Christie Fidura
Christie Fidura 28 September 2015
Categories Content, Social Media

Are Communities Shaping The Social Media Campaigns Of Tomorrow?

UGC is at the top of everyone's mind; it's the logistics of how to create it in order to generate the type of awareness that all social media campaigns are trying to achieve that's the stumbling block.

User-Generated Content (or UGC) was referred to so often during Social Media Week London 2015 that it was almost a throwaway phrase.

A lot of speakers referenced the metrics for how much UGC was generated for a particular social media campaign, but there was no explanation of how such volumes of content were actually achieved. It was insinuated that because the campaign idea and execution was so utterly brilliant, that the UGC just poured in all by itself.

I can’t dispute that. Brilliant social media campaigns can absolutely attract UGC, which are then the source of a reaction. Because of the inclusive nature of these viral campaigns, they are long-lasting in the memory banks and have a great ‘sticky’ factory amongst the public at large. Who can forget fabulously successful UGC campaigns such as:

#IceBucket Challenge

Described as the world’s largest global social media phenomenon, more than 17 million people uploaded videos to Facebook which were then watched by 440 million people worldwide. It was not only great at generating the content, but the consumption numbers were off the charts. And it had the added bonus of adding to the coffers of a fantastic charity to boot.


Originally called ‘Project Connect’, this global campaign saw the 1000 most popular names among teens and millennials printed onto Coke bottles. It expanded to more than 70 countries worldwide in a blaze of glory. The numbers of UGC here are impressive (as you would expect): 730,000 bottles personalised via their e-commerce store; 125,000 posts across social media, and 150,000+ bottles sold.

So it’s clear that great campaigns like these are clearly able to attract UGC, and to utilise it to maximum benefit. There is a strong emphasis here on engagement, and this seems to be a winning factor in the success of these campaigns.

In my #SMWldn presentation, 2 Jobs/1 Person: Why Your Social Media Manager Should Not be Your Community Manager, I specified the clear differentiator between social media and community, which is this: great social media campaigns raise awareness, as already made clear in this article, whereas great communities contribute. UGC is carefully teased and coaxed out of thriving communities to be shared amongst the community to build value, whilst social media campaigns are pushing UGC out across all their channels in order to build awareness.

But these 2 things are not disparate. It is completely fair of a social media campaign to utilise UGC obtained from the Community for a campaign (as long as permission is gained). And, it’s completely fair for a Social Media Manager to push a campaign into a Community, to get their help in raising awareness.

Some great examples of communities generating, contributing and sharing UGC for the good of the brand, product and membership are:

Harley Owners’ Groups (HOGs)

With 1 million members worldwide, this thriving community not only continuously improves the product line with suggestions and ideas, thereby ensuring there is a waiting customer base for these enhancements, they also saved the brand from near death back in 1983. Now that’s a Community that keeps on giving!

My Starbucks Idea

The 150,000+ members of this online community (whom are called ‘Idea Partners’) submit ideas for better products, improve the customer experience and define new community involvement. Every time you go into a Starbucks and have free WiFi, you can thank this community. They’re making your customer experience better, and making you a better customer simultaneously.


Probably the best well-known community, the sheer volume of UGC these engaged members contribute is most likely uncountable. Even national politicians are using this Community to gain positive sentiment whilst actively encouraging feedback, suggestions and input from the membership.

It is obvious from these examples of successful social media campaigns and successful communities that we have a great opportunity at hand. Doesn’t it make sense to reach out to the people who love you best (Customers, Fans, Members) and ask them to help you raise awareness via your social media campaigns? It’s clear that UGC is at the top of everyone’s mind; it’s the logistics of how to create it in order to generate the type of awareness that all social media campaigns are trying to achieve that is the stumbling block.

Not every social media campaign is going to achieve the eyeball-busting numbers that #IceBucketChallenge did… but wouldn’t it be great if we could get the same percentage of engagement for our campaigns? Can the key to what we’re seeking actually lie within our own customer base?

It’s definitely worth investigating, isn’t it?

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