user-generated content

Conversation Marketing: Take Advantage of User-Generated Content

The following is adapted and reprinted with permission from Career Press, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser. “Conversation Marketing” by Kevin Lund, is available wherever books and e-books are sold or directly from the publisher at or 800-423-7087

When your customers and experts praise your product on social media channels, you’ve already succeeded at directing the 24/7 conversation where you want it to go without showing too much of your own hand or risking a top-down approach. The next phase, and one that’s growing in popularity across many industries, is having your customers actually generate your social media content—in other words, “user-generated content,” or UGC.

Millions of words are written about millennials and their nearly constant presence on social media, but Generation Z, born just after the millennials, might be even more tuned in to what’s trending. This generation is arguably at the heart of a growing trend in which companies ask people to contribute their own marketing ideas—often in video form—and post them on social media sites such as YouTube.

Too often, today’s youth gets chided for their focus on getting online recognition, something that might frustrate their parents. On the other hand, it’s a natural human emotion, and user-generated content taps into people’s inherent desire to be recognized and appreciated. When your brand shares something a customer or fan created, the external recognition not only strengthens the customer or fan’s affinity with the brand, it encourages the person to share the content further with his or her friends (and your brand benefits vicariously).

Consider the example of 16-year-old Carter Wilkerson, who tweeted while at Wendy’s asking how many retweets it would take to get a year of free chicken nuggets. Wendy’s reply: 18 million. And while he hasn’t hit the 18 million milestone just yet, the 3.62 million retweets of the Nevada high schooler’s original tweet was good enough for Wendy’s to give him twelve months of free nuggets.

On April 1, 2017, Wilkerson had 138 followers. As of April 2018, it’s more than 100,000, and #NuggsForCarter has a custom emoji featuring a box of Wendy’s nuggets. He got some help along the way with retweets from other brands and celebrities getting in on the fun. And in addition to the year-long nuggfest, Wendy’s also donated $100,000 in Wilkerson’s name to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

But you don’t have to be a restaurant to take advantage of user-generated content. For instance, yoga clothier Lululemon’s #TheSweatLife campaign, in which the company asked people to share images of them “getting their sweat on,” resulted in 250,000 uses of the hashtag, more than 7,000 photo submissions through Twitter and Instagram, more than 40,000 unique visitors to the microsite created for the campaign and a massive boost in conversions.

User-generated content can get a bad rap because it’s sometimes used as a shortcut to simply throw content up and check off the box. But when used thoughtfully and strategically, UGC can be extremely effective for generating traffic, engagement and sales.

Related: How This Restaurant Keeps Customers Talking with Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Encourage sharing

When you look at the results of some of these efforts, it shows the power lying latent in your customer base. Remember at the end of the day, you’re trying to make an emotional connection to an audience. They want to be educated, entertained and delighted. If you can make an emotional connection, the audience members become your brand ambassadors and spreads your word for you—exactly what happened for the companies in the examples here.

You’ll also notice the companies participating in this sort of user-generated content marketing encouraged people to spread the word. Lululemon, for example, asked its users to share their images on Twitter, not simply to send them to the company. It was the social media sharing that ultimately spelled success, and therein lies the lesson for content marketers. Encourage sharing. If the content isn’t shared in social media, it won’t go anywhere in social media.

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How do you get started?

There are some online communities where people already exert their influence, have a solid following and can potentially spread the word about your brand. How can you get started on a path toward getting your customers involved?

Some of the traditional sites like Facebook and LinkedIn can be helpful, but there are some newer ones you may not be familiar with including:

  • MavrckMavrck allows users to identify and recruit validated, authentic influencers, advocates, referrers and loyalists, while it tracks and analyzes posts and engagements. Basically, the site helps you find and tap into online influencers.
  • AspireIQ (formerly Revfluence): This platform helps people grow their brand’s social media presence by harnessing online influencers and generate original content.
  • SheSpeaks: The goal of this online community is to help elevate and amplify women’s voices. SheSpeaks members have the opportunity to voice their opinions on everything from how they live their lives to what products they choose and why. Members test and review products, weigh-in on topics via surveys, discussion forums and polls, attend VIP events and even get to star in the SheSpeaksTV videos.

Each of these platforms are worth exploring if you have questions about how to get an influencer marketing campaign off the ground. They do the heavy lifting and help you put all the right pieces in place for an influencer program if your resources are thin.

“Conversation Marketing”is available now at fine booksellers and can be purchased via

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