Last fall when we posted my take on user generated content, we noted that UGC goes beyond guest blogs. The category includes reviews, recommendations, thank-yous, photos and videos of the product or service in use, memorable memes and more. Today we delve into some big brands that put UGC to work.
“Putting customers first” reads like every tagline for every marketer throughout history. But nothing puts customers first more than featuring them and their ideas in your marketing materials.
User generated content (UGC for short) takes text, photos, videos and other media from customers and brand fans and puts them front and center in campaigns and other marketing efforts. And they do it for good reason: People often trust the people that contribute free content more than they trust brands that pay big bucks for agencies to create it. User generated content is digital word of mouth—or, more aptly, word of mouse.
UGC builds credibility, saves marketers resources and promotes engagement by helping customers connect with other customers and prospective buyers.
Here are three companies who used user generated content to amplify their messages, inspire new customers and puff up their profit margins.
GoPro on YouTube
One of the best-known brands that harnesses UGC to boost their brand and their bottom line is GoPro, the action camera company founded in 2002. And it makes sense: the products are fun to use and custom-made to create content in stunning locales. With nearly 8.5M subscribers, their GoPro YouTube channel is chock-full of GoPro videos showcasing their products and users in action.
The company understands how its products fit into the lifestyles of its users—radical adventurers who love to leap, soar, dive and race with a GoPro strapped to themselves. Though the company has hit some bumps in recent years, it’s rebounding with new products, new awards and new contests that gamify content curation and spotlight its bold, new content creators.
Apple on Instagram, Twitter and Weibo
In response to less-than-stellar reviews of its camera feature, last year Apple launched its Shot on iPhone Challenge, which invited iPhone users to submit their finest photos to win a chance at exposure in their stores, on billboards and in social feeds, along with license fees for use of the images. Content creators submitted their selects on Instagram, Twitter and Chinese microblogging site Weibo using the hashtag #ShotoniPhone. The challenge extended previous crowdsourced #ShotoniPhone programs.
An international panel of judges, including President Obama’s White House photographer Pete Souza, selected 10 winners among thousands submitted worldwide.
Perhaps most iconic is this stunner, an apartment building shot in Hong Kong by Alex Jiang, on Instagram at @justphotons. Judges loved the photo because of its colors, its composition (with hoop front and center) and the microstories told through the dozens of windows in the image.
Image by Alex Jiang @justphotons
You can see all of the winning images in Apple’s Newsroom announcement.
The iPhone photo challenge was an effort to take on Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy series phones, whose cameras often get better press and reviews. It appears that Apple remains on top, at least according to recent TechRadar, TomsGuide and DigitalCameraWorld reviews. The millions of posts didn’t hurt, either.
West Elm on Facebook
Modern home style heavyweight, West Elm, put UGC to work by integrating customers’ Instagram photos into Facebook carousel ads. The move aligned with its core principle that encourages customers to express their personal style. The photos, accompanied by the #mywestelm hashtag, were featured in the all-purpose carousel format, which allows advertisers to feature multiple images in a single ad unit that Facebook users can swipe through, like a photo gallery.
Photo credits: @thelayoverlife; @gypsytanhome; @kelleyestone
West Elm verified this approach using A/B testing. The winning format increased the company’s return on ad spend (ROAS) seven times higher than normal and delivered a click-through rate (CTR) more than two-and-a-half times that of their regular ad content.
Using A/B testing helps marketers see in a hurry which content leads to more conversions. Marketers can apply learnings to future campaigns that highlight the best-tested content.
It All Has Value
Measuring the value of user generated content can feel like trying to hit a moving target. When marketers only measure and report comments, likes and shares, they miss the point of integrated marketing efforts, such as paid placements, search, direct sales, conference appearances and everything else they’re doing to promote their company’s offerings. Each method should have objectives, key performance indicators and results aggregated into ROI data that correlate with objectives. The value of free, curated content and an enhanced asset library factor in, too.
P.S. For Your Developer
Regardless of how you collect and showcase user generated content, have your team review developer notes and API requirements for UGC. If platforms require a hashtag or an @mention, include those requirements when asking customers and fans for UGC.
Have you ever contributed content to an effort like those described here? Does your company employ user generated content in its efforts? Please share your experience with us!
Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia