The Tao of UGC: Doing something by doing nothing
Brands must control how they present themselves to the world. Marketing managers can be painstaking, sifting through the data to find the right segment, crafting the right image and linking it to the right words to send the right message. Do this perfectly and you increase sales.
Now toss all of that out the window.
User-generated content can do all of that for free. But you must let it go, and trust the user to do the right thing, much like letting water find its own level. Impose control, and you risk losing the message that would make your brand look good. But guide UGC just a little bit, and it should work well.
Sharing 15 minutes of fame
The Tao of UGC — that is, the right path to wisdom — acknowledges that the person who is generating the content already likes your product. The right social media platform amplifies this. “They are creating content for you that is more authentic than anything you can generate yourself,” said Gary Garofalo, CEO and co-founder of LoudCrowd, whose software enables brands to measure the effectiveness of UGC campaigns across platforms.
“We focus on Instagram. It does a good job displaying the product in the right light.” People do not generally use Instagram to be negative, unlike Twitter, “where people go to complain,” he said. Again, know which platform where your brand plays best. Facebook is a mixed blessing, as users tend to debate things there, Garofalo noted. LinkedIn can be a good place to sell a training service.
There can even be happy accidents. A TikTok video posted by someone wearing a discontinued Gap hoody inspired that brand to reissue that item, Garofalo said.
“A lot of brands use UGC across many campaigns and channels — and while platforms like Instagram and TikTok have become very popular for brands to collect UGC, there is no limit to where that content can be used.” Said Haley Fraser, senior content marketing manager at Pixlee TurnTo, an ifluencer marketing and UGC management platform. “Customers expect authenticity in every channel they engage with brands, making UGC a perfect fit for any campaign or program.” she said.
Perceiving the way things are
An imperfect picture can be perfect, according to the Tao of UGC. “You should not be prescriptive. Let the customer be creative making the content,” Garofalo said. Curation is necessary to make sure product placement is correct, like making sure a beach brand is being used by people in the ocean, he said, offering an example. “Luckily, with the evolution of smartphone cameras, a lot of the content produced by users has become indistinguishable from studio content.” Fraser added.
Still, the user is not a professional photographer. The professional will shoot the product in “best light,” making sure it appears perfectly. Users just take a picture. But the Tao of UGC does not treat this as a drawback. “Embrace the fact that it is authentic.” Garofalo said. “Individual content is unique. If it [the product] is feed-worthy, then it is good.”
More rights, fewer wrongs
Errors are not always mistakes in the Tao of UGC. Users may, from time to time, snap pictures that show someone else’s product in the frame. Objections are rare, but must be dealt with. One can secure permission from the makers of the “other product”, or take down the material very quickly if there are problems, Garofalo said.
For example, someone posts a photo showing off their Nike sneakers, but is wearing Reebok socks. Reebok will probably not be upset, Garofalo observed.
When someone else’s product appears in the frame, “[u]ltimately, that’s a call that individual brands will have to make as it would be up to their individual terms of service for community-generated content.” Fraser said. “ We typically don’t see a lot of backlash between brands.”
Rights can also be managed by the platform used to curate UGC, added Fraser. “By securing permission from the user, you’re not only following best practices, but you’re also showing the users that the brand is listening when users share their experience through UGC.” she said.
Negative content “often warrants a response from the brand. With Pixlee TurnTo, brands can filter for profanity or spam, ensuring that the content brands are requesting permission for is safe to use.” Fraser said.
If someone was taking a pair of Reeboks and setting them on fire, that is likely to be a UGC deal-breaker, warranting removal of that picture, Garofalo said. If other brands see their products in a positive light, things should be okay. “Be a good steward of other people’s content.” he advised.
Awareness drives action
If you want to drive awareness, allow UGC to flow freely through social media. “Let the customer be more creative and diverse than you in the influencer/photographer relationship,” Garofalo said. If you want to drive conversions, curate the UGC to pick the images that work best on your web site, he added. That should drive conversions up by about 29 percent.
“[T]he great thing about UGC is it often has a longer shelf life than people realize — content can perform well even if the content was published a while ago,” Fraser said.