3 Tips for a Successful User Generated Content Campaign

User-generated content makes a brand more approachable. This results in brand campaigns being more authentic while building greater loyalty.

Organic reach for brands was recently dealt another blow, making the already shrinking impact of organic Facebook posts even smaller. This time, Facebook is directly targeting the likes and comments that friends make on a Facebook page’s posts, pushing those stories further down their friends’ News Feeds.

Reports by Ogilvy and Forrester found that Facebook posts from brand pages reach just 2 percent of their fans and only 0.73 percent of top brand fans engage with each of their posts. It’s time for brands to rethink social media engagement so that consumers—not brands—are the active sharers.

Brands, once wary of putting their messaging in the hands of customers, are learning to embrace user-generated content. And they should. User-generated content makes a brand more approachable. This results in brand campaigns being more authentic while building greater loyalty. User-generated content allows brands to cash in on the eagerness of their customers to participate in new social campaigns on their own time. Here are three tips for a successful campaign:

1. Make it mutually beneficial

Mutually beneficial advertising provides a value for both the brand and the consumer. By incentivizing consumers with rewards, brands can encourage participation in social or digital activities and significantly increase advocacy in core market segments.

Brands should pay it forward to consumers who post pictures on Facebook and Instagram or tweet recommendations. Content rewards can be another benefit, from bragging rights on a leadership board to points redeemable for free gifts—anything that makes the consumer feel valued or recognized by the brand. The end result is awareness for the brand and prizes for the consumer. Win-win.

The secret ingredient to mutually-beneficial advertising is that it doesn’t even feel like advertising. By dovetailing into the passions, interests and lives of consumers, brands using this form of advertising feel less intrusive and more authentic.

2. Gamify your campaign

Another way to reward and recognize consumers for sharing and creating content is through gamification. By recreating activities into a game that would ordinarily be considered a burden, marketers can engage consumers with the brand and motivate consumers to accept a call to action. The goal is to encourage deeper engagement through tasks that require more effort from the consumer than traditional marketing can accomplish.

Marketers can use typical game elements like points, levels and badges to appeal to the competitive nature of humans and provide an incentive for action.

Let’s look at the Nike+ campaign. The brand enticed consumers with the perfect mix of competition and social recognition to create brand engagement and awareness. As users participate in sports and other fitness-related activities, the NikeFuel app tracks that activity and turns it into points. Users are encouraged to compete against each other and share their results on social media. When results are shared, users unlock special trophies and users earn badges by reaching higher levels. It’s all about making content sharing entertaining and rewarding.

For the tech savvy and short attention-spanned digital generation of today, gamification is a clever way to increase brand affinity and motivate engagement that aligns with brand goals. This technique drives specific behaviors and inspires consumers to perform tasks that are difficult to encourage in the traditional marketing setting.

3. Know Your Audience

Today, social media use spans across all generations, meaning marketers can reach users of all ages via this medium. But research has found that there are some important demographic skews at the top networks, which is important to keep in mind when executing user-generated content campaigns for target audiences.

Marketers should ask themselves if there is a particular audience that would align well with their brand’s mission before kick starting their user-generated content campaign. Identify the ideal brand advocate, and determine a target audience. Then, find out what social networks are most important to them.

More than half of the U.S. population uses social networks regularly and Facebook continues to lead the pack, but let it be known—the world’s largest social networking service is turning grayer. Facebook users ages 65 and older are expected to see the largest increase in 2016 of all demographics, while users age 18-24 are expected to decrease. Instagram, however, has been deemed the most prestigious social networking site among U.S. teens, an area where Facebook and Twitter have lost ground. Additionally, marketers with an eye on millennials would do well to tap into Snapchat, the fastest growing social app in 2014 among 13-25 year olds.

Demographic information should be used as a guide for marketers that want to engage with consumers on social media. If brands expect consumers to start the conversation, they must target them where they’re most active, so a clear understanding of network demographics is vital. As trends in social media audiences changes and evolve, so must brands’ that use those networks for consumer engagement.

With the decline of organic reach, user-generated content is becoming the reigning component within a strong social media marketing strategy. Marketers that develop entertaining campaigns on the right platforms should be well equipped to reach their target audience and be a part of those mutually beneficial conversations – and most importantly, reap the rewards.

Amish Tolia is co-founder and chief of strategy at Pear, a company enabling brand marketers to build meaningful connections with community groups at scale.