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How to Integrate User-Generated Content into a Social Media Strategy

Thanks to social and digital media, customers are broadcasting their experiences with brands more than ever before. Consumers are generating content about their shopping habits and purchasing decisions across the social web.

It’s not just a Consumer Report rating or a newspaper critic’s review that now influence customers. It’s the opinion of existing customers that future customers rely on. Nielsen reported that audiences trust consumer opinions posted online more than editorial reviews or TV advertising. User generated content is here to stay and it’s only going to get bigger.

You probably know the impact of a positive Yelp Review or a stellar Instagram photo for your business. But how do you integrate user generated content into an effective social media strategy?

Here are 3 case studies from 3 brands taking advantage of user generated content in smart and savvy ways.  

1. Ford’s “Fiesta Movement”

It was no coincidence that Ford launched their entirely user-generated content plans for the 2014 Fiesta model during Social Media Week. The brand recruited 100 social and tech-savvy individuals to be brand ambassadors.

Referred to as “agents,” the recruits were provided with a brand-new 2014 Ford Fiesta and equipment to document their experiences. Over eight months, the agents posted photos & videos across YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs as well as being featured on a dedicated site.

Agents were assigned activities called “missions” which included attending the Bonnaroo music festival, going to a pro-surf competition, and even visiting the sets of American Idol and the Vampire Diaries — share-worthy events for social media.

The result? Humorous videos, captivating images and compelling stories that authentically integrated the brand into an adventurous and aspirational lifestyle. And of course plenty of organic media impressions to get the attention and approval of millennials, the car’s market audience.

The brand cleverly leveraged user generated content by incorporating interests and lifestyle of their target demographic. Ford made the effort to reach their new audience in agile & accessible ways. Ford showed that to run a successful user generated campaign it’s about recruiting savvy super fans, tapping cross promotional events, and playing into their core demographic’s passions.  

2. Bauble Bar’s “The Download”

One brand actively asking for content from their fans is the women’s accessory line, Bauble Bar. The brand showcases user generated content via “The Download,” a widget on their website that aggregates images their customers upload on social media.

Described with the fitting tagline “turn that selfie into sparkle,” Bauble Bar encourages customers to tag images of themselves in their purchases for the chance to win $100 to spend on the site.

The Download is a perfect balance of community and competition and it is a formula that works. In just two months of platform’s launch, the brand saw over 21,000 images submitted and 300,000 unique visitors.

Recently, Bauble Bar founder Danielle Yacobovsky revealed that when site visitors interact with The Download, they see a 2.5 percent higher conversion rate than those who don’t. It’s no longer the brand advertising to the customer. Instead, it’s customers speaking directly to other customers.

Customers see how the product can be worn and styled in realistic and accessible ways, creating positive conversation with fans and plenty of digital collateral for the brand.

3. Disney’s Vine Your Side

When Disney Parks launched their Vine account they sought help from existing Vine enthusiasts. The resort asked Viners to create a six-second film that expressed their unique interest in the park that they would feature daily on the brand’s channel, account, blog & webpage.

If selected, entrants would receive $1,000 and another chance to win $10,000 commission for a small Vine series. Vines were chosen every day for an entire month, which allowed for campaign momentum to build and word of mouth to escalate.

Disney added another collaborative component to the campaign by teaming up with a handful of Vine personalities and online videographers to judge submissions. The extra element elevated the competition out of the brands hands & back to the platform’s user.

These 3 examples demonstrate that to successfully leverage user generated content, it is about placing the customer experience first. It is about drawing out your customer’s personality, voice and perspective.

When thinking about how you want to get your customers involved, consider what you can offer them in exchange. Don’t expect fans to work for you for free. Come up with an incentive that is relative to your business. While Disney doled out a whopping $1,000 for featured Vines, Bauble Bar rewards selected fans with a $100 gift certificate.

In addition, great user generated content incorporates the interests and lifestyle associated with your customer in a collaborative and conversational format. Ford went to where their target customer was offline to help get results online. Find out what your customer is excited by and find ways to integrate that energy into share worthy and social media friendly experiences.

Remember, results don’t happen overnight. Disney ran their campaign for a month, Ford’s and Bauble Bar’s are ongoing. Be consistent in your strategy and show you care about maintaining an ongoing dialogue with your customers.

Melissa De Witte is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Melissa has an advanced degree in media, culture, and communication from New York University; and she previously worked for the Financial Times. You can follow her on Twitter at @melissadewitte.