Customers as Content Co-Creators

By: Jenifer W.

Content is currency in the digital age and a great way for brands to keep content fresh and relevant is with crowdsourcing and user-generated content (UGC). User-generated content stems from the basic principle behind word-of-mouth marketing: Peer recommendations are incredibly influential and provide enhanced credibility. It makes the brand feel more personable and approachable, its campaigns more authentic and builds loyalty among its fans. Brands should welcome customers’ excitement to be co-creators, co-innovators and even evangelists by launching new campaigns on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. As per Nielsen, 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations, while only 33% trust ads.

In order to achieve a deeper level of customer engagement and brand loyalty, brands need to humanize by connecting with customers on a personal level. UGC campaigns are an excellent way to collect creative material for marketing purposes, get photos of your products in use organically and drive engagement and sales.

Here are three great examples to get ideas flowing and start taking advantage of interactive social media to engage customers directly in developing more impactful and personal brand stories.

Celebrate Your Customer and Let Them Help You Tell Your Story
Consumers are already talking about you and your products online; you need to be leveraging that content. The value returned is often that people associate good things with and return to engage with the brand.

Recently, Starbucks harnessed the power of UGC to boost engagement with their “Meet Me At Starbucks” campaign, capturing real stories from real people and weaving them into their marketing campaigns. It chronicled a day in the life of a Starbucks through a mini-documentary, shot in 59 different stores in 28 countries. Starbucks said the campaign aims to show the “beautiful moments of connection between our customers around the world.” Anyone can participate by telling their story and sharing it on social media, turning the campaign into an interactive, multi-dimensional experience.

Crowd Source Creativity
All brands can benefit from added visuals in their marketing efforts. Why not run contests for your fans to show off their artistic skills? Not only will the opportunity create major buzz, but it also will inspire more brand loyalty. Personally, I really love what Creative Allies does for musicians and artists.

Creative Allies is a community of designers who enter contests to create artwork and merchandise for bands, films and festivals. A fan creates artwork based on criteria determined by the brand for posters, t-shirts, hats, lithographs or other merchandise items. They submit their design to the site, then get their friends to vote on their submissions for the chance to win prizes, sell their stuff and get their work noticed. For each contest, at least one grand prize winner is selected by the contest holder and awarded a cash prize and other goodies like tickets, merchandise and/or VIP perks. Additional submissions are selected to be sold in the Creative Allies Store even if they didn’t win a design contest. These items become official merchandise and profits are shared between the designer and the contest holder (the band, film or festival).

Inspire to Aspire
An active loyal community is very influential. Putting the spotlight on customers who live your brand, creates a “me too” response in others in their peer group. Just think of all the times you’ve seen a celebrity in an amazing outfit and feel that you need to own that dress immediately. When you find it online, it’s already sold out because your peers felt the exact same way. Smart brands are finding ways to utilize this phenomenon in inspirational ways.

Lululemon is all about living well, and to its consumers, wearing Lululemon is akin to a badge of honor, practically saying, “my body is a temple, and it can do amazing things.” They turned the positive feeling associated with the brand into a campaign, #TheSweatLife. Customers were asked to tweet or Instagram photos of themselves getting their sweat on and exploring the world while decked out in the company’s products. The images which were collected via the hashtag and posted to the Lululemon website, where they are a permanent inspirational fixture.

User-generated content is flourishing with the rise of mobile, emerging technologies, and social platforms. Building a campaign around crowd-sourced content serves as a genuine way for brands to engage with their audience and is a refreshing departure from traditional one-way messaging.

Have you run successful UGC campaigns for your brand? As always, I welcome your feedback and if you like what you read, be social and share.

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