User Generated Content

User generated content

In my last post I wrote about the Engagement Ladder, the top rung of which is user-generated content, I’ve been thinking more about this form of content and looking for some positive examples, here’s what I’ve come up with.

User generated content can be a great loyalty builder for brands, but there are some things to consider before you launch your campaign.

Is your brand ready? You’ll be giving up some control of your brand, if your marketing, legal, risk teams aren’t ready for that reality you’ll need to do more work internally.

Is your brand positively viewed? If you open up your brand for user input while your brand is in a crisis the blowback will be swift. Starbucks famously started a Christmas campaign in 2012 with the hashtag #SpreadTheCheer, a nice idea, and large screens were installed to display the messages in stores. Unfortunately the company was in the middle of a crisis around paying tax in the UK and the tweets focussed on that rather than the festive season.

Does your brand have a tribe? You need a group of your customers/clients to be engaged enough to want to build content for your brand, otherwise there’ll be no response.

Can you create a fair process? You need to respect the rights of the content creators, which may include offering fair payment, and you need to be clear on what you are promising to do with the work created.

There are three ways to elicit content from your customer groups.

Open Call

Publish a request for customers to submit content, sometimes this is done as part of a competition. It sounds generous, giving all customers a chance to contribute, and it can work, but your brand needs to be positively regarded and you need to be clear about what you’re planning to do with the work. One example of a celebrity crowdsourcing a design did generate a concept book cover, but also generated plenty of criticism from the designer community. The more open your make the call and selection process the more likely you are to get the backlash. However this may still be a good option for a shorter or local campaign. There are a number of companies using hashtag based selection on Instagram to share themed posts (#ThankYouAmsterdam for example), and the results are positive for both parties.

Selective Approach

Research who of your customers is already creating great content, or look for social media influencers whose work matches your brand. Invite them to contribute content.

Spotify are using some of their subscribers’ lists in ads, building on their existing fanbase, I’m sure they’ve researched the lists and contacted the subscriber before building the ad.

Existing Community

Your brand already has a group of committed fans, who are independently building content.

One of the best examples out there, demonstrating the loyalty and ingenuity of customers, is IKEA Hackers. Although at one point IKEA tried to close the site.  The site showcases ways that IKEA products have been repurposed; cabinets become a  bed base, vases become a bathroom wall, and a folding desk saves space. A smarter approach might have been to engage the IKEA Hackers and look for ways to support their activities to enhance the IKEA brand.

Lego have successfully built a community of super loyal fans,  their brand is based on the human needs of playing/building together and the pride of creation so their online platform Lego Ideas ties into the brand and gives their fans a chance to develop new lego sets – the best of which go into production.  They also support the robot building lego league, although it was not started by the company.

One of my favourite example of a personality doing this is the wonderful, Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o who uses #FanArtFriday on her Instagram account, the images are beautiful and reflect her career. She’s genuinely excited to share them.

user generated content

Three things to think about before you start;

  • company readiness
  • process including legal rights and payments
  • your commitment to using the final work.

Spotify and Lego show us that user-generated content can work for a company, but it takes brand commitment and a tribe.

Image:  Artist   |   M McIntyre   |   CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Ad Blocking

We’ve all become very used to having access to a massive amount of content – news, videos, blogs, images – for free via the internet.

The consequence has been that a number of those content providers have lost advertiser revenue, which in the long term jeopardises our access to “free” content. Ad blockers were a recurring topic at the Web Summit last year and as one content provider said “we thought we had a deal”, meaning that we all understood that the free content came with ads.

I should insert a personal disclaimer here; I use an ad blocker. I didn’t for a long time but I got frustrated with the increasingly intrusive ads, particularly fly-over ads, large header ads forcing me to scroll (esp on my tiny laptop) and the video autoplays that make me jump out of my skin if I have the sound on.

Turn off your adblocker – please

Content providers are starting to fight back, asking you to turn off your adblocker.

Forbes now invites you to turn off the adblocker to access their “ad-light” experience, which is for 30 days and still includes a lot of ads.

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The Atlantic is more specific, asking you to disable it or take up a print (with digital options) subscription.

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The Guardian asks you to become a supporter, pushing the case for independent journalism; “your financial contribution will support our independence and our award-winning journalism”.

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TED has come to a somewhat different solution, you’ll still get an ad if you use ad-blocker, but it’ll be for a TED product.

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Other Ways Publishers Fight Back

Whitelisting

Some companies have asked visitors to whitelist their site, but a quick check with the non-technical people in my circle indicates they have no idea how to do this, and there’s some data reported that fewer than 1% of people take this option.

Native advertising 

Native advertising refers to content that matches the website or platform that it’s on, it often has an indication somewhere on it that the content is sponsored. Because this looks so much like content from the site it most often survives the adblocker’s filters.

Acceptable Ads Program

You can “pay to play“, one of the most commonly used adblockers will program their filters to allow non-intrusive ads to survive the adblock filters.

We’re all addicted to free content, subscribing only to the most loved publishers if at all. Since it costs money to create content it’s not unreasonable for those content platforms to look for revenue by subscription or by ads. As long as we retain the expectation of free content we can expect content creators to continue trying to serve us ads, while we – annoyed by the volume of ads – continue trying to block them. The days of free content may soon be over.

Image: Wall via pixabay

Gaming NPS

I was asked in a survey recently “How likely would you be to recommend this tool to your colleagues?”

At first glance it seems like a fair enough question, and one we’re all used to seeing since NPS (Net Promoter Score) became ubiquitous. But here’s the problem; the tool in question was an internal HR tool. I have no choice but to use it. Whether I would recommend it or not is therefore irrelevant.

It’s not the first time I’ve questioned the use or implementation of NPS. And I’m not alone.

What is NPS?

NPS or Net Promoter Score is a single number that represents how likely a customer is to recommend your product/service/company to their friends, family or colleagues.

People are divided into detractors, passives and promoters based on their score. The number of promoters (those who gave a score of 9 or 10) minus the number of detractors (those who scored between 0 – 6) gives you your net promoter score. So the score can be negative.

It seems that the distribution of responses falls on a bimodal distribution with people scoring either strongly supporting or strongly detracting, with 65% of all scores being either 0, 9, or 10.

What’s Wrong with NPS?

It’s culturally insensitive; I used to see survey data from training courses, we used a 10 point scale and noticed that Dutch people tend to score any survey question on quality 1-2 points lower than their US colleagues. One respondent famously took points off because the food was too good! It was incredibly unlikely to ever get a 10 from a Dutch participant. I’m sure this has implications on NPS scores.

Limited use in B2B; because the decision cycle is more complex, with multiple stakeholders and influencers an NPS based on the scores of just the person known to the survey sender is not a useful measure.

It can be gamed; on a  holiday last year I was asked to give a company feedback, and advised that only scores of 9 or 10 would count as positive. As it happens I was happy to score a 9 without the guilt trip, but how accurate are surveys when they come with scoring instructions?

It’s not actionable; it can be really hard to understand what to improved when the NPS score is calculated across a team or across an audience as a whole. NPS Monitoring blog gives a nice hypothetical example about how breaking out an audience according to time spent with the product might help understand what approach to take to improve user experience (and therefore NPS).

Some of the issues above are around implementation; if frontline people don’t benefit individually from NPS then the risk of gaming NPS drops for example.

Is it Useful?

Yes.

NPS can be useful either as a single figure that allows a manager to see a changing trend of customer reaction, or compare businesses or markets across a large company – preferably using trend data rather than absolutes to limit any cultural biases.

If set up properly it can also be used to diagnose areas for attention by drilling into the reactions of specific groups or analysing where a respondent is in the product purchase cycle.

But it should never be used to asses a compulsory tool.

Image: Emoticon via pixabay

Marketing 101; CiTea sells coffee

If you open a tea specialist in a coffee city how do you let people know that you sell coffee without straying from your chosen specialty? Like this:

CiTea is a new cafe in Amsterdam which specialises in tea, offering forty two different types of tea and the chance to smell the leaves before you choose. They also offer delicious things to go with your tea, and advice on preparing tea. Plus wifi.

But this is a coffee city, and every time I’ve walked past I’ve been in the mood for coffee, and I’m probably not alone.

This cute sign lets potential customers know there is coffee – but it’s a side show, Tea is the main act.

How can you communicate your “extras” without undermining your main offering?

Designed to tell the company story

Luxottica, known for its product design, has just updated its website to reflect online design trends – and give its products a stylish showcase.

Luxottica’s site last week – showing the home page and the brand page.

The site served the purpose of communicating company performance but did little to inspire interest in design or products. Given that they design eye-wear for some of the world’s great fashion brands it was a disappointing experience.

Luxottica’s site now – showing the home page and the brand page.

The difference is huge; Luxottica has re-used a lot of existing content to create a rich experience for the user packed with images and video. The navigation is simplified,  brands are highlighted, and the company’s charitable foundation “OneSight” is featured.

But the changes go deeper than just visual, they include;

  • responsive design, meaning this site will look good on all devices
  • shareable content, every page includes the “share” option under an icon
  • pulling in content from social media channels
  • icons used to identify functions across the site
  • “infinite” scroll, combined with persistent left hand navigation
  • increased storytelling, instead of writing text about the company or the brand stories have been collated from across the company to give the visitor a understanding of the whole company.

This website design is on trend, covering a number of the 7 digital design trends I wrote about last year.

There are a few “minus points”; the media gallery includes just 5 images which seems very thin when the rest of the site is so rich, the videos are sometimes very long,  and the content in the individual brand pages is rather uneven (very rich for Oliver People and very thin for Chanel) which I understand is due to some brands being owned while others are licencing agreements.

But the framework is there to deliver great visual content, and tell the brand story to all stakeholders. The team behind the site should be congratulated, it’s a great step in the right direction – Luxottica.com now looks like it’s from a design company.

(Disclaimer; I know the project manager behind this, she’s fantastic – she also used to work for me)

Pointing South


HSBC posterThere’s so much wrong with this poster.

It’s an ad for HSBC I spotted in the airbridge at Athens airport. It shows a terracotta warrior, most definitely from China, wearing Havaianas, famously Brazilian. The slogan says “South-South trade will be norm not novelty”.

Well we can get the grammar out of the way, norm and novelty need articles in this sentence structure so it should read “South-South trade will be the norm, not a novelty”.

But the thing that struck me most forcefully, and prompted me to rummage for my camera on the way down the airbridge was the implication that China is South. It’s not, it is entirely in the northern hemisphere, and Beijing is further north than Athens.

Maybe HSBC wanted to reference the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China), but that makes no sense – of the four Brazil is the only nation that is in the southern hemisphere and even then small parts of the north part of the country are above the equator.

Maybe they meant that trade between the southern hemisphere nations will become normal – except it already is. Unsurprisingly nations tend to trade with their nearby countries so Australia is big trading partner for New Zealand, and Chile is a major trading partner for Brazil. (According to the US State department site). And if it’s China’s role HSBC were seeking to advertise – they’re already a big trading partner for Australia, Brazil, South Africa and New Zealand. In other words; it’s already normal, not a novelty.

In any event the sign is part of the bank’s “in the future….” branding; maybe in the future HSBC will use an atlas before they write the copy for their campaigns.

image: compass

What story do you tell?

Every business has a line in their mission/vision statements about the importance of their customers. Almost every company makes their commitment to customers explicit in their external communications – including their advertising. Huge amounts are spent training staff on communicating with customers and handling difficult enquiries. In service industries complaints are taken seriously and teams are dedicated to resolve them.

But all that good work can be undone if the company’s internal messaging is not consistent, in just seconds if that internal messaging is visible in a public area.

I took the image above in a hotel lobby, I’ll be reading a sales subtext into everything every staff member says from now on.