10 Ways Brands Leverage User-Generated Visuals

By Nancy Lazarus Comment

Postano SMCC Visuals NYC Cropped

The lounge-like lobby of the Ace Hotel is one of New York’s real life “social command centers,” so it was a fitting backdrop for an event on Tuesday hosted by Postano about user-generated content (UGC) and real-time social media command centers.

How brands leverage UGC

According to panelists from Columbia Records, Essence Magazine and 360i agency (the Oreo guys), brands incorporate UGC in a variety of ways: visual, vocal, valuable, and, on occasion, viral.

1. Giving fans a voice:

“Fans want to connect to their idols. In the 1960s it was about writing fan mail, and now it’s about writing an appreciative tweet. When fans create blogs, that’s among our most valuable content”, said Philip Muellerschoen, digital marketing manager at Columbia Records.

2. Enabling interaction through visuals:

Dawnie Walton, Essence’s deputy managing editor, said, “Essence‘s niche audience is extremely connected to our brand, and UGC is huge for us. At the Essence festival on July 4 weekend in New Orleans we projected user visualizations at the Super Dome and Convention Center.”

3. Serving as fodder for campaigns:

Mila Golubov, associate creative director at 360i agency, said, “UGC is part of the inspiration for campaigns. As an example, customers asked to bring back Burger King‘s chicken fries.”

4. Representing a valuable forecasting tool:

From Muellerschoen: “We scan the web for UGC, and it’s a good indicator of what’s going on with our artists. Fans out there are even creating their own videos for their favorite musicians.”

5. Engaging in social activism:

Essence does social activist campaigns with our audience to bring light to topics that hadn’t been talked about,” Walton said. “The magazine’s recent ‘Black Lives Matter’ issue didn’t have the usual celebrity cover. It spoke to a unique, transformative moment in time.”

6. Containing documentary-like elements:

“Some of our UGC forms a documentary campaign, with content from fans in 150 countries. The continuous video of people around the world doing Pharrell Williams’ happy dance become a global phenomenon,” said Muellerschoen.

7. Going viral (occasionally):

“Now virality has become the gold standard for digital marketing,” said Muellerschoen. But as brand marketers, PRs, and consumers know all too well, going “viral” is far easier said than done.

Postano SMCC4 NYC CroppedHow social media command centers incorporate UGC

UGC’s proliferation, while beneficial for brands, can also be overwhelming. Social media command centers, hosted by providers like Postano, help sort it out, and they continue to upgrade with new features.

8. Discovering users’ engagement:

Postano’s command center streams data and visuals from multiple sources, thereby promoting brands’ discovery of fans’ content. President Justin Garrity said, “With these platforms, brands see what fans are posting and figure out the best content to repost.”

9. Prioritizing key data and graphics:

The 16-foot wide screen (pictured above) offers enough space to show 4 segments, including numbers of posts, top influencers, geographic activity, UGC visuals, or custom-designed metrics. Through a mobile remote device, brands control topics, keywords and data flow. The result is both a functional and visual display. (The image above shows UGC images based on the keyword “NYC”)

10. Offering stadium-size capabilities:

Postano also works at sports stadiums and concert arenas and at events like college football playoffs, said CEO Brad Timchuk.

To capture fans’ passion, they used voting visualizations on the 60-yard screen at ATT Stadium and used #ChampTailgate to facilitate fans’ UGC activity. The company’s ‘UGC Permission’ feature allows brands to re-ping stadium attendees to ask if it’s ok to use their image or content and rebroadcast it live. There are likely many sports fans who’d welcome that option.

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