Flickr / Photo by Tiberiu Ana.

Four Tips to Leverage User-Generated Content

Partnering with consumers to create buzz and enhance promotional campaigns is not necessarily a new marketing strategy. However, some brands are more effective at it than others. As long as the content is being created by unpaid contributors, or passionate users, then it is considered user-generated content. This content can take the form of pictures, videos, tweets, blogs, reviews or the like, and if it’s being uploaded to the web by the user, then the brand isn’t actually promoting their service or product – the user is.

It’s one thing to tap into social media as one of their marketing channels to distribute a message, but it’s another when the brand invites the consumer to participate in that experience with them. But what are some of the tactics that these brands have in common? Here are four tips for working user-generated content into your marketing campaign.

Incentivize Your Consumers

Relationships are like the holidays – sometimes you give gifts, but other times you receive them. As nice as it is to give gifts, let’s face it, it’s also pretty great to receive them too. It’s human nature. If you can find a way to incentivize your consumers for contributing to your marketing campaign, then there’s a more likely chance that they will be willing to participate.

For example, Folgers is asking customers to record themselves singing the iconic Folgers jingle, and in return, they are offering a cash prize for the winner who submits the best video. Not only that, but Folgers is partnering with country singer, Chris Young, on this campaign so they are including a personal meeting with Mr. Young along with the cash prize.

Another great example of incentivizing consumers comes from Guinness’ new campaign called “Stache for Charity.” Guinness is typically served with a thick layer of foam on top of the beer, and when customers often take that first drink, they end up with a foam mustache. Thus, Guinness is asking people to submit photos of themselves with this mustache, and in turn, the brand will donate money to a charity for every photo they receive. It’s quite clever in that Guinness incentivizes customers to engage online because then it’s really up to the consumers how much money gets donated to charity.

Unify Them

People love to come together for a good cause, or even when they find out they have a few things in common. It’s always easier to participate in a group setting when you know you’re not the only one feeling a certain way, or isolated.

Guinness does this well because by creating a campaign focused on charity, they are reminding people to think of others and celebrate the good times. It’s often hard to think of the good times when there’s so much bad in the world, but St. Patrick’s Day and drinking beer together with friends and family reminds us that we should always try to reconnect and find ways to help others. The message of unity here works on various levels, but at least it explains the idea of bringing people together for a common good.

Highlight the Use of Videos

As the consumption of video content continues to rise, brands that don’t include them within their marketing strategy in some sort of capacity are silly. With so many social outlets to choose from these days, consumers have a variety of ways to share their pre-filmed videos with others, or to even stream live video so others can be a part of their life as it’s happening.

Subaru’s latest campaign uses Snapchat to spotlight the customer’s connection to their car by highlighting a universal experience that might unite car drivers, such as “moving out”. Beyond the brand’s video series, the campaign encourages current Subaru owners to post photos or videos on social outlets about how Subaru enhances their daily lives. Promoted with the hashtag #MeetAnOwner, Subaru hopes to get other car drivers to submit questions to current Subaru owners so that a positive exchange can occur, which leads me to my last tip -  encourage conversation between consumers.

Encourage Conversation Between Consumers

For someone to say they don’t at least glance at user reviews (including the star rating) before making a big purchase, or even when purchasing something online, has got to be kidding themselves. Some of the largest platforms on the internet are made for user-generated reviews or other content – take, for instance, Yelp or TripAdvisor. Now, if a brand can create a campaign where they get current customers to openly highlight their positive features, and they can encourage potential new users to engage in conversation with those current customers, then BAM! They’ve set themselves up for success. Oddly enough, user-generated content from strangers tends to highly influence the purchase decision of most consumers.

With the Subaru campaign, the current owners act as brand ambassadors whose real-life experiences mirror the unifying factors in the campaign videos that the company itself produces – creating a parallel understanding of what Subaru can offer all drivers. Even though you more or less hear the same message, it’s easier to take in when you hear the preaching coming from the current owners more so than the brand.

In this day and age, consumers want to feel special, and if a brand doesn’t really “get” them or understand their needs, then they will move on to the next brand. Online user reviews and similar forms of user-generated content are ways for brands to build relationships with their customers – to be authentic and transparent. And consumers aren’t blind; they can tell when a brand is trying too hard with their aggressive marketing ploys. So the next time you’re planning a new marketing campaign, think of a way to create a connection with your consumers by using stories or something else they can relate to, or unite with. Most importantly keep the experience authentic.

Flickr / Photo by Tiberiu Ana.