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Social Media Marketing for Business

Mike Hanski


June 21, 2016

What You Can Learn From Social Media UGC Campaigns That Went Viral

June 21, 2016 | By | No Comments">No Comments


To build awareness, gain trust, and engage new customers, your brand needs content. Endless streams of content. The problem is that creating and distributing content can consume a lot of time and energy for business owners and marketers.

Creating compelling content to please regular customers, while also involving new ones, is a constant struggle; marketers need a technique to solve this problem. And, launching a social media user-generated content (UGC) campaign is one of the most effective ways to do that.

In light of the growth in social media popularity and customers being more interested in hearing the opinions of their peers rather than your well-written sales messages, delegating content creation to them wouldn’t be a bad idea. In fact, user-generated content is 50% more trusted and 35% more memorable than other media.


Big dogs know that and keep their eyes on the ball, running user-generated content campaigns regularly to build loyalty and collect insightful data. Moreover, UGC helps to engage new customers and build trust with them.

Results speak volumes:

  • Coca-Cola. Their “Share a Coke” campaign, when they produced bottles with customers’ names and asked people to share pictures with them holding the bottles, has ended with a 2% increase in sales.


  • Pepsi. Promising different prizes to users sharing photos and videos with the reasons they preferred Pepsi to Coke, the company has gotten 7,000 submitted entries, 50,000+ unique visits to their website, and impressive engagement from their customers.

  • Chobani. Their campaign asking customers to submit photos and videos of them praising the yogurt has ended with a 225% increase in revenue.
  • Coffee for Less. Having provided their users with the opportunity to read, write, and share comments on their website, these guys were able to boost traffic up 10% and conversions up 125% between 2008 and 2011.
  • Bid4Papers. Their “Read More – Write Better” campaign has gotten hundreds of backlinks, including those from top media sites such as HuffPost, Telegraph, Business Insider, and BuzzFeed, and thousands of social shares, providing the brand with mentions and, therefore, awareness and users engagement.


To make a long story short, is there anything you might learn from viral UGC campaigns for running yours successfully?

1) Target their passions

When asking users to submit content — photos, video, text, etc. — for your promotional purposes, try to tap into their passions. People enjoy sharing information about what they love or what they do, and seek appreciation, which Carnegie called one of the most effective tools to influence others. A great example of a UGC campaign that did it well is E-A-T: they asked followers to submit reasons why they wanted to cure allergies.

2) Give them solutions, not products

Times change, and today’s customers don’t see your product as a collection of characteristics anymore. Whatever you sell, it should target an issue and solve a problem.

When launching a UGC campaign, brands don’t sell anything directly but demonstrate to their customers the results and consequences of using their products. The #STANDFORSOMETHING campaign is a great example of one such approach: it motivates and inspires instead of pressing people to buy something.

3) Involve opinion leaders

The more people know about your campaign, the less time it will take to promote it. Make users speak about it and generate content by identifying opinion leaders among your followers and sending them the invitation or some freebies they would likely want to share on their social profiles.

How do you find them? Analyze your social media followers and see who is the most active one with the most followers and likes to their content. Opinion leaders will help you make a buzz and spread your content, providing the snowball effect involving more and more people into the discussion.

4) Involve a “side” product or social issues

Depending on your industry, you will likely find some surrounding issues or so-called “side” products to help with your UGC campaign.

For example, you can create customizable mobile cases if you sell mobile phones and give your customers a place to share pics of them, showing others the benefits. Lego and Belkin launched such a campaign in 2013, and it actually worked.

Tom’s Shoes targeted social issues with their UGC campaign. Buying a new pair of their shoes, a customer was asked to take a photo and share it on social networks, which was a sign he gave another pair of shoes to someone who needed them. Many did that as it made them feel important, contributing to charity.

5) Use #hashtags

Decide on a hashtag to use with your user-generated content campaign, which allows you to bring additional social channels, such as Pinterest, Twitter, or Instagram, into your promotion.

Plus, hashtags will let you engage new followers who may not have discovered your brand yet, as well as get extra interaction from your regular customers.

6) Give them a go-to place to submit content

Provide customers with a single place to submit their content. It can be a section on your business website or – if you need a smaller alternative – dedicated micro-sites. Many brands use their Facebook business page, but if your social media channel doesn’t seem to be a good fit for sharing a UGC, then you may create a new Facebook page for that. Infiniti Motors did it with their contest, by the way.

Also, it’s a good practice to give customers several ways to submit content, so they have a variety of options for feedback and can choose the most appropriate one.

7) Provide clear instructions

Creating UGC always takes some effort from your followers. No matter how hard they should try to generate what you ask, don’t complicate this task for them. Providing the information about your campaign, give people clear instructions on what they should do, where and how they should submit content, and what is going to happen next.

Also, make sure your submission page or website is easy to navigate, and users will have no problems with processing an entry.

8) Maintain your interest in their content

GoPro is a great example of brands maintaining interest in their users’ content. They monitor the best pictures taken with their product all the time, and share them with the community.

What does it give? First of all, you will see what your fans do and how they use your product, which lets you get significant insight data. Plus, it helps you build trust with your customers: your interest in their content shows that you respect them and consider their engagement valuable for your brand.

9) Reward them

Let’s face it:

Your customers will do nothing for you to no purpose. By launching a social media UGC campaign, each brand offers monetary rewards or social recognition to participants. With that in mind, make sure your campaign will be cost effective despite the time and resources you spend on it.

You may expect proper ROI only if the positive effect from your UGC campaign exceeds the expenses involved in it.

10) Disclose all legal issues

Before launching a social media UGC campaign, be aware of any rights and restrictions you will hold over the content your followers provide. More than that, you should inform them of any legal issues in clear and easy-to-understand language to avoid copyright problems. Consulting legal counsel would be wise to do.

Have you ever run a UGC campaign? Are you ready to try it? Don’t hesitate to share insights in the comments below.

Mike Hanski


Mike Hanski creates content strategies for brands and writes for various online publications. Feel free to reach him at Google+