Fuel Social Marketing With User Generated Content

June 10, 2016
Contributor: Chris Pemberton

Curation, cultivation and permission are the core of a strong social content plan.

Today’s social marketer faces a daunting challenge: how to generate content that drives awareness and conversion without significant advertising dollars to an audience that is oversaturated and difficult to reach? One global airline answered this challenge by turning to user generated content (UGC). The company curated and republished content that aligned to its social marketing strategy and grew the quantity of content it published. Engagement with this content was consistently higher than their brand-developed content.

“84% of millennials say UGC from strangers has at least some influence on what they buy.”

The effective use of UGC requires a solid social marketing strategy supported by a social content strategy, noted Jay Wilson, research director, Gartner for Marketing Leaders. It also requires firm understanding of permission best practices to stay on the right side of the legal and reputational line.

Follow these three tenets to leverage the full power of UGC and avoid the perils of consent issues.

Clarify the role of user content

UGC is particularly suited to driving consideration and conversion given its authenticity. 84% of millennials say UGC from strangers has at least some influence on what they buy. The PGA Tour Superstore launched a UGC-driven holiday gift guide that converted at a 40% higher rate. Revisit your social marketing strategy and the content pillars that support it to determine where UGC can add authenticity and scale to your efforts.

Cultivate and curate

Curating UGC is straightforward. Use social listening tools to identify relevant content on the social Web and republish it to your audience. The global airline that aligned UGC efforts to their broader social marketing efforts did so by focusing on three key topic areas: positive customer testimonials, travel stories about destinations and trending news relevant for its brand. Their agency set aside an hour a day to curate relevant content.

“Test curating UGC content relevant to your brand on one or two social networks and see what works.”

Cultivation focuses on encouraging your customers to create and share content as part of a campaign-based initiative. Cultivating content requires planning to execute properly and avoid risk. Test curating UGC content relevant to your brand on one or two social networks and see what works. Determine where UGC can deliver against a specific business objective, such as increasing engagement with a niche target audience, and develop a campaign to cultivate that content.

Whether curating or cultivating user content, it’s important to develop consistent permission guidelines for implied or express consent.

Formulate guidelines

There’s a difference between implied and express consent as they relate to marketing initiatives.

Consent for curation

Since curating UGC means finding the content “in the wild” without any specific brand guidance, this type of content typically requires express consent where a user gives direct permission to a marketer to use a specific piece of content for a specific purpose.

Consent for cultivation

Since cultivating UGC means marketers proactively ask users to generate content with the anticipation it will be republished, there is implied consent that the content will be used by the marketer. Unique campaign hashtags have the benefit of implying that a user is submitting content for the campaign.

In general it’s easier to curate a piece of content than cultivate the creation of content but more work to get the express permission to use that curated content than implied consent for the cultivated piece of content. It is a best practice, once implied or express consent is satisfied, to credit the user who created the content wherever it is republished.

Mr. Wilson said that it’s important to obtain proper guidance from your legal teams prior to repurposing any UGC as part of an advertising or marketing effort.

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