Carefully Crafted on August 05

7 Steps for Effective User-Generated Content Campaigns

With the increasing popularity and importance of content marketing, we find ourselves on the hunt for amazing content to share. “Look at this” content that reinforces marketing objectives … makes readers say “holy smokes” … and generates online buzz (among other more tangible goals). Constantly coming up with fresh, creative, results-oriented content can be challenging. As a result, brands are turning to user-generated content, a means for tapping into customers’ creativity, excitement and brand loyalty.

photo (10)Contests designed to elicit user-generated content (UGC) can be effective, but, it’s not as easy as simply asking people to share a photo or video. Effective UGC campaigns require pre-planning and promotion. Plus, partnerships help as well, particularly if you’re an emerging brand or a company with a smaller online presence. We’ve developed executed a number of UGC campaign for clients, large and small. Based on those experiences, here’s the process we follow, as well as lessons learned.

Step 1: Develop a Campaign Concept

An effective campaign needs a hook: What’s going to get someone to participate? Keep in mind, the campaign concept needs to be simple. If participation is complicated or requires too many steps, participation will be lower. Additionally, the campaign concept should reinforce your brand’s messaging. While the campaign should be fun and creative, it should also be strategic.

Step 2: Incentivize participation.

Consumers are constantly bombarded with requests to like, share and follow. How do you rise above the noise to pique people’s interest and drive participation? To motivate your target audience to participate in this campaign, you need to offer some incentives. That doesn’t necessarily mean money or a high-dollar value prize. In fact, I was once part of a campaign team promoting a contest with a $10,000 prize. The participation was low because the client required too many steps to participate. The moral of the story? Cash prizes won’t always lead to participation. Instead, think about something valuable or exclusive that you can offer. We recently worked with a lifestyle startup on an Instagram campaign. We decided to offer a more brand-driven prize: Backyard makeover design recommendations, coupled with some gift cards to help implement the ideas.

Step 3: Establish partnerships to extend the reach.

This step is especially important for emerging brands, startups and companies still working on building up their online presence. For a UGC campaign to be effective, awareness is key. People need to know about it. If you don’t have a large enough network, consider partnering with people/sites/companies who can help extend your reach. For the lifestyle campaign I mentioned earlier, we partnered with a DIY blogger, who helped us promote the campaign via their social channels. Additionally, they provided the backyard makeover design recommendations (via a specially created Pinterest board). While I’m often leery of paying bloggers for posts, I do think it’s fair to compensate bloggers if you’re asking for special access to their community. So, this was a paid partnership, plus we paid a handful of other bloggers to write a promotional post about the campaign. In addition to helping build campaign awareness, this helped our client connect with a new group of targeted influencers.

Step 4: Develop a promotional plan.

Publishing a blog post, tweet or status update isn’t enough to ignite a successful campaign. You need a promotional plan. This may include partnerships, like the ones mentioned in Step 3. But, it can also include a wide variety of other tactics, such as social updates, online advertising, additional content marketing (eg blog posts, infographics, slideshows, etc) to remind people about the campaign, media/blogger outreach, an event (in-person or virtual), news release, and so on. Map out your tactics ahead of time to ensure there’s a steady stream of promotional opportunities.

Step 5: Execute, measure and tweak.

Once the campaign goes live, that’s when the nitty-gritty work begins. Constantly watch the campaign performance and tweak tactics as needed. For example, let’s pretend you’re managing the campaign on behalf of an app. If you see that the campaign is creating a spike in website visits, but those visits aren’t converting, that means you need to make some adjustments. Don’t wait until the end of the campaign to measure. Assessing what’s working and what’s not during the campaign — and tweaking as needed — will result in a far more effective campaign and better use of resources.

Step 6: Fulfill campaign promises.

Whatever you said you’d do during the campaign, do it. Immediately. Whether that’s mailing prizes, paying winners or blog partners, providing an exclusive experience — make it happen as soon as possible. This way, you’ll capture the excitement of the campaign, plus you’ll avoid those nagging “when will I get my prize” questions. If the prize is something attached to a specific date NOT in the immediate short-term, then at least make sure you’re communicating and managing expectations with those involved. The last thing you want is a successful campaign to be ruined by complaints from people who didn’t get their prizes soon enough.

Step 7: Lay foundation for long-term relationships.

Most UGC campaigns (at least the ones we’ve worked on) include an increase in fans/followers to be a key metric. If the campaign is successful, you should have an expanded online network — and a new group of brand loyalists. However, when an individual connects with a brand online, that’s just the first step. Then, it’s time to move them through the six stages of online community building — moving them from a passive lurker to an engaged brand advocate. Additionally, if the UGC campaign included partnerships with online influencers, make sure those aren’t “one and done” relationships. Instead, try to build long-term relationships by creating opportunities to stay connected.

Step 7: Evaluate and debrief.

So many variables can impact the effectiveness of a UGC campaign. Take some time to pull your team together to discuss what worked, what didn’t, lessons learned, and what you’d do differently next time. Celebrate a (hopefully) successful campaign, but also look for ways to improve.


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