User-Generated Content: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

By Kari Rippetoe | Sep 27, 2012
More Articles by Kari


During our recent webinar, How Content Marketing Drives Search and ROI Success, Janet Driscoll-Miller and I talked about different types of content that can be created to help drive your organic search marketing efforts. We talked briefly about user-generated content (UGC), which can come in many different forms, such as reviews, forums, Q&A sites (such as Quora), member communities, customer support communities…the list goes on and on.

User-generated content provides several content marketing benefits, including:

  • UGC can shift the burden of content creation off the shoulders of the internal team.
  • It can help with generating lots of content over a short period of time, which can be indexed by search engines.
  • UGC comes from your customers and/or community, making it interesting story-telling content that can be effective for driving a variety of content marketing metrics such as website traffic, social media sharing and, that all important metric, LEADS.

BUT (and there’s always a “but”), this is not to say that user-generated content is the absolute answer for your content marketing woes or that it’s by any means easy to manage. If not executed properly or monitored closely, UGC campaigns can backfire in a major way.

Here are a few examples we talked about during our webinar (plus a BONUS example we didn’t mention) of what happens when user-generated content goes oh-so-right and horribly wrong:

The Good: Litter Robot Customer Video

Litter Robot is a self-cleaning litter box that looks an awful lot like a certain sci-fi movie icon of “Death” (big hint there) and destruction. Because of that, a customer decided to create this video that illustrates this in a creative (and incredibly cute) way:

Litter Robot has a YouTube channel that features this and many other customer videos. They also hold a video contest that yields a ton more in the way of creative customer stories.

BONUS: Five Guys Burgers & Fries Review

“Daym Drops,” according to his YouTube channel, “(hosts) food reviews from various locations.” Sounds pretty mundane, right? Except his video reviews of places like Five Guys Burgers & Fries are anything but. They turn into viral sensations that are remixed by legions of others. Here is a “Songified” version of his Five Guys review that really puts a positive spotlight on the burger chain:

The Bad: Bic for Her

This isn’t an example of a brand trying to generate content from its customers, but instead one where UGC blew up because of one of those “what were they thinking?” products. Bic launched a pen marketed to women, calling it “Bic for Her.” This resulted in a boatload of bad press and sarcastic, snarky reviews on Amazon:

This is a great example of why companies should closely monitor the online reviews landscape for feedback like this – which is better than any focus group could ever provide. Negative reviews can be just as useful as positive reviews.

The Ugly: Fake Shell Photo Caption Campaign

Here’s an example of what happens when your brand is hijacked by an organization that opposes what you do and stand for, so much so as to create a fake website, fake PR event, and a fake UGC campaign. You get a caption contest put on by Greenpeace, which resulted in captions like this:

While this is a UGC campaign that was not put on by the brand, Shell Oil Company, this goes to show how content created by the public about a brand can get out of hand very quickly.

When creating your own UGC campaigns, make sure you think about any possible ramifications that could come about from putting content creation into the hands of your customers and the general public. You should also be on the lookout, through your regular brand and online reputation monitoring, for content that has been created about your brand outside of any campaigns or promotions you’re running. You might find hoax campaigns like the one Greenpeace put on, or you can stumble on some great content gems evangelizing your product or service.

What are some good, bad and ugly examples of user-generated content you’ve seen?

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