Growing Brand Awareness with User Generated Content 📈
Having trouble growing your following on social media? The truth is, your audience has an insatiable appetite for high-quality content, and sometimes even bigger brands can struggle to feed the content beast. Fortunately, there is a somewhat simple solution to your content-starvation woes: user generated content.
User generated content (UGC) has many forms: from retweets to photo shares on Instagram, to contest entries and customer testimonials. Some digital media content made by users can even be indistinguishable from professional marketing collateral produced by brands in a studio. As consumer technology continues to improve and become more affordable, your customers are becoming more savvy and more adept at creating Grade-A content.
So how do you go about harvesting this natural abundance of content and leveraging it to grow your brand’s presence on social media? Where do you start? First, let’s look at creating a specific UGC campaign to spur your audience into action.
As you carry out your brand’s journey on a given social platform, whether it’s a Facebook fanpage or Instagram feed, you have the ability to influence your audience to take on more of a participatory role with your brand’s presence—this is why increasing what we call “brand affinity” is so important. The trick is compelling their behavior, especially those users with significant social reach, to create and share content that is relevant to your brand. Often times, users just need to be nudged a bit in the right direction and this can be accomplished with a branded hashtag campaign.
Branded hashtag campaign: a case study 📜
I put this strategy to the test at Jeunesse, a company where I serve as Chief Director of Digital Strategy, and drove significant audience growth without increasing the demand for original content on our in-house team. On Instagram for instance, Jeunesse’s following has increased over 300% in roughly a year, following our push to consistently find and feature top-notch UGC. We’ve also been able to rally countless users who were always out there, but weren’t yet engaging directly with our brand.
As part of our social strategy behind our latest product system at Jeunesse, Zen Project 8, we created the #ZP8 hashtag and deployed it on any post content related to Zen Project 8 products, lifestyle, coaching sessions, and events. Each time we feature a UGC photo that relates to Zen Project 8, we include the relevant #ZP8 hashtag. This reinforces the audience behavior we are looking for: sharing their Zen Project 8 experiences with our brand and the rest of our audience on social media. It’s also helpful to include a call-to-action every so often on UGC posts to give your audience some explicit guidance. It can be something short and sweet, like: “Tag your photos with #ZP8 for a chance to be featured!”
Because Zen Project 8 is a fitness movement, our audience is constantly providing stellar UGC. From mouth-watering food pics to amazing body transformations, #ZP8 fans serve up fantastic content that we can’t help but share on the official Jeunesse channels.
How to find great UGC 🔎
Once you’ve got your branded hashtag campaign off the ground, the curation process begins. You’re going to need the right search tools, and one of my favorite tools for search for high-quality photos from our audience is Instagram itself. Instagram tends to have a higher standard of quality to begin with, as so many amazing amateur photographers are continuing to raise the bar. Plus, Instagram has a solid built-in hashtag search that will allow you to quickly scroll through galleries of any hashtagged posts relevant to your brand. For searching hashtags across social platforms, Tagboard can be a fantastic tool, allowing you to find the latest content uploaded to other networks like Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Make a list of all of the hashtags your audience might be using before you start your search. These hashtags should include your brand names, product names, event names, and even common misspellings of the above.
What UGC should you share? 👍
Avoid sharing UGC that isn’t up to par with your brand standards. That doesn’t mean shareable content needs to look like it’s produced on a professional budget—sometimes it’s the raw realness of UGC that makes it so effective—but images and video you share should always reflect positively on your brand. User generated photos, for instance, should generally be composed properly, have good lighting, be water-mark free, and have a decent resolution by web standards. By curating a certain standard and specific types of content, you will cultivate better and better content production from your audience. Your fans will want to emulate what they are seeing shared to increase their chances of getting recognized and featured on your brand’s channels.
Once you find great content and decide what you want to share as UGC, contact the person who posted the content to obtain permission to share it. This is typically done as a direct message through the platform where the post originated. Not only is this a best-practice and important from a legal standpoint, but you will also build amazing connections with your fans! Virtually 100 percent of the time, users will be super excited that your brand reached out and wants to share their awesome content.
UGC campaigns at events 🎈
Another excellent source for UGC is your next company event. Whether you’re hosting a party, business conference, or charity fundraiser, consider creating a social media campaign that encourages your guests to share their content using a branded hashtag for your event. This can be a great way to crowd-source social media coverage of your event by spurring content creation. Plus, when your attendees geotag their Instagram post or check-in to your event on Facebook, you gain organic promotion to the local audience and other visitors to your event’s venue.
At our recent leadership conference in Las Vegas, Jeunesse LEAD 2016, we created a #LEAD16 campaign and hired the fine folks at Luster (formerly Instaprint) to install their super-nifty, hashtag-powered printers to capture thousands of photos of attendees throughout the weekend. We also created a photo backdrop and added some fun props to add to the “photo-booth” experience. Each time a photo from the event was tagged with #LEAD16 on Instagram, it would automatically print at the print station on a Polaroid-type paper branded with the Jeunesse logo. These tangible, printed photos were great mementos of the event for guests to take home. Our #LEAD16 Instagram campaign was even named the favorite feature of our event in our audience polls!
As you start out building your UGC strategy, know that it will take some time and dedication to get it into full-swing and start seeing results. Be persistent in your search for content being created and shared by your fans, as it can be easy for something great to go unnoticed. Try to “listen” for your branded hashtags on a regular basis. One final, simple thought to remember as you set out to put your UGC campaign into action: Your creativity will fuel your audience’s creativity!
Do you create content as a consumer or curate user generated content for your brand? Tell me about it in the comments below! 😊👇