How do I inspire people to generate content for my brand?

People aren't going to do something for nothing. By working on how your brand presents itself, and by engaging with brand advocates, brands can create a better response in customers when asking for user generated content. I have worked as part of a couple different initiatives to generate content with vastly different results in each.

One brand did not receive much of a response in their customers and the other received overwhelming support of the initiative with inter-continental results! To be the one that generates a lot of responses, try to:

Be authentic.

Brands that look like they are putting on an act or are trying to be something they are not will not be well received. Just look at very similar campaigns done by Pepsi and Heineken. Both tried to address social unrest among a younger age group. However, they approached it in very different ways with a much more positive response toward Heineken. Especially when your brand apologizes to the spokesperson for the ad, something has gone wrong.

Be someone people want to engage with in a positive way.

Brands that have vocal customers with negative experiences can hijack a call for user generated content. Unhappy employees or customers can take the opportunity to tell their own side of the story, which is not always positive. McDonald's learned this the hard way with #McDStories; so did Starbucks with #SpreadtheCheer.

Be careful when asking people to generate their own content, especially if the timing is poor. For example, right now might not be the right time #WhyIFlyUnited or a similar campaign.

Work with social media's algorithm.

Being a less loved, or less thought of brand, will make customers less likely to engage with your call for user generated content. If you pages on social already receive little traffic, just asking for content is not going to receive a large response. Especially if you are unwilling to make a big push on social media, including a boosting plan for posts, then you are unlikely to see an uptick in people engaging with you.

Facebook favors video, developing a video for a campaign to increase organic reach can help get around a small budget. However, being smart about how and on what channels of social you are asking for content will make responses more likely.

Offer something of value.

When user responses may be lagging, offer something of value for people to feel like participating will be valuable for them as well. This could be exclusive access to a new product, event, or person. It could be an early release. It could be a gift unrelated to your actual offering (i.e. a product your company does not create). Make sure it is actually of value to your target user, otherwise they won't be responding to your call for content.

One of the companies I worked for offered a GoPro as incentive to participate. All users that generated content were entered and the "best" entrant would receive the prize based on their content and engagement in the contest.

Be more than a one time purchase.

Asking people to interact with a brand they have no intention of engaging with again is a losing battle. Customers might buy a pizza cutter once in their life. Unless they are a pizza chef and highly involved in making sure they are choosing the right instrument for their business, it's unlikely they will be generating user content for their brand of pizza cutter.

Not all brands with repeat purchases receive the same level of response either based on whether they are a high involvement or low involvement product. Essentially the same product, people are still lining up for the new version of Apple's iPhone because it is a high involvement purchase that engages self-identification with the brand. For low involvement products, there may be brand advocates who respond, but very few brands offer the same product with new versions and receive an outpouring of support. For example, the newest version of Charmin with thicker sheets may not receive the same attention.

What other ways have helped you generate user content?

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