We are bombarded with hundreds, even thousands of marketing messages each day. What cuts through that clutter is engaging, authentic content that your target audience can relate to. A recent article in Forbes asserts that a great way to do this is through user-generated content (UGC) and I don’t disagree.

According to a 2014 study conducted by Cohn & Wolfe, 63% of consumers would prefer to do business with a brand they view as more authentic than its competitors.

Authentic content can provide customers with an engaging visual experience — what’s more real than content created by real people who most consumers can actually relate to? As in any relationship, trust is earned, and brands have the opportunity, now more than ever, to cultivate trust from the bottom up.

I have been a proponent of arts organizations using UGC for some time now (see this ArtsHacker article). We have the luxury of up to thousands of people attending our events — the vast majority of whom have smartphones and are active on social media. How can we better engage them to create authentic content that will resonate in a crowded marketplace?

I’ve got a couple of examples to hopefully inspire you:

Photo Booth

One of the simplest ways to do this is to set up a photo booth. Encourage patrons to take a photo of themselves and post it to social media using a hashtag. Perhaps offer a reward for posting like a discount to an upcoming event or even some swag that can be given out right then and there.

Here are a couple of examples from Palm Beach Opera’s lobby photo booth. Fun props were created and patrons of all ages participated and posted the photos on their social media accounts.

Thematic Campaign

You can also ask people to submit images according to a particular theme or to share a personal story. These images can be crafted into a campaign that is deployed by your organization.  Check out this the recent #withballet campaign from New York City Ballet. They asked people to submit a photo and narrative about how ballet has impacted their lives and created a social media campaign from it. They featured professional dancers, students, and amateurs to create a highly engaging campaign.

Before you embark on any sort of campaign, whether UGC or not, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who is my target audience?
    Zero in on exactly who you are trying to reach. Even if your campaign might be suitable for “everyone,” dial in on with whom it will resonate the most.
  2. What messaging platforms do they use?
    Keep in mind that, depending on your target audience, these platforms may be ones that your organization doesn’t use already.
  3. What type of voice will best resonate with them?
    I can definitively say that jargon and org-speak won’t work. The voice of the campaign should be one that will be engaging to your target audience and one that will make them feel comfortable and welcome.
  4. What is my desired outcome?
    Right from the start, identify what you want the result of the campaign to be. Is it simply for engagement (which is totally valid)? Is it to achieve a certain number of image submissions (as in a case like the #withballet campaign)? Is it to gather images to use in a larger branding or marketing campaign? Knowing where you want to go will allow you to make better-informed decisions on how to get there.

Above all, authentic content, whether it is user-generated or not, will be more impactful than any marketing messaging we can write. After all:

About Ceci Dadisman

Ceci is a multi-faceted marketing professional with over 10 years of experience successfully marketing the arts, nonprofits, and small businesses utilizing innovative and cutting-edge initiatives. She is nationally recognized as a leader in digital and social media marketing and specializes in the integration of digital marketing and technology into traditional marketing methods.

She is on the National Arts Marketing Project Advisory Committee, the Arts Midwest Conference Professional Development Committee, is the Immediate Past President of Femfessionals West Palm Beach, the Immediate Past President of the South Florida Chapter of the American Marketing Association, and served for many years as the OPERA America Marketing Network Chair. She was recently appointed to the West Virginia University College of Creative Arts Visiting Committee.

Ceci was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from West Virginia University with a music degree in vocal performance.

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