How to launch a killer user-generated content campaign in 6 easy steps

6 Steps to a Contagious User-Generated

If you’re looking to up your social media engagement levels, a user-generated content campaign (UGC) is definitely the way to go. UGC campaigns are free or very low cost to execute, they let your audience know you care about what they have to say, and when done right, they spread like wildfire. Plus, someone else is generating content for you. It’s a win-win!

Common UGC campaigns ask the audience to share their opinions, photos, videos and stories, aggregated under a single hashtag. The campaign is amplified not just through the brand, but through the friends and followers of the participants who see their network sharing campaign content.

Follow the 6 steps outlined below to execute a killer user-generated content campaign for your brand.

1. Make it worth their while

This is the most important step on this list, and it could make or break your campaign. Asking someone to share their stories, photos and content with you is not enough reason for them to do it. What’s in it for them? It could be something tangible, like a giveaway, a discount or some sort of prize that’s relevant to your brand. When in doubt, an Amazon gift card can go a long way.

If you have a large audience and an established brand name, the opportunity to be featured on your social channels or your website is sometimes enticing enough on its own, but smaller brands need an extra hook.

If a physical prize isn’t in the budget, think about what else you can offer. Perhaps a free consultation? A call with the president? Name them an official brand ambassador? Get creative – when you take a step back and really think about it, you’d be surprised how many benefits you can offer your audience at little or no cost to you.

2. Choose a strategic hashtag

A strategic hashtag is crucial for your user-generated content campaign not just to collect entries, but also to display them with viral potential. One of the main benefits of a user-generated content campaign is to amplify your exposure and reach new audiences. When one of your followers tweets a photo or message to enter your contest, it won’t contain the same context as your promotional messages – but it will contain the campaign hashtag.

Therefore, when their friends and followers see their tweet, they won’t immediately understand know what the campaign is, but will hopefully be intrigued enough to click on the hashtag to find out more. Then, they’ll be served with a stream of your campaign content, interspersed with your proprietary messaging. It’s like a unique campaign landing page your followers build for you right on Twitter!

Here are a few tips to choose strategic campaign hashtags that convert:

  • Make sure your hashtag’s unique, meaning no one else is using it. When people click on your hashtag, you want to be sure they’ll only see content specific to your campaign.
  • Make it somewhat self explanatory. While it’s impossible to explain an entire campaign concept (at least most of the time) in a single hashtag, you want it to give people who are coming in blind some idea of what they can expect. This post from Engage Sciences highlights a lot of great examples, including #MakeItHappen, #BakeFails, and #100DaysofAwesome
  • Make it short. This is the tricky part. While your hashtag has to be robust enough to provide context, it should be short enough as to not restrict messaging. You need to give your followers (and yourself!) room to add their own media and content.

3. Time is of the essence

People thrive on schedules in every aspect of their life. Understanding the beginning, middle and end of everything that penetrates their routine is crucial for adoption. Your campaign needs a launch date and a conclusion date, in which you will announce the winners (if you’re going the contest or sweepstakes route). Ideally, this will be about 1-2 weeks depending on the scale of your campaign.

4. Get your messaging down

This is trickier than it sounds. You need to convey to your audience exactly what you want them to do and why you want them to do it in 140 characters. It’s true that Instagram and Facebook don’t have that same character restriction, but you need to be able to articulate your offer in a short space regardless of the channel.

You really only have 1-2 short sentences to convince someone to keep reading, or to take you up on your offer. That’s not a lot of space to convey the ask, the reward and the timeline.

Consider this structure: Tell us/Share your [call to action] with #hashtag for a chance to [explain reward]

It’s also a good idea to create several messages with varying focuses in preparation for launch. Some will emphasize the call-to-action more, while others will emphasize the reward. This also gives you an opportunity to shorten some messages to include links and images. Not only will this strategy seed your campaign with a number of launch posts, it also serves as an exercise to get your point across as concisely as possible. You may find that after forcing yourself to write 5-10 posts, there are much more efficient ways to communicate your message than you originally thought.

5. Aggregate your entries on Storify

Now I’m going to contradict the last thing I said. It can be close to impossible to convey all of the necessary information in a tweet. That’s where Storify comes in. This free tool allows you to create a landing page where you can aggregate social posts and rich media, but intersperse with your own static text and images. It’s a great place to send people for more information about your UGC campaign, and also feature the best entries. It’s also an added incentive for people to submit their content – they’ll be featured on a landing page!

Here’s an example of the Storify from a UGC Mother’s Day campaign I did for CARE.

6. Get your partners involved

Even the most genius campaigns need a little boost to get going. A lot of the legwork will take place before the campaign even kicks off. Make sure to let your brand partners, employees, and even your biggest social media enthusiasts know about the campaign before it starts. Graciously thank them for their continued support, then ask them for help amplifying your initiative, and explain how partnering with you will benefit them. Ask them to not only tell their networks about the campaign, but to submit their own entries. This way, you can seed the campaign with content at launch to avoid the embarrassment of a silent hashtag feed.

What successful user-generated content campaigns have you executed or participated in? Tell us in the comments below!

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