Content marketers can learn a lot from the millennials. It’s been said that these young, mobile, and socially savvy consumers value their experiences over their possessions. And it’s for this reason that there are tremendous opportunities for content marketers to tap into this trend and give this demographic an opportunity to share/declare and report on its experiences — otherwise known in the marketing world as user-generated content (UGC).
The beauty of UGC is that it provides a win-win situation for both sides: Brands get to develop a deeper engagement with their audience by creating a platform where their consumers can gather and socialize (that they can control and monitor) and, in turn, consumers get exclusive access to products and services — which they can boast about to their friends.
The bonus for brands comes when consumers take their engagement a step further, by sharing their brand ambassador status with their peers on social media channels. In a world where people rely on recommendations from friends, this endorsement is invaluable, not to mention it helps brands continually release fresh, powerful content that boosts natural SEO rankings and reaches new audiences.
All the big brands are doing it (Nike’s Fuelband is a classic example), and many of them are doing it so well that their efforts are driving stronger consumer relationships, increased fan endorsements — on social media channels and beyond — and increased returns on their content marketing investments.
For inspiration, take a look at five examples of powerful content that brands are using to bring users into their marketing efforts:
1. Own the Weekend
The British newspaper The Guardian (4 million unique visitors per day), chose to engage with its users by challenging them to “Own the Weekend.” It invited its trade partners and readers to do “something cool” at the weekend, take a picture of it that included its “We Own the Weekend” slogan, and tweet it to the Guardian with the hashtag, #owntheweekend for the chance to win an iPad Mini.
The content-based campaign generated hundreds of responses like the one in the example above and increased engagement with its media partners (not to mention its endorsement by British actor Hugh Grant was featured in a promo on the Own the Weekend site).
2. The Best Job in the World
When the Australian Tourist Board had AUD$1 million to play with, it leveraged the power of content to tap into the public’s desire to escape the rat race and do something extraordinary.
The Board created a contest where the prize was a six-month position as caretaker of an island in an Australian paradise — for a jaw-dropping salary of AUD $150,000. All applicants needed to do was create a one-minute video explaining why they should be given the job.
The results: $368 million in earned worldwide media coverage, and more than 34,000 video applications were uploaded onto the campaign’s website and on YouTube, providing an independent promotion for the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland that was viewed by more than 8.6 million people. The winner, a 34-year-old British charity events organizer, gave more than 100 media interviews in the first 24 hours after he won the contest. By the end of his term as caretaker, he’d given more than 450 media interviews and posted numerous blogs, photos, video diaries and tweets — all of which helped escalate Queensland Australia’s position as a tourist destination that rivals the Caribbean or Greek Islands.
3. The Fiesta Movement
Take 100 influential bloggers, give them each a car and a video camera, send them monthly challenges, and ask them to blog about their experiences. The result — in addition to gaining 6.2 million YouTube views, 750,000 Flickr views, and 40 million Twitter impressions — was that it introduced the Ford Fiesta to a new generation of American consumers and earned a record 6,000 pre-orders and a total of 23,000 units sold.
This is was the plan created by automotive giant Ford‘s Head of Social Media, Scott Monty, in 2009. Fast forward to today and the campaign is being given a new lease on life: The 2014 Fiesta Movement will launch the newest Fiesta. The latest agents will create content on their own social pages and as they gain momentum and followers the best content will be featured on Ford’s own Fiesta Movement site. Every Instagram image, video produced and any of the blogs written by the selected “agents” will form the backbone of the Fiesta’s ad campaign, in what Ford is claiming to be its first ever entirely “user-generated content” campaign.
4. The Art of the Trench
The brainchild of creative director Christopher Bailey, the Art of the Trench campaign propelled Burberry’s ailing “staid/old fashioned” image to one of the hottest fashion labels in the world.
With the help of professional fashion photographers, a celebrated fashion photo blogger and the public, the British luxury fashion house, Burberry, underwent a total image revamp. It took UGC to the streets with a simple mission: to show real, fashionable people wearing the brand’s trench coat and looking fantastic in it.
Fashionistas and photographers alike were asked to pose in the coat and upload their photos onto the site, where the Burberry marketing team featured a selection from the best of the bunch. All participants and viewers of the site could comment on and share photos on social media. The hundreds of pictures (which, in the first 6 months, generated 7 million views) that were submitted could be browsed by categories such as weather, color, style, gender, or popularity. The use of social networking and digital media brought Burberry to the minds of a younger audience, brought new consumers and brand enthusiasts to the brand, and re-established its presence as a “cool, be-seen-in, must-have brand” among the fickle fashion set.
5. Linx Space Academy:
The slogan for deodorant brand, Lynx — “Leave a man, come back a hero,” has been compelling enough to entice hundreds of people to apply for a chance-of-a-lifetime ticket to travel into outer space. This big budget, big idea asked wannabe astronauts to sign up, create a profile, and explain why they wanted to go to space. The multimedia campaign has generated national news stories on television, radio, and in newsprint, as well as garnering tremendous support online. Through this content effort, Lynx has created a powerful content platform for user participation, which includes a leaderboard and the ability for fans to vote for their favorite entries.
5 ways to make powerful user-generated content work for you
While we don’t all have the budgets, or the cachet, that these sexy brands have to work with, the techniques they used can be inexpensively leveraged to enhance user engagement for any business. To this point, here are five examples of user-generated content campaigns that can be achieved on a smaller budget:
- Video-based “vox pop“: Using this popular, “voice of the people” crowdsourced content technique, content marketers can take to the streets with a camera to interview willing passers-by on their opinions on your product/service. Christian Aid did just that at a recent youth festival in the UK, with an aim of engaging a younger audience and finding out what motivates them. In its interviews, the foundation asked festival-goers, “What do you want to do when you’re older?” Their filmed responses provided useful market research data — and great content for its site.
- Photo competitions: These are not just reserved for “sexy” industries, like travel, entertainment, and leisure. For example, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a British not-for-profit, organization, challenged photographers to document their experience of poverty in the UK — for a prize of £500 worth of camera equipment and a weekend-long photography course.
- Pinterest: Marketers are clambering all over each other to create distinctive, powerful content on this trendy visual social media channel. One way content creators can use this platform to promote travel-related businesses (or other companies) is to create a Pinterest board for a specific location. Ask readers to add their own favorite places, restaurants, secret hideaways, or other things your list may have missed for a chance to win a prize — such as a free trip to that destination.
- Discussion forums: Give your followers a chance to engage with you, and each other. For little cost, you can create a discussion platform that sits as an add-on onto your site (which you can monitor through your CMS). It’s a fantastic way of listening to their needs, wants, and complaints, and presents opportunities for you to address their concerns and exceed their customer service expectations.
- Internal communications: While not every business has the funds to introduce an internal (Twitter-like) “Chatter” stream for sending ideas to the CMO like Coca-Cola did, there are many ways that content can enable your staff to engage with you and endorse your products and services. For example, try running an internal competition across all departments of your organization to gather ideas, then reward employees who came up with the best ones, and put one into play. This not only incentivizes your workforce to create branded content ideas, but it demonstrates how your business values their opinions and ideas.
Learn which tactics your peers are turning to for more effective content marketing creation and delivery. Read our eBook, Building the Perfect Content Marketing Mix: Execution Tactics.