Three Tips for Successful User-Generated Content Campaigns

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by Amish Tolia
Facebook warned brands late last year that beginning in January 2015 people would see fewer promotional page posts in their News Feed and that brands posting that type of content would see “a significant decrease in distribution.”

Essentially, Facebook made it much more difficult for organic content from brand pages to make its way into consumers’ News Feeds. In fact, Facebook posts from brand pages now reach just 2% of their fans, and only 0.73% of top brand fans engage with each post, reports by Ogilvy and Forrester found.

Although Twitter and Instagram don’t hamper organic reach (yet), there is certainly no guarantee that users will see content from brands before it is pushed down by new messages or photos.

So, what’s the answer to combating this decrease in organic reach? (Hint: it’s not paid advertising.)

To successfully reach customers through social media, brands need to rely on consumers to deliver brand messages to other consumers. Accordingly, to foster authentic social conversations, user-generated content (UGC) campaigns are becoming increasingly popular.

By using UGC campaigns, a brand can overcome the hurdle of limited organic reach, not only allowing its messages to reach consumers but also directly involving consumer in conversations.

Among the best examples of user-generated content campaigns are Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign and Starbucks’ “White Cup Contest.” Follow in the footsteps of such successful brands by implementing the following tips in your next user-generated content campaign.

1. Align target, behavior, and channel

First, you must evaluate channel demographics: When embarking on a user-generated content campaign, you need to assess whether the target demographic you’re aiming to reach is engaged with the channel you plan to use.

For example, the number of Facebook users age 65 and older is expected to increase most in 2016, whereas the number of users age 18-24 is expected to decrease as they take their content-sharing over to Instagram, which is deemed the most prestigious social networking site by US teens.

Marketers with a message for millennials may also consider using Snapchat to engage consumers: It was the fastest-growing social app in 2014 among 13-25-year-olds.

Discovering which social networks are most important to which demographic is the first step to launching a successful UGC campaign.

Next, ask this question: Will your target market find your call to action reasonable?

Different demographics have different motivations, attitudes and behaviors that influence their engagement. Make sure that incentives and calls-to-action will resonate with the target audience.

Asking Baby Boomers to engage only on Instagram is a recipe for a campaign flop. If trying to reach a large target market—like Coca-Cola did with its “Share a Coke” campaign—give consumers the option to submit content through their preferred platforms.

Successful user-generated content campaigns know where consumers live in the social-sphere and take that into account when asking for content from users.

2. Use gamification techniques

Brands can use gamification to motivate consumers, create social buzz, and enhance the content-generation experience. Integrating game mechanics into marketing strategies taps into the basic desires and impulses of consumers by providing them with a suitable reward.

While a tangible prize is always a great incentive, consumers are often driven just by the opportunity for recognition and will provide content for the mere chance of being retweeted or mentioned by a large brand.

Starbucks’ “White Cup Contest,” for example, sources social submissions and recreates the winning design on a reusable cup available for purchase. Nike also used gamification techniques when creating its Nike+ Community, which inspires user-generated content on a continual basis by allowing users to compare and compete with friends connected to social media. It’s the perfect mix of competition and social recognition to create brand engagement and awareness.

Gamification is about making content sharing entertaining and rewarding. At my firm, we’ve based nearly the entire user experience on the gamification of user-generated content by groups that earn sponsorship dollars through brand engagement on social media.

3. Be authentic

By dovetailing into the passions, interests, and lives of consumers, brands using user-generated content marketing feel less intrusive and more authentic. Consumers trust and engage with UGC because it’s created by their friends and family in whom they place a high level of trust.

User-generated content makes a brand more approachable, making brand campaigns more authentic while building greater loyalty.

Whether your campaign’s purpose is gaining brand visibility, driving traffic to your website, or gaining insight into your community, keep your request tasteful and relevant to your brand.

Marketers who develop entertaining campaigns that customers find creative, fun, and authentic will make meaningful connections, build positive consumer relationships, and cash in on the content produced by their engaged customer base.