outrageous.”
Make sure that what you’re asking from your audience, the UGC, is somewhat outrageous so people will talk about it. This is one of the reasons why the ice bucket challenge was so effective. It is something you would normally not do and it is fun to see people ‘suffer’ from the cold water. This rule does not solely apply to social media but to any marketing effort if you want people to talk about it.
The biggest disadvantage is that your audience controls the content that is created for your brand or product. This is not necessarily a disadvantage, only if the content is negative or incorrect. In terms of the ice bucket challenge, I have seen videos from people challenging others and saying that they will get a six pack of beer if they don’t see a video within 24 hours. Of course this goes against the whole idea of the challenge but it is a very attractive condition for many participants. Negative content is also very harmful for your brand or product. The negative stories always stick better than positive ones. A number of positive stories only partially make up for one negative story.
Tips & Tricks
These three tips are to live by if you are planning on creating a user-generated content campaign. Klick on the link to read the whole article on it. Following you will find a brief discussion of each of the tree tips.
Make your UGC campaign mutually beneficial. Encourage participation with incentives. It is important that your consumer feels valued or recognised by your brand. In the end, this can lead to that your advertisement doesn’t feel like advertising to your audience. The second tip given in the article is to gamify your UGC campaign. Gamification is the application of typical game elements to other activities. In this case to your UGC campaign. Instead of just asking your audience for content you can create a game out of it including points, levels and badges to stipulate the competitive nature of humans and provide incentives for the content created. The article states the following:
“This technique drives specific behaviours and inspires consumers to perform tasks that are difficult to encourage in the traditional marketing setting.”
Lastly, it is crucial to know your audience. This is particularly important in deciding which social media platform you will use. Find out what social network platforms are most important to your audience. Important to understand is that social media audiences change and evolve and so you have to do the same in order to use those networks for consumer engagement.
To Sum It Up
User-generated content is more than just content created by your audience. It is about creating awareness and engagement among your audience. The best tip for making your UGC campaign go viral is to do something outrageous like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. People will talk about something that stands out. Social Media is the perfect basis for your UGC campaign and different platforms can be used or integrated with each other to create a buzz. UGC is cost effective and you should never cut corners on the budget for it. Uncertainty will not make your campaign go viral. UGC is more accepted than other marketing efforts because your audience can identify with the creators of the content. It can also create a sense of community when your audiences share their content and view other’s. The biggest disadvantage is that you can lose control over the content that is created. Be very careful that your UGC campaign is understood by your audience.
Have you ever run a UGC campaign? I am very curious to what your techniques were and what your audience did. Next week I will discuss another viral marketing campaign so make sure to stay tuned. If you have questions, suggestions, or want a particular marketing strategy discussed, make sure to comment below. To close this blog post I added a fun video about UGC. Enjoy!
Note: the video may contain strong language.