User-generated content campaigns are happening all around you. Every single day. Every single second.

Many forms of user-generated content are so much a part of our daily existence; we don’t even really acknowledge them as UGC examples anymore.

For example:

But Wait….There’s More…

No doubt creating user-generated content is a way of life for many of us. It’s both a habit and a responsibility in our daily lives.

As well as the daily lives of a large portion of the world’s population.

About 40 percent of the global population uses social media.

Which is an incredible statistic itself, but becomes mind-boggling when you realize those numbers break down to show there are 3.028 billion active social media users in the world and only 3.819 people with internet access.

Take a minute and think about that while you look at this break down of users and activities from a recent collaborative report done by HootSuite and We Are Social and published by Next Web.

Mind. Blown.


Now pick up the pieces of your exploding brain and let’s look at how we can leverage all these fabulously interactive consumers.

Consumers who use social media and are already talking about our brand and those of our competitors.

Let’s look at how to create successful user-generated campaigns for your organization.

  • Today we talk about how to set the playing field, create your campaign, and find micro-influencers.
  • Next week we review how to execute it with the PESO Model™ and what to measure.
  • Week three we dig into the fun stuff: legal and technical issues. Woo hoo!

Let’s Talk About Goals, Baby

Salt-N-Pepper want to help make sure you don’t fall victim to one of the biggest mistakes marketers make when integrating a user-generated content campaign into their PR plan.

Not have clear goals and objectives for the campaign.

As with any other tactic, a user-generated content campaign must be part of PR strategy with clear goals and objectives.

So yay! You want to launch a user-generated content campaign. Great idea.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • How will this get you closer to the goals and objectives of your larger PR plan?
  • What are the objectives of this individual campaign?
  • How will you measure success?
  • Does this work in a consistent and cohesive manner with other campaigns you have in motion or planned across all four media types?

Your answers to these questions help you make sure your campaign is focused, strategic, and measurable.

They’ll also help you create a campaign which aligns with your brand voice and message.

If the user-generated content campaign you hope to execute doesn’t align when you apply these questions to it, you need to tweak.

Set the Stage for Your User-Generated Content Campaign

Your idea passed the PR plan smell test! Congrats!

Now it’s time to flesh out the details.

Shared media will a primary channel for your user-generated content campaign, so it’s a good place to start.

This is true even if you decide to host it on an owned property and have people submit content to a website or blog.

So the first question is, what social platforms should be part of your user-generated content campaign?

While some campaigns can certainly be pushed across all networks, if you are just starting out with user-generated content and/or don’t have a huge budget and comms staff to execute, you want to focus your power on the social network that will be most effective.

Take a look at your Google Analytics and see what social network refers the most engaged traffic to your site.

This is important.

You don’t just want a network that refers a lot of traffic, you want to see engaged traffic.

So they should be staying on your site for long enough to read articles and visiting a few pages.

That network should be where you host or focus the distribution of your user-generated content campaign.

Design Your Campaign

Here is where we go back to goals and objectives. These will help you design how our campaign works.

The great thing about user-generated content campaigns is they can take endless forms.

The bad thing is they can take endless forms.

You MUST anchor your campaign design around your goals and objectives.

UGC Examples Everywhere

Remember, user-generated content doesn’t have to be a full-scale brand ambassador program.

It can be simple, small, “calls for engagement.”

User-generated content marketing can be performed across multiple digital platforms in a variety of different ways.

Some examples might include:

  • Video or photo of them interacting with your brand or product in some way, such as this awesome bed-jumping campaign by, or of course the famous GoPro videos.
  • Video or photo about a related topic or theme for your brand, like this example from The Guardian.
  • Choose a customer each month to do a “day in a life” video or interview, focused on how they use your product/service in their daily life (both in expected and unexpected ways).
  • Video testimonial.
  • Video jingle they create about your brand, such as SafeAuto Insurance.
  • Twitter contests, such as The Qatar Air Tweet-a-Meet.
  • A post-sale/visit survey or feedback form.
  • An email thank you with a link to your active review sites (Yelp, Amazon, Google). This may or may not include an incentive to do so.
  • An invitation to join a customer-only LinkedIn or Facebook Group, Twitter Chat, or online forum.
  • A community “Question of the Week” posted on your most popular social network.
  • (Extra credit: turn the answers into a blog post at the end of the week and start the discussion on your own website all over again.)

You can find more good UGC examples here, here, here, or here. Or just watch and learn from some of your favorite brands.

Prep the Playing Field

Before you launch into a large scale energy and resource demanding UGC campaign, you need to do some smaller tests.

This will help you get a feel for what type of content people most enjoy sharing and engaging with, as well as help you identify micro-influencers to further nurture (more on that later).

Start with small asks:

  • Share a photo of…. and tag your brand hand
  • Tag a friend that needs……
  • Caption this…

After each, you need to measure participation and engagement.

You’ll start to see trends you can use in the development of your larger campaign.

You also want to start noting who engages with you most and in a way that seems to both capture your message and resonate with other users.

How to Find Micro-Influencers

These people are your micro-influencers.

A large amount of the value from user-generated content comes from the power of micro-influencers.

Once you design your user-generated content campaign you need to look for and nurture your micro-influencers.

Micro-influencers are influencers for your brand, who may not have large followings or be big names.

What they do have is more important.

They hold credibility and trust among your target audience.

These could be your target consumer’s peers, friends, or simply influencers they’ve met and trust in the space.

When they participate in your user-generated content campaign or engage with your content, they also provide an implied (or sometimes direct) endorsement of your brand.

For your campaign to be successful, you need them on your side.

Active and engaged.

A goal for each of your tests and campaigns should be to identify micro-influencers.

Engage and Nurture Micro-Influencers

Once you do you want to continue to engage with them in larger and large ways.

Move them through your funnel.

  • Think about retargeting them with a special offer or opportunity
  • Reach out to them personally to thank them and/or offer them something special
  • Engage with their posts (not just the ones about your brand)
  • Reshare (with permission) something they’ve posted about you

The goal is to continue to build a deeper relationship with them.

Choose the Right Hashtag

While types of campaigns might vary, one thing that remains consistent across all user-generated content campaigns is the use of a hashtag.

A hashtag is important for:

  • Legal reasons, especially in the case of a contest or repurposing content.
  • Measurement
  • Threading together a story
  • Helping people find you and your campaign
  • Helping you find micro-influencers
  • Campaign continuity
  • Campaign branding

One thing you want to make certain is your chosen hashtag clearly identifies your brand in some way.

That way when people see others post the hashtag on a posted piece of user-generated content, they can connect it back to you with little difficulty.

User-Generated Content is Already Part of Your Business

Feeling nervous?

User-generated content takes a special role in every business operating today.

No matter if your organization intentionally operates as a “social business” or not, user-generated content will affect you substantially.

Whether through reviews, feedback, collaboration, discussion, or one of a million other creative user-generated content ideas, it is a mistake not to use user-generated content as part of your PR plan

This means your consumers and surrounding community ARE going to be a part of your organization (and the message you distribute). It doesn’t matter whether you actively facilitate it or not.

Like most things in communications, the best choice is to be on the offensive side of the coin and embrace and employ these new “team members.”

The Puppy in the Room

When you raise a puppy (or child, but I only have experience with puppies) you quickly realize if you don’t give the adorable little monsters something to keep them busy (thank you peanut butter-filled KONGs), they will find something… and often it is not what you might have chosen, or approve (such as a head of cauliflower or Kenneth Cole shoes).

Customers are like puppies.

They want to be active and involved with the organizations they do business with and purchase from.

If you don’t give them a way to direct this engaged energy, they will find a way. A way which may or may not be beneficial for your goals.

Give that customer a KONG.

User-generated Content IS Right for Your Organization

There are endless ways, big and small, simple and more elaborate for every brand to embrace the power of user-generated content.

Next week we will dive into the details of campaign execution using the PESO model.

So don’t feel stressed if you aren’t confident about how to execute your campaign yet.

For this week, focus on the steps above and post your questions below or in our Slack Group.

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

View all posts by Laura Petrolino