Are you tired and struggling to cope with an unrealistic content creation schedule? Do you often feel overwhelmed
by the sheer volume of content you are expected to produce to stay on par with your competitors? Well today I
have some great news – there is an alternative to creating it all yourself! No, I am not talking about outsourcing
it to someone on Fiverr! I am talking about an awesome technique that not only relieves the heavy burden of
non stop content creation, but also sends audience engagement soaring to new previously unseen heights!


Ok so what is this wonderous, hands free content creation strategy that is going to save you time and open up
huge dialogue with your target audience?

Its called User generated content (UGC). User generated content is defined as any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats, tweets, podcasting, pins, digital images, video, audio files, advertisements and
other forms of media that was created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media

User generated content is an idea that is over a decade old and rose to prominence in around 2005. It was an exciting
time for the internet – Youtube was launched, digital cameras had reached widespread popularity and Myspace was huge.It was a time when social media was still in its relative infancy, however a catalytic excitemement existed and the public were enjoying the novelty of being able to easily upload and share their videos, photos and music! I had
just graduated my diploma and was enjoying some limited success as an independent musician.It was a great time and one I will always look back on fondly as it was a pivotal year in my digital marketing career.

Myspace was the first platform that really enabled people with similiar lifestyles and interests to connect on a widescale. As a musician I was able to push my bands music to people who enjoyed that genre, from all over the world. Our marketing techniques at the time were very simple – just find another band who played the same genre as us and then start messaging and sending friend requests to all their fans. We created a template message introducing ourselves, explaining why we were messaging them and finally asking them to check out our music.


As the whole social networking thing was a relatively new experience (a few others had come before but failed) and we were targeting people who had an interested in our style, we had some incredible rates of success. We were able to grow a following of thousands of passionate, supportive fans really quickly. We also quickly found out that growing a network was one thing – but keeping them engaged and interested was quite another! We would often spend hours answering Myspace messages and chatting via MSN messenger and AIM.

I learnt that once you have grown a network and invested a lot time in getting to know your followers on a personal level, these people will become your best sales people. Your passionate followers will be willing to be proactive and start to help you spread your brand message. Nothing is more powerful than someone who is a fan of a brand/product or service openly endorsing it on social media. People will always pay more attention to what their colleague/friend or family member has to say about a product than any advert directly from the business behind it!

We noticed that a lot big artist were running competitions like:

  • Asking Fans To Pose With Their Albums
  • Asking Fans To Show Their Band Logo Tattoos
  • Asking Fans To Draw Their Logo
  • Asking Fans To Hold Signs For Music Videos
  • Asking Fans To Show Their Band T-shirts
  • Asking Fans To Post Their Favourite Pictures From Live Shows


This is when I first became aware of user generated content! We ran several things like this ourselves and noticed that our interactation and engagement with fans grew even more! We offered lots of different prize incentives like free tickets to our shows, free t-shirts, free CDs and it really worked. We had a constant stream of content live and direct from our fanbase that we could post on an almost daily basis.

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Although I built the foundations of my early marketing career within the music industry – I knew I could apply these techniques to almost any other business! Since 2005 user generated content campaigns have gained widespread mainstream success and have been adopted successfully by many major brands. I mentioned we encouraged our fans to become involved and contribute by offering incentives. Incentives relating to user generated content can be broken down into two catergories:

Implicit Incentives – These Incentives Are Not Based On The Contributor Recieving Anything Physical. The Contributor Will Not Recieve Any Kind Of Physical Product In Exchange For Their Contribution. In This Situation People are Encouraged To Contribute So They Can Feel Good About Being An Active Member Of A  Commmunity. In Some Cases On Platforms Such As Forums, Points & Badges Can We Awarded To Help Demonstrate The Contributors Kudos Within The Community. This Style Of Incentive Costs The Host Platform Nothing And Is Ideal For Knowledge Based Communities!

Explicit Incentives – An Explicit Incentive Is  A Tangible Reward Given To Users For Contributing Content. In This Situation, Users Could Be Rewarded Financially, Be Offered Coupons, Vouchers, Discounts Or Even Be Given Free Gifts or Physical Products.


Incentives keep people interested in contributing and keep these kind of campaigns alive!

Implicit incentives are best used for a brand who is looking to create a long term community either via social media or their forum. When you have a group of people who are all passionate about something in one place, you will find that respect from peers become a powerful currency! Reputation points on forums really do work and if your goal is to create a self sustaining community forum for your brand – its definitely worth looking into.

Explicit incentives are best for short term marketing campaigns where you want to want users to generate large quantities of media which can be shared and used to spread your brands message!

It really works and we are now going to look at two examples of user generated content campaigns that have worked for major brands.

1.) Starbucks

Taking a cue from customers who have been doodling on Starbucks cups for years, Starbucks launched a user generated content campaign to find a winning design for new limited edition cup. The contest is known as the White Cup Content. The contest also had its own hashtag which is #whitecupcontest.

Briar Waterman, creative director for Starbucks digital team states “The cups are such a great canvas because you can try an abstract design and just keep adding to it, the designs can be infinite”.

Starbucks has a huge global following amongst creative people so whenever they run this contest they recieve thousands and thousands of enteries very quickly. Its a great piece of marketing because when fans show their contributions the Starbucks logo is always present!

If you have an artistic or creative following who are already passionate about your product – creating you own spin on this campaign could be a hit!


2.) Coca Cola

Coca Cola is probably (apart from Mcdonalds) the most famous brand name on earth! There are very few places on earth that the influence of the legendary soft drinks manufacturer has not touched! Coca Cola, being a worldwide force to be reckoned with have the ability to work with the brightest minds in marketing!

When Coca Cola launched their “Share A Coke” campaign they experienced legendary levels of success growing their sales from 1.7 billion servings to 1.9 billion servings. An amazing 2% increase in sales.


Themarketing campaign encouraged consumers to not only purchase Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero bottles and cans personalized with their name on it but to also share beverages with the names of friends and family members on them and take and share pictures online with them!

Coca Cola Launched a second campaign “Share A Coke 2.0” and this time added upto an additional 1000 names and this campaign when on to reach even more people.

Here are 3 quick lessons we learnt from this campaign.

1.) Research Your Target Audience – In The First Launch In The Australian Market Coca Cola Cleverly Worked Out How To Reach 42% of The Population By Picking 150 Names! This Clearly Took Some Reseach But It Was Definitely Worth It. It Is Highly Likely They Used This Strategy On All Markets The Campaign Was Active In.

2.) Connect On  Personal Level – Few Things Are More Pesonal Than Using Someones First Name!

3.) Let Consumers Drive Your Success – Coca Cola Created The Idea For This Campaign, But Ultimately The Enthusiasm Of Their Consumers Is What Has Made It Such A Success!

How To Run Your Own User Generated Content Campaign!

Ok so now we have a good general outline of what a user generated campaign is and how it be used to succesfully grow your sales – lets take a look at how to set up your own campaign! Lets look at 3 points that all successful campaigns have:

  • Cross Promotion Throught Both Social Media & Brands Website
  • A Prize Offered For Participation
  • A Prize Offered For Showing The Brand In A Positive Way

1.) Match Your Campaign To Your Demographic

If your campaign is targeted at 18 – 25 year olds say – its appropriate to ask to them submit “selfies” holding or using your product. This generation grew up with social media and a majority own smartphones and love taking “selfies”. Your campaign has to fit the target demographics skills, knowledge and abilities. You need to be asking your audience to do something that everyone in that group is capable of. If you make the barrier of entry quite low, you will get a much higher level of participation and engagement.

2.) Request Submissions You Can Use As Marketing Matieral

Its great to get your audience contributing towards creating content to be posted on your website and social media channels – but its even better if the content can be used your marketing campaigns! Pictures, videos, or testimonials are all excellent content types that can be easily repurposed for advertising purposes. My favourite kind of contributions are testamonials – real people, saying real things about your brand/product/services, in my eyes this is best kind of marketing matieral you can get, its truely powerful!

3.) Make The Reward Worth It

You need to make sure that the reward you are offering the people who choose to participate is worth the time and effort they need to commit enable to contribute. If the reward is not worth people will quickly lose the “feel good factor” and start feeling cyncial! It most cases it simply means making their contribution as easy as possible. Pictures from a phone are within almost anyones reach, so they always work well!

4.) Make The Entry Proccess Smooth

Make joining your competion really easy! Ideally direct them to a simple landing page with two fields:

  • Their Email Address
  • An Upload Button (To Upload Their Contribution)

The easier you make it contribute the more success you will have – it really is that easy!

5.) Keep It Legally Transparent

Make sure your contributors undertand their legal rights from the beginning and let them know how their content could possibly be used! This saves any nasty suprises for either party latert down the line. The last thing you want is someone claiming they were unknowingly exploited at the height of your campaigns success. If everyones clear from the get go – anyone who does not wish for their matieral to be used in a commercial advertising capacity can simply opt of being involved in the first place.

I have been Gary O’Toole With Sociocaster and I hope you found this introduction to user generated content useful! I hope you can see the value of this approach and I hope that you will explore each of these points further! Its well worth considering as these kind of campaigns have been proven to work by some of the largest companies on earth – there is no reason they will not work for a smaller business either!

I will be back on Friday with another awesome video! Until then have a great week!



Share A Coke Case Study

White Cup Contest







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