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Written by Mark Parent
on September 21, 2017

Image of the winning entry for the White Cup Content by Starbucks

Starbucks' White Cup Contest is a classic example of user-generated content. Image of click to tweet icon.

In 2014, Starbucks launched the White Cup Contest. Fans were able to create their own designs for the chain's iconic white cups. After taking a picture, participants were asked to post it to the company's Instagram or Twitter sites using the hashtag #WhiteCupContest.

In three weeks, more than 4,000 customers submitted entries. Thousands more reviewed, commented and re-tweeted entries.

The Starbucks example is just one way in which marketers are using user-generated content to power their marketing efforts. And it's working. One reason is that consumers expect to interact and engage with brands on their own terms. They want to have more intimate engagements, experiencing the brand instead of just purchasing products.

There are all kids of ways in which user-generated content works well. Here are a few other examples.

  • Gaming. Gaming companies embrace the power of user-generated content. Companies have asked players to make their own mods, design spaces, and provide creative perspective. Take Nintendo's Mario Maker, for example, that lets players make their own Mario levels.
  • Social Video. Gamers love to watch other players play, either in person, or increasingly, via YouTube capture videos. Despite recent controversy, PewDiePie is an incredibly popular YouTube gamer with over 57 million subscribers. He posts videos of himself playing various games, creating free content and publicity for the publishers of those games. Businesser Insider estimates that he made $15 million in 2016.
  • Opinions. Part of the power of sites like AirBnB, Yelp, and even Amazon is the leverage and value placed on user reviews. Opinionated evaluations are, indeed, user-generated content. User reviews add an air of credibility and value to product and service listings, as more and more people these days turn to online reviews before making a purchase. Many companies also engage with reviewers — when done so with respect and authenticity, these responses add a human element to employees and brands.
  • Politics. A 2015 study showed that about a third of all young British voters aged 18-24 expected to be influenced by social media in the 2015 UK General Election. Moving forward to today, think about how much news is generated every time Donald Trump sends out a tweet — especially the inflammatory ones. Political dialogue is moving from the church social and office breakroom to the virtual world, and politicians are leveraging opinion leaders in these spaces to help stump for votes.

For companies that want to be successful, the key is to not just create and control content, but to provide moments, experiences, and opportunities for customers — and potential customers — to engage.

The key is to not just create and control content, but to provide moments, experiences and opportunities for customers to engage.

Especially when there are chances to create dialogue, there is more opportunity for interactive and immersive engagement. Marketers are investing in guest bloggers, social media ambassadors, and creative contests as a way to draw in participants to the discussion. When news breaks, people are as apt to turn to their favorite subreddit or Twitter list to get the latest news as they are to turn on the television or click on a major news website.

For marketers, the opportunity and drive to create these moments is palpable. It also makes good business sense. A recent study showed that user-generated content is 20 percent more effective for driving buying decisions. For the top 20 brands in the world, 25 percent of search results come from this content.

Inbound 281 is an experienced content marketing company, helping other companies create effective, user-generated content and implement other strategies to convert leads to sales. To find out how Inbound 281 can boost your content, get a free inbound marketing assessment today.

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