Image by Michael Seeley under CC BY 2.0

How to Launch Your First User-Generated Content Campaign

As we explored in a previous post, there are a number of good reasons to launch a user-generated content (UGC) campaign. From connecting with a young social media audience to driving more qualified leads, UGC campaigns have something to bring to any business.

If you’ve decided to launch A UGC campaign, you have several options to choose from. In Hootsuite Campaigns, for example, there are two different kinds of UGC campaigns: Galleries, and Contests. Contests entail your fans submitting their best piece of UGC in hopes of winning a prize; Galleries have no set end date, accepting submissions to be displayed on a central hub. Each of these campaigns can be run on Twitter, Instagram, or by allowing for direct uploads to your campaign’s widget (bringing the total up to six UGC campaigns).

How do you know which campaign is right for you? What can you do at launch to make sure it’s as effective and long-reaching as possible? What’s the difference between promoting a UGC campaign and a sweepstakes or signup? These are important questions to ask, and below you’ll find all the information you need to help you answer them.

1. What kind of UGC campaign should you run?

Image by Ashraf Siddiquiunder CC BY-SA 2.0
Image by Ashraf Siddiqui under CC BY-SA 2.0

Once you’ve decided to run a user-generated content campaign, you need to figure out what kind of campaign will work best for you. The best way to reach that decision is to look at your fans. Who are they? What do they like to do?

User-generated content, and the campaigns that inspire it, are very popular with younger demographics. Millennials and even younger generations are constantly consuming, producing and sharing media on their phones, which is exactly what you need for a UGC campaign. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t run campaigns if you have an older target audience. There are 90.5 million social media users older than 35 in the U.S. alone.

As we mentioned above, there are two kinds of user-generated content campaigns: Galleries and Contests. Regardless of what social network you want to tap into, or whether you want to use a network at all, you first need to decide whether your campaign is going to be competitive.

Galleries can run for much longer than contests without exhausting your fans’ patience: they’re a living testament to your fans and how much they love you. This is great if you have a passionate social media user base—probably a great fit for the younger demographics mentioned above.

Contests, on the other hand, should run for between four to six weeks (Video Contests take more work, and it’s a good idea to give fans more time to enter). You can use a Contest to find out how much of an incentive your products are to your fans. Alternatively, if you have a good relationship with a potential sponsor, you can use a photo or video contest to generate viable UGC (or leads, if you choose to launch your campaign to accept uploaded content) for both of you with a donated prize. While these types of contests are still great for young people, as they’re very willing to take photos and videos and invest that time, contests are also probably your best bet for older demographics. Contests are nothing new to our parents generation, and a prize is a great incentive for more sporadic social media users to get involved.

One of our clients that had great success with a Social Gallery is a municipal tourism organization. They asked locals to tag photos of their hometown’s beauty to show potential visitors what they had to look forward to, and decided to run internal sweepstakes to reward entrants at their discretion. This kept people submitting photos, because there was no rhyme or reason to who would win which gift card, or when. On the other hand, a local consumer packaged goods organization ran a photo contest, winning hundreds of photos and thousands of impressions. Each kind of campaign can be successful. As long as you support your campaign with consistent promotion, you will walk away a winner.

2. Which social networks do you want to use?


Once you’ve decided whether you’re going to run a Contest or a Gallery, you need to decide what platform you want to use to pull in that UGC. If you choose to run a Contest, you have three options: Instagram, Twitter, or direct upload. If you choose to run a Gallery instead, you’re going to be running a hashtag campaign across either Twitter or Instagram.

The demographics of your audience are going to play a larger role in this decision than they did in the Contest vs. Gallery debate. If you want to run a photo or video Contest, the option that’s going to give you the widest demographic range is direct upload, especially if you choose to host the campaign from your Facebook Page. Facebook is the most popular social network, even if it’s not the most exciting to younger users, and a contest with uploaded entries is just as accessible from desktop as mobile.

If your fanbase is on the younger side, Instagram is probably your best bet. Sixty percent of 13-18 year-olds and 47 percent of 19-32 year-old Millennials are using Instagram. Not only is the majority of Generation Z on Instagram, but they’re incredibly dedicated. One in four Gen Z Instagram users scrolls through their feeds hourly.

Twitter, on the other hand, has less disparity between the generations. If you want this campaign to stay mobile, maybe because you have a product or service where these photos are going to be taken on a smartphone, sourcing entries from Twitter is a good way to appeal to a broad mobile audience. Twitter is especially popular with college-educated social media users (30 percent of people with at least a college degree have a Twitter account). If you’ve got a lot of graduates in your audience, Twitter is a good place to find them.

3. How will you promote the campaign?

Image via Death to the Stock Photo
Image via Death to the Stock Photo

Once you’ve designed and launched your campaign, you need to promote it.

If you’re running a Contest, one technique you can use to boost the promotion of your user-generated content campaign is enabling voting. It’s self-evident, but it bears repeating: entrants want to win. They will share the contest with their friends and family in an attempt to get votes. You can let people vote anonymously, or gate the voting system and require the submission/log-in with their email, Facebook, Google, Instagram or Twitter handle. It’s a great way to generate leads in addition to your UGC, and it encourages the organic promotion of the campaign by your fans.

Before you look at your own social media promotion of the campaign, consider all the real estate you have at your disposal. Do you have any footholds in physical space, either with retail stores, grocery aisles or affiliated businesses? Take advantage of it, and let the people who are interested in buying from you know that you’re active on social media. Anyone who subscribes to your email newsletter cares about your company—you’ll have bigger success by promoting the campaign there.

Once you’re putting every applicable channel to good use, then look to your social media promotion. The great thing about a UGC campaign is that you can promote the campaign with its own entries. Give shout-outs to the fans who have been producing UGC for you, and show others what you’re hoping they’ll produce by highlighting the best your fans have already made. These photos and videos can be posted to across all your social networks, and tagging each one with its creator (and its hashtag, if this is for such a contest) boosts the campaign’s profile across the web.

But what are you supposed to do with all that user-generated content once you’ve got it? In the last part of our UGC campaign trilogy, I’ll walk you through what to do with user-generated photos and videos once they’re yours.

Ready to launch your first UGC campaign? Get started with Hootsuite Campaigns now!