How to Engage the Social Consumer with User-Generated Content

Social media is both a blessing and a curse for many companies and marketing departments. On the one hand, it provides an unprecedented opportunity to reach and interact with customers from around the world. On the other hand, it can be challenging to really know exactly how to engage the audience in a way that will be effective. In fact, a recent case study by Edelman that spanned 8 countries indicated that 90% of people want marketers to more effectively share their brands. Digging a little deeper into the study, Edelman measured six dimensions of sharing – shared dialog, shared experience, shared goals, shared values, shared product, and shared history – and found a link between effective brand sharing and business value. Out of all six categories, only 10% of people believed that any specific brand actually did a good job of this. Fortunately, there are a few elements that, when executed properly, can help to engage social customers in a meaningful way.

If you build it, they will come

Obviously, social consumers can’t interact with your brand until you build a social campaign for them to interact with. Therefore, the first step in engaging social consumers is inviting individuals to share their stories and experiences with your company or product. One great example of this was the #LEGOxBelkin campaign, which allowed users to post the creative ways they customized their LEGO Belkin iPhone cases. Belkin allowed their customers to show off their creativity by tagging their instagram photos with #LegoxBelkin. Belkin then aggregated the photos and integrated the campaign on their product page. This allowed their customers to do the selling for them and pushed consumers to their website. 

Publish, publish, and publish

It’s important to publish everywhere you can. The more obvious places to publish are on your branded website and social media feeds, however you should try to be creative as much as possible. Microsites and display ads are just two examples of ways you can make sure your branded content is published as many places as possible; try to think of other outside-the-box ways to get your brand out there. Ford took a whole new approach to UGC when it introduced the 2014 Ford Fiesta. They relied on the unique voices and content of a 100 social influencers to make the campaign 100% user-generated. Ford not only distributed the content through paid media, social media, but they also promoted through experiential events like Bonnaroo and the Summer X Games – pushing the spread of their content both online and off.

On a related note, make sure that you get the rights to use content before publishing it, particular if it is UGC. Digital Rights can be obtained to get users to agree to let the content they offer be published. This is a very important step that not only will allow you to use their content, but it can legally be shared and reused by anyone else that wishes to do so. This in turn helps significantly increase the likelihood of your content going viral.

Push for organic endorsements

Make sure you are using every channel at your disposal to promote to social customers. This means making use of Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Remember to remind fans to use your branded hashtag whenever possible, and try to get genuine user testimonials that provide organic endorsements of your brand. For example, the T-Mobile “breakup” campaign had fans show their “breakup” letters that they sent to the major carriers (AT&T and Verizon) when they switched to T-Mobile.


The data shows that users reward the brands that share their content, and that sharing correlates strongly with increased brand value. While this is largely due to increased intent to use or buy branded products – as well as an increased likelihood of referring additional customers – ultimately the purpose of sharing is the get social customers emotionally involved in your brand. Succeed in that, and they will be loyal forever.

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Topics: UGC, Customer Storytelling, User Generated Content