In traditional media consumers had a passive role towards advertising. The communication promoted by brands and corporations was a one-way street, with a message from a vehicle simply being delivered to an audience. Websites, blogs and social media platforms have made possible to the general population also to create and share content, moving away from a world in which some produce and many consume media toward one in which everyone has a more active stake in the content that is produced (Jenkins, 2006).
These new possibilities have a strong impact not only on individuals’ practices in terms content creation and distribution, but also for organizations’ marketing and public relations strategies. Recent statistics show that:
- 70% percent of consumers place peer recommendations and reviews above professionally written content;
- 86% of millennials say that user-generated content is generally a good indicator of the quality of a brand or service;
- Brand engagements rise by 28% when consumers are exposed to both professional content and user-generated product video.
(Source: Direct Marketing News, 2015)
From the marketing and business perspective, this clearly shows that traditional advertising is not enough, and promoting audience’s participation and engagement is not only a nice to have tactic, but a mandatory strategy to be considered by corporations. In the book Understanding Social Media, Hinton and Hjorth (2013) explore the concepts of User Generated Content (UGC) and User Created Content (UCC), as well as their role and relevance in the new market environment.
According to the authors, User Generated Content (UGC) occurs when users forward existing content, which was originally created by another person or company. That’s what we commonly call the content that goes “viral”. Many companies create whole campaigns and strategies based on creating seeding content to be shared by customers or the general public. Obviously, no company can guarantee their strategy will work and that content will be spontaneously shared by a large number of people, however forwarding content does not require a strong engagement by the audience and can be achieved if the content is well planned, creative and engaging.
User Created Content (UCC), on the other hand, is defined by the content personally created by the user and shared on social media, showing a superior level of engagement. According to Deize (2006), the need to capture and share content is part of human behaviour since the dawn of man. He argues that the level of participatory production within the media system has increased in the last century and new technologies like mobile devices and wireless Internet facilitate and accelerate these practices.
As an example of the growth of these practices in social media, I will present two successful marketing campaigns based on User Created Content, showing the clear benefits that they brought in terms of awareness, brandings and measurable sales results.
Startbucks White Cup Contest
In 2014 the American chain Starbucks launched the White Cup Contest. According to the company, the idea came from customers’ suggestions on their social media pages, saying that the Startbucks traditional cup was “too white” and could be used as a canvas for drawing and painting. Based on this feedback, the contest was created in order to bring out the creative side of their customers.
To participate, individuals should draw in a Starbucks cup and post the picture on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #WhiteCupContest. They could draw whatever they wanted, as long as they didn’t modify the logo (of course) and included the logo on the pictures (of course, again!).
The winner would have their version printed out in Startbucks’ reusable cup and sold online in a limited edition. Even though that was no monetary or material prize for the winner, nearly four thousand customers submitted their pictures.
After the great repercussion of the contest, Starbucks produced several limited versions including not only the winner’s drawing, but also other remarkable artwork that was developed in the cups during the contest.
Share a Coke Campaign
The Share a Coke campaign was one of the most successful marketing campaigns in the history of Coca-Cola Company, considering both brand exposure and direct sales results.
Initially launched in Australia in 2011, the campaign created coke bottles and cans with 150 popular names in the country, with the objective to stimulate consumers to buy the product with their names and share with their network in social media. All campaign communications promoted the hashtag #ShareaCoke and it almost instantly became a success among users.
The campaign was replicated in the United States in 2014, and expanded to other regions of the world afterwards. Because of the great variation of names in different countries, the company developed more than a thousand name options, and received constant feedbacks from customers on their social media pages containing names to be included.
More than 500,000 photos were shared using the hashtag #ShareaCoke. The Coca-cola Facebook page gained extra 25 million followers as a direct result of the campaign and, according to The Wall Street Journal (2015), the company had an impressive 2% rise in sales, after several years of decrease in sales.
User Created Content in my Social Media campaigns
The theory and concepts explored during the course were extremely significant for the development of my social media campaign and helped be build a more conscious strategy. It’s common to relate social media campaigns and User Generated Content / User Created Content simply with luck, and perceive it as an unpredictable aspect of marketing. In fact, as the course highlighted, there is a lot of theory that can be applied to social media and audience’s engagement, which are powerful resources when planning a social media campaign.
Hinton, & Hjorth (2013) emphasized how users are willing to participate once “they believe their contributions matter”, and it’s up to the companies to create relevant approaches that motivate engagement.
I believe my main learning is terms of how to promote User Generated Content and User Created Content in social media campaigns is the importance of is deeply understanding the target audience before starting any planning or execution. It’s essential to have a well defined target audience and investigate which social media platforms they access, in what times, what type of content they consume, what type of content they comment or share, what are their habits outside the social media environment, and all related empirical data. With these records, we are able to make more informed decision, increasing the chances of building a successful campaign.
Deuze, M. (2006). ‘Participation, remediation, bricolage: considering principal components of digital culture’. The information society, 22:2, 63-75
Esterl, Mike. “‘Share A Coke’ Credited With A Pop In Sales”. WSJ. N.p., 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.
Hinton, S., & Hjorth, L. (2013). Understanding Social Media. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A.J. & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Chicago, IL: The MacArthur Foundation.
Natasha D. Smith, Senior Editor. “10 Stats That Show Why User-Generated Content Works”. Direct Marketing News. N.p., 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.