The idea of leveraging user-generated content (UGC) has been around for some time now. For the end-user, it empowers consumers to have a voice in the online community with their contributions. For businesses, it gives the opportunity to generate buzz in the form of word-of-mouth and trusted reviews.

It’s not enough that you are passive about utilizing UGC to advance your brand’s image, however. You will need to take an active role in encouraging your customers to participate and to contribute to your positive brand image.

Marketing ideas
Image credit: Shutterstock

Here are four cutting-edge ideas that will take your UGC campaigns to the next level by giving users a more active role in promoting your product, while at the same time giving them benefits for participating.

Repurpose User Generated Content to Give Your Customers a Voice

In today’s social savvy environment, people are delighted when they get attention, especially if it involves an opinion or experience that they have shared online. This gives them a voice in the community at large and also within the community of individuals with similar interests that they belong to.

For any business, it pays to repurpose user-generated content to take advantage of the potentially viral nature of these contributions. For example, you can re-share photos, posts and other material when running social media ad campaigns for your brand. Instead of hiring content producers to craft copy and create images, you can highlight content that your customers have shared through their social media feeds – you can do this by searching or by following relevant hashtags.

Case in point: Facebook users are already used to seeing sponsored content on their newsfeeds. However, they have a more positive response to targeted ads that contain user generated content within their set of interests. These generate 300% higher click-through rates, while being 50% cheaper in terms of cost per click and cost per acquisition.

Offer Prizes and Concessions in Exchange for Creative Material

One of the more successful Super Bowl ad campaigns was started by Doritos in 2006, and it continues annually to date. Dubbed Crash the Super Bowl, the company’s ad agency invited consumers to create their own videos for the brand, in which the top fan-made submissions – based on votes by the public – are guaranteed to air during the Super Bowl. In addition to being featured during Super Bowl airings, the company gives prizes up to $1 million for ads that reach certain viewership ratings.

True, there are criticisms against crowdsourcing creative material and design used by corporate entities. However, such criticism is usually only valid for contests that give a paltry amount as prizes for the chosen creative. For an event as big as the Super Bowl, the chance for fans to get over a billion impressions for their home-made creative work, plus a million dollars, should be attractive enough to encourage participation.

Crowdsourcing product design

Let Customers Model Your Products

As with the earlier recommended strategies, this particular one plays with humans’ natural need to be recognized. Ask your customers to model your products, which will then be featured on your website and other digital assets.

This can be particularly effective if you are running a retail establishment focused on apparel or any retail product that can be modeled. You can ask customers to submit pictures that feature your products, which can then be shared on your brand’s own digital assets.

If you are selling a service, then you can ask for users to submit narratives, pictures or videos with them and your service in action. The narrative approach helps lead the audience into a more immersive experience, and they will more easily relate to your brand, especially if they can empathize with the stories at hand.

Major technology firms bank on customer stories to push their services. Microsoft, for example, runs its Voice of the Customer portal, where it showcases business success stories targeted at enterprise users. These are seen as authentic stories, and potential customers are more likely to trust stories from actual people rather than impersonal press release, PR or social media campaigns. Another example is how fashion brand Marc Jacobs asked fans and customers to share holiday photos featuring the brand’s apparel.

Leverage The Value of Employee Contributions

Don’t stop with contributions only from your customers. People are also interested in what happens behind the scenes in a company, and so user-generated content from your own employees, partners and key stakeholders will also be a good way to engage with your audience and customers.

This was how the idea of corporate and business blogging came about in the mid-2000s. Social media has since evolved into something more dynamic, especially with pervasive platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Thus, rather than simply promoting your company’s own Facebook Page or Twitter account, why not promote a personal account run by some of your key employees?

Have them share posts or tweets about their daily experiences at work and also their personal lives (perhaps to highlight a good work-life balance within your team). This gives your company a more human side. Moreover, this does not only apply to marketing, but can also be useful in building partnerships with other businesses through networking. Leveraging employees’ user-generated content and social networks can also come in handy in the HR and recruitment processes.

Conclusion

For over a decade, user-generated content has had such an impact on how we communicate and connect with the community, whether as a business or as an individual. Any business can take advantage of UGC in advancing one’s brand or simply engaging with an audience. It’s a matter of being proactive about it and finding the right strategies that will click with your own audience.