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Have you ever seen those commercials that include a disclaimer that reads, “These are real people, not actors”? Did you believe it? I’m dubious when a disclaimer is necessary, but the truth is that your best salespeople are probably the consumers using and posting photos with your product or brand.

Instead of creating an advertisement with people who may or may not be actors, you should let your consumer do the talking for you. After all, people are more likely to trust the words of their peers than the words from the company.

In a previous post, we discuss why you should utilize user-generated content. Now, we’ll talk about how to get it.

How to Get User-Generated Content

While there are several creative ways to interact with your fans and encourage them to generate content around your product or service, this article will focus on four in particular: the use of hashtags, promoting a lifestyle, running photo contests and launching campaigns that encourage user engagement. These four strategies all serve to foster client loyalty and leverage their trust, ultimately, to encourage them to generate content about your brand.

Create a Lifestyle

People are more willing to share photos of their lifestyle than they are to share photos of a particular brand. For this reason, consider creating a lifestyle brand. That way, consumers will be more willing to jump on board and share photos and videos that emulate the particular lifestyle than they would be if you simply asked them to post photos that contain your brand in them.

Example of REI fans emulating brand lifestyle.

REI does this seamlessly: They promote a lifestyle dedicated to outdoor adventures, which inspires users to generate content in the form of incredible photography that aligns with their brand and resonates with their audience.

Utilize Hashtag Campaigns

Create a hashtag for your brand. I don’t mean using your company name as the hashtag, but rather creating one that will support what your brand’s mission is all about.

Example of The North Face company hashtag

For example, The North Face uses the hashtag, “Never Stop Exploring.” Not only is it simple and easy to remember, but it also serves as a call to action. Customers who take amazing shots of their outdoor adventures and tag it with this hashtag have the chance of being re-grammed by the company. In addition, these same customers often tag the North Face gear they used during their adventure, providing additional free marketing for the company.

While these photos are not strictly shots of people wearing and using The North Face gear, it encourages brand awareness.

Hold Photo Contests

Another way to get your customers to interact with your brand (and generate content around it) is to host a photo contest and offer a great prize for the winner. With this strategy, you’re guaranteed to get user-generated content, because many customers will be interested in the incentive (i.e., the prize).

Red Bull Illume Photo Contest example.

This year, Red Bull Illume held an action-and-adventure national photo contest that garnered more than 30,000 photos worldwide, all of which Red Bull gained the rights to use after the photo was entered to win the contest. While Red Bull products were not used, the contest itself promoted brand recognition and amassed tons of free advertising from fans promoting the company.

Run a Social Movement Campaign

Having people participate in a campaign in which they agree with something can be a powerful tool for collecting user-generated content as well.

REI Opt Outside campaign

In this example, we’ll revisit REI and their, “Opt Outside,” campaign, where they decided to close their doors to the annual Black Friday shopping madness. They encouraged consumers to venture outdoors with their loved ones instead. Those who identified with this movement posted photos and videos of their outdoor experiences on their social media channels, using the Opt Outside hashtag, thereby bringing brand awareness to REI and the movement.

To help ensure that your social movement gains traction, make sure that the motivating factor behind the movement aligns with your company’s mission and your targeted demographic’s lifestyle or interests. And, of course, be sure to use a hashtag that’s specific to your movement.

Collecting user-generated content can be a challenge, but it pays off in so many ways. It’s essentially free marketing from your consumers, and other skeptical consumers will almost automatically trust their peers’ reviews. After all, word-of-mouth marketing works wonders: Your passionate audience will promote your brand to those who may not have heard of you … yet.

How do you prefer to amass user-generated content? Tweet us @meetSOCi !


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