The Art Of User Generated Content


Imagine if you could get someone to tell your story with a deep emotional connection, that is always fresh and intriguing…

People are interested and want to see the next part of the story. Now, imagine it’s free. This is exactly what @NHS are doing. By giving patients and staff the platform to share their stories in real time, they’re creating natural stories which people gravitate to and want to read. This raises awareness of important issues – all for free.

I love these kind of campaigns on social media because the first thing that I think when I see them, what if this goes wrong and the account goes viral for the wrong reasons? After all, I’d sooner give away most of my limbs than my Twitter password. But this kind of confidence pays off. If you can source the right people to get involved this is a sure fire way for a fantastic content strategy – that doesn’t even need planning apart from choosing guest curators. Your brand will also benefit from exposure to different target audiences if you can choose popular influencers/unique guests.

Look at Ireland’s Twitter account as a unique example of this. Born from the idea that no one voice can represent an entire country, every week someone different takes over the account. You can nominate people to do this, or apply yourself. There is no definitive purpose to this account. It’s just a platform to allow people to share opinions and create a community. Something which is perfect for the diverse nature of not only the NHS and the plethora of different issues surrounding it, but also any business that wants to tell a real, proper story.

For me, the big risk with handing over your brand voice to a guest can be attributed to the same reason as to why it works so well. Everyone is different, so you may come across some sensitive topics where there will be a backlash for a certain opinion or observation.

You’re always going to get people who don’t like your brand, your product or maybe just you personally; and these are the people who shout loudest on social media. But it’s more about how brands can react to this criticism than the actual criticism itself. We’re almost creating a new language that’s native to the younger generation with acronyms, emojis, and reaction pictures. We Are Social’s Tom Ollerton recently touched on this in a short interview in The Drum, where it was considered how we should be looking at behavior as opposed to new features when seeking opportunities on social. Like traditional advertising, it’s easy to take advantage of new innovations and platforms, but to maximise the reach of your brand, you need to take into account how everyone behaves on these channels. Who the thought leaders are, who holds the greatest influence among key demographics. This kind of analysis is especially useful in identifying the trends in terms of first movers, followers and late adapters in terms of the latest trends.

So, where can this go from here? How about restaurants encouraging guests to tweet about their meal in real time? Or video game companies using their large following to push real, first hand approval of their games by allowing YouTubers access to their account? TV shows such as The Walking Dead have allowed actors or performers to live tweet through new episodes and many football clubs have allowed players to do ‘Twitter Takeovers’ to great effect, so why hasn’t this been implemented by other brands?

This kind of confidence would inspire a different type of intrigue that goes beyond traditional product interest, but also into brand identity. A brand that’s so open with its social media use that it essentially just acts as a platform for open thought and expression. This kind of trust creates not only brand ambassadors, but fierce brand advocates that are willing to fight for their chosen brand over others. It fosters a sense of involvement from everyone, a sense that the brand belongs to everyone.

I hope that the NHS account will result in a surge of acceptance with UGC as the norm and I’d like to see a shift in inviting criticism and brutally honest feedback. Because this is a vital part of our culture now, it should be embraced as such.

What next?

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Author: James Murphy

James is a recent Business Marketing University Graduate. He’s been immersed within our agencies Digital Marketing team to work with existing clients and support the development of AB’s profile through social and content marketing.


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