Let’s get this out of the way: 2020 has been a nightmare. You’re all stressed. Overworked. Struggling to get everything done – often with few resources and less support.
Nevertheless, the content marketing show must go on. Your organization depends on the connections your content creates. Your audiences want your guidance, ideas, and insights to help them do their jobs, reach their goals, and find moments of inspiration in a world gone mad.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting on your own. Many brands have legions of fans and followers who are more than willing to share their ideas, take part in content initiatives, or even create content on the brands’ behalf. Some do it without any provocation.
User-generated content (UGC) campaigns put all that passion, knowledge, and artistic talent on display for others to see, learn from, and enjoy.
One of the easiest ways to get started with UGC is to collect user reviews, product videos, brand-centric memes, or other assets your fans post. You can use social monitoring tools to surface relevant conversations and creative expressions, then ask the creator for permission to republish on your content channels.
But you also can take a more direct and customized approach to UGC: Ask your followers to send their contributions to you or tag you with a specific hashtag.
Here are a few standout examples of brands involving their audiences in their content and benefiting from their passion – sometimes, without any effort at all.
Instant Pot taps its community’s culinary expertise
Instant Pot is a brand that knows a thing or two about saving time in the kitchen. It’s also savvy about using cooking tips, food pics, and recipe submissions from its culinary community to fill its channels with valuable content.
On the Instant Pot blog and mobile app, the brand features recipes from cooking fans (amateur and professional):
On its Instagram page, the brand highlights photo submissions and personal stories from fans who enjoy some of its other kitchen appliances:
Instant Pot also does something that takes its UGC efforts to the next level: It compiles recipes from its community chefs and publishes them to sell, enabling authorized Instant Pot experts to monetize their contributions through book sales (in both print and Kindle versions) on Amazon.
National Geographic creates a landscape of exciting explorations
National Geographic is famous for putting the beauty of the natural world on full display. But its staff photographers and stringers can’t be everywhere at once. The NatGeoTravel Instagram account encourages fans to send in their favorite travel snapshots along with a photo credit and a story about how the image was captured.
Aviation Gin trades tags for a taste of fame
Before co-owner Ryan Reynolds sold his adult beverage brand (for a cool $610M), he frequently used Aviation Gin’s Instagram page to solicit fan cocktail ideas and photo submissions, which were shared alongside a shoutout delivered in Ryan’s signature snarky style.
While the actor may have moved his promotional focus to Mint-ier pastures, Aviation’s marketing team still follows its original UGC-centric recipe as evidenced by its recent #AviationGinDoggyBottle giveaway launched on National Dog Day. Followers who tagged their friends (4-legged or otherwise) on the post were entered to win pet-safe Aviation swag, along with a personal mention in the brand’s Instagram Stories.
In addition to soliciting creative contributions, marketers can co-create content with their most active community members and brand fans. While this UGC typically requires more legwork and budget, the resulting stories can have a longer shelf life – and a more meaningful impact on both the audience and the business.
e.l.f. Cosmetics inspires consumers with a musical remix
Last fall, e.l.f. Cosmetics launched its #eyeslipsface campaign – inviting TikTok users to show off their makeup talents to the tune of an original, 15-second music track produced for the challenge. As Carina Rampelt writes, the initial video garnered 2.5 billion views in the first two weeks and sparked over 3 million user-generated videos. It also got an unsolicited boost from celebrities who wanted to join in the fun:@hairbyaliciawebSuper Blonde Start To Finish 🤩#fyp #eyeslipsface #foryoupage♬ eyes. lips. face. (feat. Holla FyeSixWun) – iLL Wayno
Sephora shines a spotlight on social ambassadorship
Sephora is another cosmetics brand that frequently takes to social media to share makeup tips from consumers and professional cosmeticians in its community. But the company also makes a concerted effort to celebrate diverse perspectives on beauty through an open call for inspiring ambassadors.
The #SephoraSquad program accepts applications from “emboldened beauty influencers” eager to share their personal beauty truths, start thoughtful conversations, and help others in the community feel more confident in their own skin. To fuel their content contributions, squad members receive rewards, from peer and professional coaching to invitations to exclusive networking events and early access to new products.
Visit Bloomington mobilizes the community to support local businesses
Like many smaller U.S. cities and towns, Bloomington, Indiana’s downtown businesses took a big hit as COVID-19 kept customers away. This past summer, the district got much-needed support thanks to Visit Bloomington’s B-Town Summer Challenge.
Players could download or pick up a copy of the activities checklist (below). The tasks included things like ordering food from local restaurants, visiting a hiking trail or dog park, supporting the local arts scene, enjoying a spa treatment, and more.
To make participation easier and more comfortable, Visit Bloomington included a mix of paid and free tasks, most of which were social-distancing friendly. To complete their entries, participants were asked to post selfies of their adventures on social media, using the branded hashtag, #btownchallenge. (Prize drawings were held weekly for entrants who completed at least one task in every category.)
Taco Bell Quarterly reigns (nachos) supreme by feeding artists’ passion
If you keep a close eye on the customer conversations around your brand (and you should), you just might discover UGC opportunities. Take literary magazine Taco Bell Quarterly, for example. Yes, you read that right: It’s a digital compendium of love poems, essays, short stories, and photography inspired by the Bell and written by its fans.
This fan-created effort remains independent of the brand. Much of the content is a bit too, er, spicy for Taco Bell (or the Content Marketing Institute, for that matter) to officially sanction or share, but there’s plenty for devotees to sink their teeth into.
It seems the Bell may be taking notice: Founder and “Editor Grande Supreme” MM Carrigan tells Vox that Taco Bell has been in touch and they are exploring opportunities to collaborate on content.
Does your audience have passion to spare and content to share?
To get consumers more deeply invested in engaging with your brand’s content, why not give them a role to play in creating it? Not only can UGC campaigns help your team fill multiple channels with relatable stories and personalized conversations, they’re a great way to recognize and thank your community members for their support.
We’d love your help in creating content for CMI’s new Weekly Wrap blog post. Each Friday, we share three things observed in content marketing – examples (good and bad), research, news, etc. Can we share one thing you’ve seen? Fill out this form or email us at [email protected].
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute