How 5 Retail Brands Are Maximizing the Power of User-Generated Content

This post is the latest in our “Word of Mouth” series. It’s our editorial focus for the month of February, including topics like reputation management, and reviews optimization. See the rest of the series here


The majority of brand mentions on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are irrelevant, but the small sliver of content that’s posted by actual customers can be incredibly powerful for companies that know what to do with it.

Photos and videos that shoppers post on social media convey sentiment about brands, giving fellow consumers—and brands themselves—an uncensored look at how people really feel about their products and services. How brands harness this feedback is evolving, as brand marketers find new ways to glean insights from the unstructured consumer feedback being posted on social media and elsewhere online.

In addition to collecting insights, the savviest brand marketers are using social media to get customers involved in digital content creation. The practice has the effect of giving brands more earned media value and promoting loyalty among confirmed customers.

Here are five examples of brands that are engaging shoppers across social channels and taking full advantage of the content that customers post on their own online accounts.

1. Pottery Barn
Pottery Barn has been a pioneer in the user-generated content space. For years, the retailer has been encouraging customers to take photos of Pottery Barn products with the hashtag #mypb. By including that hashtag, customers make it easier for Pottery Barn’s reps to find their photos. In addition to reposting the best photos on social media, Pottery Barn also includes user photos on its product pages, under the header “’See How Others Styled This Item.” This gives website visitors a way to see what the products they’re researching look like in real-world spaces. Republishing user-generated content in this way gives Pottery Barn a free source of product images, and it also offers some insights into how customers are styling Pottery Barn products in their own homes.

2. Coca-Cola
One of the most talked-about social media campaigns as of late is also heavy on user engagement. Coca-Cola’s #ShareACoke campaign has been going on for nearly five years, with Coke adding name labels to 20oz. bottles and encouraging customers to post photos of themselves with the #ShareACoke hashtag when they find bottles with their names. Last summer, the company added a twist to the campaign, putting peel-off stickers on selected Coke bottles that customers could scan to unlock prizes. Coca-Cola has used the images that customers post with the #ShareACoke hashtag to inform future marketing strategies, as well, which is one way that the company is keeping the hashtag relevant among consumers in its target demographics.

3. Rebecca Minkoff
Rebecca Minkoff is a fashion designer, but her namesake brand has become about more than just handbags and jackets. The company has been able to inspire brand loyalty, and clarify its mission, by creating a Facebook group focused on female empowerment. The RMSuperwomen group has become a place where fans of the brand can share inspiring stories about the courageous things they have done in their own lives, which dovetails with Rebecca Minkoff’s brand messaging. The company also uses social media as a place to post behind-the-scenes pictures, in a move that’s designed to make customers feel like they’re insiders who are actually a part of the company itself.

4. Ipsy
Ipsy is a monthly makeup and beauty sample subscription service. The company has managed to make a name for itself by understanding what its customers want and engaging them in an entirely new way on social media. Ipsy encourages its customers to create content that the brand can use online by regularly reposting images with the #ipsy hashtag and also promoting the social media handles of customers who post images of the company’s monthly bags. The possibility of having their names mentioned on Ipsy’s popular Instagram account, with more than 2.2 million followers, is enough to get fans posting about the company. The strategy also gives Ipsy a better look at how customers are using the company’s makeup samples in the real world.

5. Tentsile
How can brands encourage customers to tell friends about their products without necessarily posting images of themselves with the company’s products? One way is by running online giveaways, which Tentsile has successfully done on Instagram. The outdoors brand, which sells portable treehouses that look like a mash-up of a hammock and a tent, partnered with three similar brands to run an Instagram giveaway. Followers were instructed to tag three friends in the comments and “like” a certain photo in Tensile’s feed to be entered to win. Tentsile gained new social media followers, both through word-of-mouth marketing, when followers tagged their friends, and through its partners’ Instagram feeds. The company was also able to collect information that could potentially be used to create more targeted social media advertising campaigns in the future.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

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