Social Media has become a fantastic tool. As well as creating communication networks designed to connect similar minds together it has also given everybody a voice.
This voice is, generally speaking (and Trolls aside), used for good. The creation of memes, viral videos, images, and blogging formats designed to make the unheard heard. It has inspired limitless creativity, productivity, and commentary. Social Media is likely to do this for the foreseeable future, making it one of the most powerful tools mankind has ever had for social activity.
Naturally enough, this is not particularly new in the world of marketing. Ever since President Obama used Social Media as part of his 2008 election campaign, Social Media marketing has taken off. Every marketing firm can see the potential. This, although once again not a new concept, gave user-generated content a new platform. It had appeared in print, blogging, and even televised advertising before but never had it been seen in Social Media.
Of course, Social Media proved itself the perfect ground for new user-generated content to be shared around. One picture, update, or Tweet could go viral in a couple of hours. Companies soon learned that getting users to upload their own content within the contents of marketing campaigns not only saved resources but also stood a higher chance of being shared.
This being said, getting users to create user-generated content can be difficult for a large percentage of companies. Customers, clients, and the audience at large need to feel like they are getting something in return. There is no such thing as something for nothing within the digital world. Everything needs work and incentive behind it.
This is where so many companies fall down. A large number of marketers, CEOs, and SMEs are yet to understand that incentives need to be made. There are very few companies who can get users to create content on the premise of creating content alone.
One of the most successful user-generated content campaigns of the modern age comes from Coca-Cola. Their "Share a Coke" campaign did not ask users to share images of their bottles, but the genius behind the campaign came from personalising Coke bottles for more or less every name in the English language. These ranged across continents, and with the opportunity for fans to get their own Coke bottle printed if their name was not in the print run.
During the Share a Coke campaign, Coca-Cola printed over 1000 different names, received 998 million impressions on Twitter, received 235,000 Tweets using #ShareaCoke, sold almost 750,000 personalised bottles via their ecommerce store, and toured the UK in 2014 promoting the product. The product spread like wildfire, and is still burning today.
The story behind Share a Coke is a brilliant one, and available to read on the Coca-Cola website. Marketing Director of Coke Australia, when asked about the idea, said: “The campaign capitalised on the global trend of self-expression and sharing, but in an emotional way. Coke is big enough to pull off an idea like this, which speaks to the iconic nature of the brand. Who would want their name on a brand unless it was as iconic as Coke?"
Coca-Cola understood what it is that makes people tick. As a result of this they ended up with a highly successful campaign.
Starbucks are much the same. Their "White Cup Contest", was to inspire artists all around the world to doodle on their take-out cups. Without going into huge detail, Starbucks profited massively from the campaign in terms of their reputation and the public opinion of the brand.
Understanding the audience is the most important thing to do with user-generated content. Otherwise, requesting something of them may not be received well. Instead it may even put potential customers off. This is why it is important to incentivise the audience as much, and as effectively, as possible.
There is a pattern that has emerged from user-generated content over the past couple of years. User-generated content needs to come from a need for the user to generate the content. This is why Share a Coke did so well, using basic human emotion and want for inclusion as a means to promote the Coca-Cola brand. The customers naturally wanted to feel included to. They wanted others to feel included. They wanted something personal and personable.
Starbucks, along the same line, drew on their clientele and how they (rather stereotypically) are perceived as creative individuals. This meant that a fair percentage of people handed doodled-on cups back.
A study, in the book Memes in Popular Culture by Limor Shifman, shows that in order for things to go viral or memetic ideas or concepts need the following: They need to have prestige, positioning, strong emotions, simplicity, humour (or the potential for humour), participation tools, memetic potential, and a puzzle or problem. This is much the same for user-generated content as it is for memes or viral videos.
Once created, interacting with the audience in the way that they expect and recognising their effort, can potentially lead to massive profits (in money and/or reputation) for the company.
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