Hit and Miss: User-Generated Content

Hit and Miss: User-Generated Content

The rapid increase in social platforms and has made it easier than ever for people to post their own content online. Whether it’s a comment, status update, blog post, image or video upload there are social sites dedicated to every format, which give users immediate access to each other and create new opportunities for advertising. The great sites are Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, all of which are extremely successful – purely because of their users and the content they have generated as a community. The question is how do you get users to generate this content that is positive and focused on your brand?

When it comes to user-generated content (UGC) campaigns, some might wonder what the benefit is in taking the power out of the hands of brands and transferring it to consumers. For companies, there can be a huge gamble to relinquish some control, but it’s one that can result in a big payoff. And for this reason, the idea of using user generated content (UGC) for advertising is growing rapidly in popularity right now.

The UGC campaign has three distinct advantages over regular branded campaigns. Firstly, it’s very cost-effective. Rather than hiring a production crew and editing team to produce what will amount to a single thirty-second commercial, with reach dependent on media buys, turning to UGC for commercial content can decrease costs by tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars. Secondly, campaigns created with user-generated content are novel. It’s a break away from traditional branded marketing efforts and sometimes even the campaign for submissions in itself results in a lot of buzz for your brand. But beyond the good publicity, the submissions themselves can provide a fresh perspective for brand promotions.

I’m personally most interested in why some user-generated content campaigns generate so much attention and why some fail miserably. The reality is that for every campaign that takes off, there are many more that fail to generate much attention at all or even backfire completely.

An example would be some of the negative user contributions on Amazon and Yelp. Yelp has been hit from repeated lawsuits by businesses alleging that negative reviews of their companies or retail outlets appeared after they turned down an offer to advertise with the service. And likewise, Amazon has been criticised for reviews of books that appear to have been posted by users who didn’t even read the book in question.

Another example is Shell, which launched a campaign where users could select an image from their online gallery and caption it. The best caption would receive a trip to the Arctic to see Shell’s brand new drilling rig at work. Some of the captions didn’t go as expected.

However, some UGC campaigns have been extremely rewarding. For example there was the Mitsubishi Love that Car competition, where owners sent in unique videos of themselves finishing with them polishing their car’s Mitsubishi badge.

One of the best examples is a local one…

Most people know the Tourism Queensland campaign, where instead of focusing on promoting island tourism, they chose to promote “The Best Job in the World.” This was an island caretaker position that included the rigorous job of snorkelling, feeding fish, and blogging about it.

For a global marketing campaign, their $1.2 million budget would be considered downright miniscule. However, TQ received 35,000 applicants, which were narrowed by public vote to sixteen. The final sixteen contestants were flown to Queensland and one lucky U.K. winner received the job, which paid about $75,000 for the six-month position. But, even more impressive than the number of applicants was the amount of media attention generated by the campaign. The campaign was covered by major outlets like BBC and CNN, receiving an estimated $368 million in media coverage and reaching a global audience of three billion. Tourism Queensland received more than 8.4 million website visits and 55 million page views.

Even brands reluctant to relinquish all marketing power can take notes from Tourism Queensland, as the company still maintained some level of control over the ultimate prize winner. This campaign makes for an excellent case study for brands looking to make a huge splash in global media on a relatively small budget. The results from Tourism Queensland’s campaign prove that when it comes to UGC, the concept is more important than the budget.

So what do the successful UGC campaigns have in common? Well both cases submissions were moderated and they didn’t accept submissions directly through social media or YouTube. Despite this, it is possible to have some really positive campaigns that don’t require complete control. But, any competition in an open, social space must be very carefully thought out in order to prevent negativity. And with so many advertising options in the market place it’s not the end of the world if UGC doesn’t suit your brand or product.

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