Delusions of User Generated Content

Last Updated: January 18, 2020

User Generated Content Marketing

User generated content seems to be at the heart of many recent social media campaigns, perhaps in the wake of the content marketing movement (read: What is Content Marketing). Implementation varies depending on the creativity and resources of the brand, ranging from “Submit your story / picture / video” to elaborate campaigns involving multiple contests and big payoffs, much like Doritos’ Crash the SuperBowl.

The concept of having your fans create positive content for your brand is really the holy grail of online engagement. It has the power to turn users, consumers and visitors into zealots and evangelists. In fact, this is one of the triggers discussed in detail in my upcoming book. (brief overview).

That said, we still see businesses struggling with this idea. Most of the time, they’ll try to get users to submit stories about their awesome experience, or happy pictures of them using the product or service. Sometimes, we get to witness a very public backfire like the recent McDonalds Twitter fail. Most of time though, nothing happens. No submissions, no photos, no stories or videos. So, this grandiose idea of creating a place where customers flock to tell everyone how much they love your brand is often nothing more then a delusion of a marketing manager who thought they could be the next FritoLay.

So, how DO you go about building user-generated content? Here are three simple ideas that will help you get started:


1. Understand Your Audience

Marketers will often start in the middle of the planning process, focusing on the campaign and all the cool new technology (Pinterest anyone?) that will net them unprecedented success… sometimes forgetting to truly understand their target audience. Do they post a lot of photos? Are they active on Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest? Are they eco-conscious? Do they travel a lot (in which case, you may consider utilizing a mobile platform)? Has your intended audience changed since the last campaign?  I’ve been singing the gospel of Marketing Personas for a while now and recently came across a really simple game that can really help you dial into your  customer’s mind called Empahy Map. You can check out this link for more detail.


2. The PayOff

By understanding your audience, you should also begin to understand their needs, wants, dreams and passions. Based on those – we create a PayOff. You can think about this as a nice, big piece of cheese at the end of a maze. Fact is, no one will consider lifting a finger for a 15% off coupon or something equally uninspiring. But cater to their personal dreams and offer a 5 day cruise in the Greek Islands and watch the engagement skyrocket. Now, it’s important to mention that it’s not all extrinsic rewards and prizes. They can be intrinsic and self-gratifying. Sometimes the PayOff can simply be a public recognition of efforts. Perhaps you use the submitted content in a highly visible way on your website or marketing material. Perhaps you give that one person the reigns of your online community and make them an administrator? Put yourself in your your audience’s shoes and ask: WHY would I do this?


3. The Challenge

Finally, you have to build a Challenge in order to receive the PayOff. This is simply accomplished with two notions. Making the challenge relevant to your audience and balancing it with the PayOff. For example, you wouldn’t ask  young families to submit their clubbing pictures from Friday night  but you could ask them to share their travel experience with a young child. Balancing the challenge with the payoff really boils down to not making it too simple or too complex. For example, you could ask young professionals to submit a 3o second video describing why they would be the best choice as your next PR representative but asking them to build a space shuttle model out of toothpicks and making a 10 minute documentary about it may be a bit ludicrous.

That’s it. Hope it helps :) I leave you with a Dorito’s user generated video submission that has already seen TV play.



– Ernest // Follow me on Twitter

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