Laura Petrolino

The Magic of User-Generated Content for Your Business

By: Laura Petrolino | July 30, 2014 | 

The Magic of User-Generated Content for Your Business

Dreams are like user-generated content from your brain.

If only it was easier to capture them. You know when you wake up in the middle of the night with a

You know when you wake up in the middle of the night with a brain-busting, crazy, amazing idea, and you think to yourself, “Ok self, make sure you remember this idea in the morning because this sucker is GOLDEN.”

And then morning comes.

And sometime in the remaining hours of sleep, your brain, in an attempt to keep you imprisoned in your normal (only moderately enlightened) life, erased your golden ticket idea.

You are left with only fragments of non-substantial, often non-coherent nothingness that simply serve to remind you of the awesome idea you once had.

This happens to me at least once a week.

User-Generated Content to the Rescue

In fact, if I remembered even .3 percent of the amazing ideas I have in the middle of the night, children would surely be already learning about my wonders in history books. Alas….

A few weeks ago, I had a mid-night idea about a blog post. Afraid I’d forget, I wrote down three words: Gorilla, swing dance, and propaganda.

Upon waking, I had absolutely zero idea what in the world that meant, or how those things fit together in any way what so ever.

So our fearless leader, otherwise known as Gini Dietrich, suggested I crowdsource it on Facebook.

Screenshot 2014-07-23 16.23.12

The results were magical.

Unsurprisingly, my Facebook connections, many of whom are part of this community, came up with the most insightful, clever, and downright hilarious responses.

They helped me figure out how I could bring these three things together in a blog post. And my idea of a three-part series on gorilla swing dance habits was nixed, it was so much fun to hear the ideas.

And that, my friends, is the beauty of user-generated content.

User-Generated Content is Already Part of Your Business

User-generated content takes a special role for 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.

This 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).

And if all else fails, just ask them to post pictures of their pets or babies… works every time!

Take Your User-Generated Content Further with the PESO Model

Make sure to extend all user-generated content campaigns across the four media types in the PESO model.

For example: Repurpose consumer submitted photos into a video montage or onsite infographic. The resulting visual collateral is made into a blog post and redistributed through social. The blog post or video includes CTAs to capture leads and then emailed out to your database. Oh and don’t forget the CTA at the end to collect leads.

  • Repurpose consumer submitted photos into a video montage or onsite infographic. The resulting visual collateral is made into a blog post and redistributed through social. The blog post or video includes CTAs to capture leads and then emailed out to your database. Oh and don’t forget the CTA at the end to collect leads.
  • Repurpose consumer submitted photos into a video montage or onsite infographic.
  • The resulting visual collateral is made into a blog post and redistributed through social.
  • The blog post or video includes CTAs to capture leads and then emailed out to your database. Oh and don’t forget the CTA at the end to collect leads.
  • Share the video (if you make a video) as a stand-alone on Facebook and retarget viewers with Facebook ads for content related to the topic matter that answers a question or solves a problem.

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

What are some of your favorite ways to use this interactive communications tactic?

P.S. For those playing along at home, the fearless leader aforementioned discusses these issues and opportunities in more detail in chapter seven of Spin Sucks.

About Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks.

  • I’m VERY afraid of your video that’s coming out later. LOL It’s amazing how simple i t is to get customers involved, eh? Funny how we tend to ‘shy away from simple’, somehow thinking that BIG and COMPLICATED equals BETTER and MORE EFFECTIVE!! No so at all. Great post, LP! #stillworriedaboutvideo

  • EmilyNKantner

    Now I’m picturing what kind of puppy each customer would be…

  • And was this sleep with or without the air mattress?

    We did a little of this with some of our customers and it was very simple and very well received. Unfortunately, our IT guy was the creative one and he’s no longer with us and I’m much too lazy to pull this off. In fact, I was somewhat challenged helping you with the video but after 27 takes I was able to pull it off. It was fun and thanks for asking me to play because I’m all about the fun….

  • bdorman264 The Florida Crazies were STRONG in that video! 🙂

  • belllindsay #EmbraceTheVideo

  • Great post, Laura (and packs a double punch when paired with the “famous” video!!). As a consumer, I am all about creating user generated content, as you said — with or without guidance/requests from the vendor. Since I work with a lot of causes that have limited budget and limited staff resources, the main thing I will say I want when being asked to create UGC is to make it easy — give me bullet points, be clear about what hashtag you want me to use as well as timelines — it’s frustrating to create something just to learn the target time has passed or the submission window – even if it is a 15 second video it’s still my time and heart (and, of course, flowing green ink 🙂 ).

  • DickCarlson

    I tried the “writing things down on paper while sleeping” thing with the same result.  So I put my little digital voice recorder on the nightstand.  Had a great idea, recorded the whole thing, and it was just “blah blah blah” and made absolutely no sense at all.

  • and just as a side comment … are “side notes” gone? (b/c this post was kind of begging for some parenthetical commentary) 🙂

  • Laura Petrolino

    nine out of ten gorillas give this post two thumbs up!

  • Laura Petrolino

    nine out of ten gorillas give this post two thumbs up!

  • while swing dancing!

  • I remember my first editing, and then later, my first publishing positions were at small town weeklies.

    At those papers, we’d print maybe 36-40 pages a week, perhaps more. Of those pages, maybe 6 or 8 were generated by staff – reporters, sports reporters, etc. Everything else was generated by the readers (users).

    It worked for a simple reason: People just like you and me are relaying information that we might be interested in. Amazingly simple and amazingly effective, but so many marketers today are making it far more complicated than it need be.

  • biggreenpen @laurapetrolino I noticed that, too!

  • This is making my head swirl with ideas…note to self – puppies, engagement & SpinKONG! 😉

  • Who the (insert Spin Sucks approved word here) is the 10th gorilla? 😉

  • lizreusswig HAHAHAHA! OMG! SpinKONG! We really should see about a KONG sponsorship for this!

  • ClayMorgan That is such a fantastic example of UGC in action (that people probably don’t think of)

  • biggreenpen That’s a really good point. Make it easy for both sides of the equation!

  • LauraPetrolino lizreusswig I can think of some awesome spokesDOG candidates…

  • lizreusswig biggreenpen it looks like they’ve been gone all week. belllindsay is that on our end or LiveFyre?

  • biggreenpen bdorman264 Too bad @LauraPetrolino bailed on us, be we did have to represent, right?

  • LauraPetrolino lizreusswig biggreenpen belllindsay FINALLY something that is not an IE9 issue (not that I have those anymore, I just need to trot out the old joke occasionally) 😉

  • biggreenpen bdorman264 I can totally teach you how to do the video montage thing if you are interested Bill! It’s super easy with iMovie! What did you have your customers contribute? I think this is a great example that ANY industry can take advantage of UGC. 

    And thank you for being a star! I hope the paparazzi aren’t too pesky for you!

  • bdorman264 biggreenpen YEAH … it’s a heavier load to bear without her but we are managing #SIGH

  • bdorman264 biggreenpen I’ll come back and visit this winter and we can do a Florida reunion video. We need to get AmyMccTobin in on it too!

  • biggreenpen bdorman264 HAHAHAHA! Soooo melodramatic…I like it! 🙂

  • EmilyNKantner HAHAHAHA! I love it Emily! That’s actually a good idea. It’s like the canine version of buyer personas!

  • belllindsay Don’t fear your stardom Lindsay! It was bound to happen eventually.

  • LauraPetrolino bdorman264 biggreenpen AmyMccTobin I am the DIRECTOR!!!!

  • AmyMccTobin LauraPetrolino bdorman264 biggreenpen AmyMccTobin Exactly! We are nothing without you!

  • LauraPetrolino lizreusswig biggreenpen That’s our end, yes. 🙂

  • LauraPetrolino AmyMccTobin bdorman264 biggreenpen AmyMccTobin DO. NOT. TEASE. ME. about the Florida reunion. At Legoland, right?

  • JoshuaJLight

    You should post all of the comments 🙂

  • patmrhoads

    Am I the only one that read the line “Give that customer a LONG”, and pictured people in business attire curled on the floor holding a kong and trying to lick peanut butter (the kong filling of choice in our house) out of it? Yes, that’s just my weird brain. Hmm, figures.

    On a more serious note, I myself use the “Question of the week” on my nonprofit’s Facebook page, and have had some great success with that. The challenge with that one is finding an engaging, and predominantly relevant question or topic to ask about every week of the year. We throw in a few non-related questions now and the to keep it fun, but I feel like I need to keep the conversations more or less focused on the reason people engage with our page to begin with (it’s a nonprofit in the foster care and adoption field). Anyone have any additional thoughts or ideas on how to keep the content fresh and relevant? I will say that we have occasionally thrown in a “what would you like to see asked here?”, basically using UGC to help us generate UGC.

  • patmrhoads UGC on UGC on UGC, I like it!

    When we’ve utilized the Question of the Week technique before, a few things help:

    -Get your team together and spend 30 minutes just brainstorming questions. Often the collaboration of hearing other people’s thoughts is really effective.
    -Think about what are common questions, concerns, myths that come up in the adoption and foster care field. 
    -What surprises most people? What don’t they expect?
    -What are some of the most difficult things to deal with?
    -What are “day in the life” questions that your community might have, or want to share?
    -What are the issues where your community need the most support, both emotional and educational. 
    -How about parenting questions, specifically questions that foster parents could only get from other’s that have gone through it?
    -What have you learned from being in this field?
    -Why questions? What motivates you? Why did you decide this? Why are you feeling this way? Why do you struggle with this? 

    Stuff like that….

    Also, don’t be afraid to ask the same question worded differently. Sometimes choosing different framing can provide a whole wealth of new answers.

  • JoshuaJLight I should! I’ll go back and find it and post them up. Some of them were totally awesome and clever.

  • You might want to re-read your blog post. I may have taken some editorial liberties.

  • patmrhoads LMAO!!

  • LauraPetrolino JoshuaJLight NO!

  • DickCarlson You can write while you sleep??

  • bdorman264 Bwahahaha!

  • ginidietrich oh dear…..reading now!

  • ginidietrich HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! OMG! I’m totally dying! #firstworldcauliflowerproblems! 

    Man, my dog is such a special chap! It’s still just disgustingly mind-boggling why he is so obsessed with cruciferous vegetables!!!

  • patmrhoads

    Of course, NOW I notice that I typo-ed LONG where it’s supposed to say KONG. Duh.

  • patmrhoads HAHA! Well, since you are a Peanut Butter KONG household we will let it slide, since obviously you have shown your exceptional intelligence in other ways 😉

  • patmrhoads

    LauraPetrolino I’ve used some of those ideas before, but some of them I hadn’t thought of. So a big thanks for the additional food for thought!

  • LauraPetrolino We insure a couple of local ‘attractions,’ Historic Bok Sanctuary & Tower and Fantasy of Flight and it was more of a behind the scenes loss control visit but got some great shots and put it into a video. Once the customer saw it, they loved it and let us publish it on our networks. 

    The Tower is not open to the public and not many get to go inside and we had some shots of that and the view from the top. 

    If you look at Our Video page, one of the YouTube’s is of the Tower:

  • JoshuaJLight

    ginidietrich LauraPetrolino JoshuaJLight haha.  Looks like I’m causing all kinds of problems 🙂

  • LauraPetrolino LOL!!

  • These are great ideas!! Peanut butter kongs soothe the not-so-savage beast. I also write things down on paper next to my bed in the middle of the night.

  • Gini Dietrich

    Oh dear.

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