June 30, 2014 | In: Social Media Marketing

Are User-Generated Marketing Campaigns Worth the Risk?

User-generated campaigns can bolster your social media marketing effortsCreate your own flavour. Send your own design. Upload your own video. Over the years, there’s been an upsurge in the use of user-generated campaigns. Brands are increasingly trying out this form of marketing to reach their audiences, hoping that they can receive more engagement from them and hold their attention longer. It makes sense now since the average consumer is starting to tune out the mass array of messages that bombards them day-to-day. If you can’t hook them within a few seconds, you’ve lost them. And user-generated content is a great way to keep people interested.

But there’s the question about the overall impact of user-generated content. Some say it works, others say it’s pointless, some are indifferent, while others have yet to try it. It seems to rest in an undisclosed territory. However, you can take to heart that user-generated campaigns can be a great tool when it comes to social media marketing. What matters most is how you make use of it, what you do it for, and how you keep track of it. Although many campaigns have turned into huge success stories, there are several which ended up as major bombs.

What Your Average User-Generated Campaigns Look Like

Trying to label user-generated campaigns just might resemble what scientists go through when identifying animal and plant species. They come in so many different shapes, sizes, and forms, and that makes it hard to find distinguishing features. What you need to remember is this form of marketing involves the consumer, and it asks them to contribute to their own experience. In other words, the brand asks customers to create a piece of content that could be showcased for the world to see. This form of customer engagement can take two-dimensional advertising and turn it into something that people pursue, rather than ignore. These campaigns can also appear in various mediums, including contests, videos, social media posts, games, and even live events.

Why User-Generated Content Works

  • It’s consumer-centric
  • Rewards and recognition motivates them to work for you
  • Creates instant and widespread buzz
  • Can build significant brand awareness/loyalty
  • Potential for a much longer lifespan, unlike traditional 30 second messages

By looking at the benefits listed above, it’s clear to see why so many brands would like to try their hand at user-generated content. After all, much of today’s social media marketing fails to inspire people the way they might have done in previous years. And in these times, if you’re not making an impact on your consumers, you’re not doing anything at all.


Brands That Have Done Well With User-Generated Campaigns

Can you think of three brands that have tried or currently implement user-generated content as part of their marketing strategy? If not, check out the list below.

  • Pepsi
  • Belkin
  • Nissan
  • Target
  • Estee Lauder
  • T-Mobile

Other Great Examples Include

  • Burberry
  • Old Spce
  • Tourism Queensland
  • Heineken
  • Rent the Runway

But It’s Not All Rainbows and Unicorns

Now before you run and off and try to create the next great user-generated content (UGC) frenzy, remember this: these campaigns don’t always work. Sometimes, they fail in a manner that many people would say is “epic”. Although there is a lengthy list of potential benefits, there’s also a fairly comparable list of pitfalls which you need to be aware of. Social media marketing needs a balance of various elements in order for it to be effective. However, the use of UGC campaigns in this arena can easily cause your communications to tip too far off the tightrope.

Risks Associated With User-Generated Campaigns

  • Messaging that’s Inconsistent – One of the “lighter” risks associated with user-generated content rests within your messaging. Your hope is that customers will create content that reflects your brand. However, they won’t always do so, and will instead create content they feel is worthy. As a result, those who are discovering your brand for the first time may get the wrong impression about who you are.
  • Over/Under-Engagement – The center of UGC campaigns is engagement, and yet still there are problems that can arise in this aspect. For example, poor timing can lead to low engagement, since your audience may not notice your efforts. And believe it or not, too much engagement can be a problem as well. If you don’t set the right parameters, your team can face an overload of content.
  • Intellectual Property Rights – An often overlooked issue is that of intellectual property. Remember, a UGC campaign involves the audience, not your team, and therefore you shouldn’t be surprised if there are people who blatantly use another person’s work to submit to your contest. Never assume it’s something that the original creators will ignore. There have been numerous occasions where people go to court over stuff like this.
  • Dangerous Behaviour from Participants – Finally, always consider the risk of dangerous behaviour. Some user-generated campaigns involve physical action or other activities that could injure some individuals. Even in cases where the contest requirements are tame, you’ll always have those few people who take things too far.

The Verdict

So now – the moment of truth. Should you make use of user-generated content as part of your social media marketing campaign or not? The answer is yes – provided you are willing to accept the possible risks and work in conjunction with experienced marketing professionals. The possibilities and returns which you can gain are simply too great for you to ignore completely. In this age where advertising has lost much of its persuasive power, the ability to hold the attention of an audience has turned into a survival trait. Fortunately, user-generated efforts can be one of the most powerful tools for capturing interest.

But remember the words above – you should accept the risks and work with experienced professionals. No one can guarantee that the world will fall in love with your campaign. UGC efforts are often experimental, and most of the big brands who have tried it understand that the results aren’t guaranteed.

And that brings us to the next point. Since they can’t be sure what results they’ll see, they entrust the task to marketing agencies who have a better understanding of the field. By doing this, they can at least step into the waters and get a feel for what they’re doing, rather than getting a cold shock upon entry. A similar approach can save you from wasting resources, money, and ultimately, time.

Proceed with Caution

User-generated content can be risky, so you should hire a digital agency for guidanceMany of the good things you may have heard about user-generated content is true. Some of the campaigns that have been featured in magazines and in news articles deserve their acclaim. But that doesn’t mean they’re bulletproof. It’s certainly worth your while to use UGC-related efforts in your social media marketing, but you should do so with the backing of an experienced digital agency. You can avoid the pitfalls with their expertise, and you can also rest assured that you’re not doing it alone.




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