From the Influencers

Leveraging User Based Content for Dynamic Marketing

September 22, 2016

Whether you know it or not, in 2016, user generated content (UGC) is an enormous part of your organization’s marketing. Of course, not all of it may be good, but that’s beside the point. It’s out there in the form of social media reviews, message boards, blogs and online product/service feedback Web sites. Many companies have taken a “listening” approach to UGC, farming through pages of search results to try and determine what customers are saying about the organization. It’s a smart approach: in the “olden days,” the only way to receive customer feedback was by paying research organizations to gather it. Now, it’s available for the taking.

Smart organizations are going beyond listening, however, and determining ways to actively use user generated content in their marketing and brand management campaigns. They believe UGC to be an invaluable way to deliver highly engaging, positive content that stands out from the crowd, according to a recent article by Azadeh Williams writing for CMO. User generated content is also more trusted by customers.

“A recent study by Salesforce revealed 92 percent of consumers trust online content from friends and family above all other forms of brand messages and 50 percent of consumers find UGC more memorable than brand-produced content,” wrote Williams.

In many cases, companies with complex products or services – think software – have been the leaders in using UGC to their advantage. When customers can help each other find solutions, it creates an open environment to exchange ideas, and may lower the burden of customer support for some companies. One example is Salesforce’s Idea Exchange, a formalized platform for users to post ideas, leave comments and suggest new product features.

Consumer companies are now experimenting with user generated content as marketing rather than just customer support. In another article, CMO’s Azadeh Williams highlights a successful campaign run by Starbucks.

“In 2015, Starbucks launched its ‘meet me at Starbucks’ global campaign and enlisted 53 cinematographers across 28 countries to shoot different instances during which friends interact at Starbucks locations,” wrote Williams. “As Starbucks’ first global brand campaign, the project sparked 91 million social media impressions, inspiring customers to visit Starbucks to capture their own stories.”

The idea of customers marketing to each other is both brilliant and a little scary. Companies need to walk the line between taking advantage of user generated content and controlling the message in order to keep harm from the brand. A Twitter campaign by the New York City Police Department, #myNYPD, was launched to encourage New Yorkers to share pleasant experiences of interacting with NYPD. Before long, however, the hashtag was being used to show less-than-complimentary photos that ostensibly showed police brutality and overreach. A similar customer outreach campaign launched by McDonald’s, #McDStories, turned into a free-for-all for negative experiences about the fast food chain.

Social media marketing experts recommend that companies think hard before launching a UGC-based marketing campaign and imagine the worst-case scenario first. By keeping to a narrow message – Starbucks’ latest campaign invited customers to design blank white cups – it becomes easier to ensure the campaign will accomplish what it’s supposed to and not turn into a nightmare free-for-all. 

Edited by Alicia Young

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