INFO: 17 Apr 2014 Insight

It’s commonly accepted that brands can no longer just throw expensive outbound marketing campaigns at their customers.

This is the era of inbound content marketing, where brands must pull the public towards them with enticing content. The difficult question has been; where does this content come from? Of course you must invest more time and money in creating it, as you would any other facet of your marketing strategy, but you can also ask your customers to create it for you. In this post we talk about why user generated content (UGC) is picking up and how video might begin to take a bigger slice of the pie.

UGC has existed for a long time but the conditions are perfect in 2014 for a surge in popularity and relevancy. Adam Vincenzini at explains that “the key change [for user generated content in 2014] is the role content now plays in the fortunes of brands and businesses”[1], underlining the importance of content marketing. Combine this with the biggest strength of UGC – authenticity – and it seems like a no brainer. However, until recently the quality of UGC has been a constraint.

Consider now the modern customer: loyal brand ambassadors walking around with high resolution cameras and HD video recorders in their pockets, connected to the internet and thousands of other people via social networks. Applications to record and share videos and images – Vine, Instagram, and YouTube – are as simple as reading and writing to the modern mobile user. But most importantly, people want to create. Social media is about sharing, but this doesn’t mean endlessly retweeting your content, your fans don’t want to passively absorb your messages, they want to share too. This week Tate asked its twitter followers “what did your parents wear in their youth?” They received dozens of photo tweets, retweets and related activity. Their feed was populated with a collective nostalgia in the run up to their Late At Tate Britain event A History of UK Style. Some argue that UGC is only effective if there’s an incentive, that may have been the case at one point but since social media the landscape has looked very different.

Another recent campaign by Eurostar collated amateur photographs from Londoners in Paris (and vice versa) into charming online ads. Instead of churning out a romantic-weekend-in-Paris cliché, this campaign tells us that our experiences are and will be totally unique and unpredictable. That’s a very different, and much more romantic, concept than actors sipping champagne under the Eiffel Tower.

User Generated Video

Image based campaigns like those by Tate and Eurostar tend to have more participants than video or other more time consuming activities. At this stage it seems there either has to be a pretty juicy incentive, or a vested interest, for consumers to commit to creating video content. To illustrate, the Queensland Tourism Board in Australia ran a campaign in 2009 that received over 1.4million video applications from all over the world to secure ‘the best job in the world’ – a tropical island caretaker with a 6 month salary (it was so popular they did it again in 2013). Here the incentive was big enough to encourage anyone and everyone to enter.  Here’s the winning entrant from 2013.

Conversely a campaign with small incentives but significant vested interests would be likely to see a smaller number of high quality submissions, in which one or two might go on to be shared more widely or go viral. Depending on whether your focus is the content itself or awareness, a company should decide whether quantity or quality of content is more important – especially when considering a user generated video campaign. Do you want top content that you can curate push out yourself, or a breadth of content generating more awareness? A lot of film and short-film festivals now include a super-short-form film competitions as a way to engage the amateur filmmaker, and it’s proving a very effective model albeit mostly among the more camera-savvy users. However, as the average customer becomes as confident recording simple videos as taking pictures we will surely see more user generated video campaigns. Instagram and Vine are backing this trend, and successful campaigns have been realised through these applications already by, among others, GE, Virgin and Tribeca Film Festival. There are of course online platforms that will manage video submissions to a competition, however these mean an extra set-up and run cost, something that only the larger brands are willing to incur. The entry point for brands looking to experiment with UGC is undoubtedly on established social media platforms. Your loyal customers are out there and they want to create and share. Why not let them?

In part 2 of this post we look at some starting points and guidelines for catalysing User Generated Content.




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