How to drive attendee engagement with user-generated content

How to drive attendee engagement with user-generated content

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Posted on May 30, 2023

Do you have a live virtual or on-site event for your brand and need help figuring out how to engage your guests and audiences? With the right strategies on how to drive attendee engagement with user-generated content, you can win hearts.

Opting for user-generated content is the best way to connect with your audience. It offers a personable way for the brand to reach clients and be easily relatable. You can also use this content as a testament to your guest enjoying the live event, humanizing the brand.

Unfortunately, not all brands have the hefty budgets to invest in a sophisticated marketing team to figure it all out. The good news is, if you are one of these struggling brands – we have the solution for you. Check out this foolproof guide full of practical tips and tricks to help you use user-generated content to get your audience more engaged.

What is User-Generated Content?

User-generated content (UGC) refers to content created by customers and audiences rather than the brand itself. This content is usually posted on social media or other channels and comes in various forms.

These include images, videos, reviews and ratings, testimonials, podcasts, and ambassadorships. Ideally, user-generated content works best in public settings where it has the potential to reach multitudes.

Types of UGC

User-generated content comes in various forms. This can be anything from the usual images, videos, and other social media content to blog posts and podcasts. Here’s a more varied list of different user-generated content types:

  • Images: Primarily photos of non-sponsored customers with the product, which are available on social media or blogs.
  • Videos: These are native shots, GoPro videos, YouTube videos, and TikTok videos, among others.
  • Social media content: includes tweets, Facebook posts, and other similar social media content.
  • Product reviews, testimonials, and ratings: These include customer reviews on the brand’s or third-party site, blogs, Yelp, Google, and Trip Advisor, among others.
  • Q&A forums
  • Podcasts
  • Survey responses
  • Ambassadorships

Examples of Successful User-Generated Content Campaigns

Today, big and small brands take advantage of user-generated content for their power to reach an audience of millions, if not billions. This is particularly true thanks to the prominence of social media, which makes outreach efforts efficient. An excellent example of a company effectively utilizing user-generated content (UGC) is Pumpkin, a leading provider of pet insurance. Pumpkin recognizes the emotional connection people have with their pets and leverages this sentiment to drive UGC.

Some examples of famous and successful user-generated campaigns by brands include:

Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” Campaign

This Coca-Cola campaign is one of the best examples of how UGC can help humanize your brand. This Coca-Cola campaign printed popular first names on Coca-Cola cans and bottles.

The brand then had in-store and traditional ads that prompted customers to find bottles or cans with their names, take a photo, and share it on social media. This campaign allowed customers to showcase their creativity while engaging the brand. You could see anyone from professional photographers to regular folk simply taking a selfie and participating in the campaign.

Apple’s #ShotoniPhone campaign

Apple’s 2014 #ShotoniPhone campaign came out right around when Apple started to dish out mobile phones with better cameras. The campaign was introduced to promote improved camera functions. 

This was Apple’s attempt to win back customer trust in their camera quality after suffering years of ill reputation for this feature. The campaign was simple: take a photo using your Apple iPhone and share it on social media with the hashtag. 

From regular users exploring their creative capacities to professionals, Apple was successful at this ingenious marketing campaign. The brand used its customers to market itself and get back into the good graces of the market.

Why Use User-Generated Content to Drive Attendee Engagement?

User-generated content drives attendee engagement because it connects the brand and its audience/customers. User-generated content humanizes the brand, allowing it to quickly connect and relate to customers. It’s the brand’s way to emotionally and socially appeal to its audience. 

“User-generated content is the fuel that powers Belkins agency’s success and helps us to build our community. It amplifies our brand reach, builds trust, fosters authentic connections, and sparks invaluable conversations. With UCG, we empower our community to shape and share their own stories, making every voice a valuable asset.” – Michael Maximoff, Belkins agency.

Benefits of User-Generated Content

There are plenty of benefits associated with UGC for brands.

Increased Brand Awareness and Exposure

User-generated content is an excellent way for large and small brands to build awareness and exposure and reach new audiences. As potential customers see or hear other customers interact with the brand positively, it is much easier to build trust and credibility.

Further, it can create that unique social appeal depending on how creatively the campaign is set up. This transforms a simple drive into a trend everyone wants to try. Studies and surveys confirm this phenomenon.

For instance, a survey conducted by Stackla reported that up to 60% of consumers say that family or friends’ content usually influences their purchase decisions. On the other hand, up to 79% of consumers report that UGC impacts their purchasing decision.

SEO Boost

UGC also boosts your site and blog. As your customers interact with your brand directly and indirectly, its visibility grows. More customer reviews, surveys, testimonials, and content that mentions your brand naturally increases your search engine optimization (SEO).

This increased online visibility and higher SEO ranking can also lead to better eCommerce search results, making it easier for potential customers to find your brand and products while browsing online marketplaces.

Cost-Cutting

Remember, UGC is free marketing. After all, you get your customers and audiences to create content at no expense to the brand. Considering the high marketing and hiring costs, UGC is an ideal marketing strategy, particularly among smaller brands. 

But, large brands also take advantage of this free marketing concept to build the brand further and reach more people simultaneously.

Authentic Marketing 

UGC allows you to maintain your brand’s authenticity. After all, in the ever-so-competitive online world, it is challenging for brands to stand out with traditional marketing alone. You truly need to add that personal touch to break through.

Whether honest customer reviews or fun interactive social media campaigns, this marketing style can help you stand out. Compared to other marketing means, UGC comes off as direct marketing. Since everyday relatable customers do it, potential customers are more likely to relate to them and trust their reviews of your brand.

Comparison between UGC and Traditional Marketing Methods

Compared to traditional marketing methods, the biggest perks to using UGC are its cost-cutting benefits, more extensive reach, and relatability. Compared to conventional marketing, UGC comes at virtually no cost to the brand. After all, customers are actively creating content for you and getting it out there.

Traditional marketing methods are expensive. Whether you pay for a billboard, online ads, or hire a professional marketing team, money will come out of your pockets. The only downside to using UGC for its cost-cutting benefits is you need to have established an existing customer pool or audience first for the UGC campaigns to work.

Using user-generated content also offers the potential to reach many potential customers. Remember, UGC comes in diverse forms, whether photos on social media or even podcasts. This means the campaigns will have a more extensive reach than a physically limited billboard or a targeted online ad.

Lastly, compared to traditional marketing methods, UGC is easily relatable. This is because it is highly diverse and can appeal to different groups of people. For instance, you are likelier to relate to a person who took a selfie with their name on the Coke bottle than a supermodel ad with some artificial visuals.

UGC also allows your brand’s marketing to use language and trends that communicate and resonate best with your customers. This explains why many customers relate more efficiently and will make purchasing decisions based on user-generated content.

But, UGC is not all roses compared to traditional marketing methods. This concept also has its shortcomings. Remember, UGC is marketing for your brand. But, simultaneously, you don’t have complete control over the live content.

User-generated content usually comes in the “guise” of customer honesty. Sometimes, this can arrive at the expense of the brand. For instance, some brands can suffer negative PR due to customer demography.

Your brand may be attached to this negativity if your customers typically use profanity, lies, or exaggerations. Similarly, other UGC creators can also create the illusion of pitting brands against each other, creating a hostile look.

How to Incorporate User-Generated Content into Your Event

Incorporating user-generated content into your event requires some planning and ethical practices. Remember, this is about your brand, so you want to be as careful as possible.

Planning and Preparation

Depending on the size and visibility of your brand, you can easily find user-generated content online. Search for popular hashtags and discover the options that mention or tag your brand. 

Alternatively, if you are a small brand without a huge pool of customers, you can always create the environment to generate new content. For instance, if you operate a small skincare brand, you can invite customers and followers on social media to your campaign and brand it as a giveaway or just a trivia. 

Some brands also run contests to encourage participation, while others pose brand-related questions in post captions. This allows interactive engagement from their followers. Even with a small customer following, you can still harness good content.

Try to extract relevant content Depending on the event you are planning. You want content that resonates with the event’s theme and your target audience. For example, if you are a food brand, you want to refrain from posting about meat-related diets to a vegetarian crowd.

Best Practices for Collecting and Curating UGC

UGC involves customers, audiences, and followers posting brand-related content. However, it’s essential to remember that the content is not the property of your brand. It merely mentions and offers an honest review of your brand.

So, no matter how you get your hands on the content, asking for permission before using it is always a good idea. This is not only ethical but also protects your brand legally. It also maintains your brand’s reputation and integrity.

You can directly message or email the content owner, verify your relationship to the brand, and only use the content if you get permission. As you share the content, it’s also a good idea to give credit to the creator. 

While the content alone humanizes the brand, these ethical practices will earn you more trust points among potential and existing loyal customers.

Examples of UGC Integration at Events

Some of the most popular and successful mainstream events showcasing UGC integration are live social media and digital marketing events. You’ve probably come across some examples even today, unbeknownst to you, as you’ve scrolled through your social media. 

For instance, brands and celebrities go live on Instagram, allowing audiences to communicate directly with the brand in the comment section. A relevant example is the popular Hip hop and R&B Instagram Verzuz webcast series, created by record producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz. 

This event involves two prominent singers, like American R&B legends Brandy and Monica, battling with their famous hits. Viewers can directly comment during the live event on Instagram as the singers battle it out.

To make it even more interesting, commenters can be surprised with direct real-time responses from the Verzuz page or even the record producers themselves. While the idea of legends battling it out makes the series famous, this user-generated content bit also boosts the popularity of the series.

Attendees of this event look forward to the interactive and fun engagements in the comment section as much as the entertaining musical performances.   

Strategies for Maximizing Attendee Engagement with User-Generated Content

There is a plethora of strategies to maximize attendee engagement via user-generated content. The possibilities to use the content are as diverse as the types of UGC are. Here are my all-time favorite and most effective strategies.

Gamification

As the name suggests, gamification is a strategy that involves adding game-like processes in non-gaming environments. This can be anything from blogs to websites, online communities, and social media. 

The goal is to create features that promote optimal audience interaction. In event settings, you create tasks your attendees can complete for rewards. These can be badges, points, and levels. For instance, you can receive discount coupons by completing a specific task or sharing your experiences with the brand in the comment section or post.

Social Media Integration

Regardless of your resources, social media will always be your friend in event marketing. To drive as much engagement, always integrate social media into your event. The best part of using social media is that you can choose from various routes.

A good example is adding a social media wall to get people to interact and talk. Develop a series of exciting event hashtags and get your attendees to post, tweet, upload photos, and share other interesting thoughts. You can then share this interaction through a large screen during the event to encourage more people to participate.

Live Streaming

Live streaming the event is another excellent way to engage your attendees. Live streams always have comment sections where attendees can share their thoughts and have fun.

Personalization

Always looks to personalize your event to encourage your attendees to engage more. For example, if you run an on-site event, create several photo-taking and Instagrammable stations. This is an excellent idea if your attendees are millennials and Gen Z.

Bright backgrounds and eclectic colors allow your attendees to take fun photos and share them online. You can also ask the event’s facilitator to remind attendees to share these moments to create more buzz online. It works even better if you have a unique hashtag for the event.

Other Creative Ideas

UGC efforts can be something other than digital. You can also incorporate the content into good old traditional print. For instance, you can collect reviews and testimonials from past attendees and customers. 

You can also screenshot tweets, Instagram posts, and tags. Then, incorporate this content in your event marketing materials after securing permission from the authors.

Conclusion

User-generated content is one of the best marketing strategies for brands of all sizes to drive event attendee engagement. This style of marketing is personable and relatable, making concentration easier. 

But it also offers long-term benefits for your brands. UGC is more likely to grow your customer pool and, ultimately, boost your revenue generation. What I love about UGC is that you can use it wherever your creativity takes you. You can even take advantage of the content outside the digital world. 

So, whether you integrate social media, use interactive games and tasks, or do passive marketing material, user-generated content is guaranteed to drive engagement.

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