User-generated content (UGC) can be a miraculous solution for brand managers and content creators during COVID-19.
You don’t have access to your usual resources? Your storytellers aren’t in the office to participate in interviews and videos? Savvy communicators can outsource their content production to their audience and start to build that community that will be a crucial resource for their recovery post-crisis.
However, there are rules creating meaningful campaigns, avoiding pandering and opportunism, and making necessary connections during a global pandemic.
John Kaplan, group creative director at Centerline Digital, shares why UGC is a good option for brand managers during this crisis:
PR Daily: Why should brand managers turn to UGC in a crisis?
Kaplan: Aggregating content from users is a good way for brands to stay connected to their loyalists by inviting them to participate with the brand. It also gives brand managers a direct line of sight into how people are personally interacting with and feeling about their brand.
PR Daily: What kinds of campaigns can break through right now?
Kaplan: Don’t think about what the world is going through right now, but rather what people are being deprived of as a result. With “stay-at-home” orders and social distancing, people are most likely feeling a loss of control, choice or motivation. Campaigns that can invoke positive emotions, while balancing empathy and understanding, will stand out from the rest.
PR Daily: What are some tips to help your campaign stick out?
Kaplan: Campaigns stick out when the user-generated content makes other users want to share what they just saw with someone else. To do that you have to make your call to action achievable, motivational and a little bit competitive. The ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” had those elements; so did Starbucks’ “Red Cup Challenge.” Very different campaigns, but both met those criteria and raised awareness.
PR Daily: What platforms are best for UGC campaigns?
Kaplan: The platform really depends on the brand and their demographics. You always want to go to where your audience already “lives,” not force them to come to you. Fortunately there is really robust data around platform and audience segmentation, so with a bit of strategy work, you’ll know whether to shuffle on TikTok or get crafty with Instagram.
PR Daily: What mistakes do brands commonly make around UGC? How do you avoid them?
Kaplan: Any UGC campaign does run the risk of going in the wrong direction. We’ve seen it happen many times because there is no control by the brand governing hashtags on a public platform. You need to truly think about and put your audience first. For them to participate and generate the content you want out there representing your brand, the call to users needs to be authentic and not a veiled marketing stunt.
PR Daily: Will UGC be more important/useful after this crisis is over?
Kaplan: I don’t know if it will be more important, but I do think we will see a lot more of it. It is going to be difficult to produce professional video for some time and UGC can fill that (hopefully) temporary gap.