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Some hard realities about user generated content

User taking a photo of a static photograph

User generated content (UGC) is considered to be something of a Holy Grail by many brands keen to engage and grow digitally. Digital marketers and digitally minded brands alike will go to great lengths to prompt users to deliver some of that sweet, sweet positive UGC.

From running competitions, to masterminding engaging campaigns, today whole swathes of marketing budgets and working hours go towards spawning content from social media users.

But not every aspect of UGC is a boon for online businesses…

Whether it’s an ill-thought out UGC minded social media campaign, or an image published on site without the user’s permission, there are lots of ways in which UGC can betray brands. In some cases UGC problems will result in wasted budget and perhaps some negative publicity on social media, in others it could mean very nasty interactions with users, fines and even legal action.

Keep best practice in mind and UGC can be harnessed to generate a hugely positive effect for your brand, but fail to do things “the right way” and you could find yourself in hot water. Keep these three “hard truths” about user generated content in mind to stay safe a reap positive returns…

1. User generated content doesn’t belong to brands, it belongs to social networks

Think of all the hard work brands pour into UGC-soliciting campaigns. In terms of budget and working hours, the most successful UGC campaigns can be extremely cost intensive. Hashtag campaigns have to be masterminded, competitions have to be planned, influencer marketing has to be invested in.

For most brands this investment is worthwhile, as long as the campaign generates lots of positive collateral they can use to market their service or product. Yet, the truth is that even if fantastic content is generated by users as a result, this content doesn’t belong to the brand itself.

In one way, brands are effectively marketing for their chosen social networks, actively making platforms like Twitter and Instagram more vibrant and engaging, prompting their users to be more active. Ultimately, brands have nothing concrete to show for all of this activity and investment.

The content produced is owned by the platform it is posted on and the user in question. It is highly temporary and can be deleted in an instant, making it a very fragile asset indeed which is only visible for a short period of time. The brand responsible has little or no control over the UGC it has worked to hard to trigger and, if it tries to take ownership of the content, it can find itself in hot water.

  • How Miappi can help…

Our social media aggregator allows brands to take control of the UGC they create. We help brands to keep track of valuable UGC, identifying the most powerful pieces and allowing businesses to make this valuable content visible on public social walls, without stepping on any toes.

We use machine learning to identify which social content carries the most potential value for your brand, using tools including ImageScan, a text rules engine and artificial intelligence to pinpoint positive UGC which deserves a more permanent showing on your social wall.

Our attractive social walls then combine this content on your website or any possible digital touchpoint, making ROI-generating, conversion-triggering and engagement-boosting UGC front and centre over the long term – all in one visible, brand-owned place.

2. Explicit usage consent is difficult to obtain

No brand wants to find itself in hot water when a user objects to them republishing their UGC. While it’s reasonably safe to assume that any user uploading UGC featuring a campaign hashtag you have created is comfortable with you using their creation, it’s not a dead cert.

For many brands, only direct permission will do, especially when they want to use more “organic” UGC which doesn’t include a brand hashtag or hasn’t been created as part of a UGC campaign. Images, especially, can be sensitive material to republish, especially when shown on a brand’s website.

This type of activity has already cost brands like Duane Reade dearly. When the chain published a “papped” image which had been shared socially, showing Katherine Heigl holding two of their bags, the Grey’s Anatomy actress successfully sued the US drugstore for $6m.

As users become increasingly aware of the value of UGC to brands, it’s likely they’ll be less and less willing to give “something for nothing”. Ensuring consent is given before UGC is used is therefore more important than ever – making harnessing this type of content even more time- and resource-consuming

  • How Miappi can help…

Miappi Engage makes obtaining user content regarding UGC quick and easy. When you come across a piece of UGC relating to your brand which you want to showcase on your social wall on site or on any screen, the paper aeroplane “Engage” button on the top right of the post (as viewed in the Curate tab) allows you to instantly reach out to the creator of the post, asking them to deny or approve sharing with a simple #yes or #no.

Customize your message before sending, or send a friendly template to content creators, then wait for the “Engage” button to turn orange (the message is waiting to be sent), blue (the message has been sent), green (your request has been approved) or red (your request has been denied).

3. The photographer matters

Want to share a great image of a consumer enjoying your product or service? Proceed with caution. Visual UGC is especially sensitive when it’s time to share. Not only will you need consent from the individuals in the image, you’ll also need to consent of whoever took the photograph. In the Wild West of the web, this isn’t always easy to discern, which means it’s especially important that you interact with the individual who has shared the image to make absolutely certain that they’re the original photographer. Sharing another photographer’s image without their consent could get you in big trouble.

  • How Miappi can help…

Again, Miappi Engage is here to save the day. Customizing your “Engage” outreach message allows you to ensure the sharer is also the photographer. Of course, it’s not always possible to rely on reported ownership of an image, so pop any photo you intend to use (with permission) into a Google Image search to help verify that the individual you are interacting with is indeed to owner of the image.

Find out more about how Miappi makes UGC beautifully easy and extra effective. Try out our social walls today with our FREE trial, or let us show you around with an eye-opening demo.

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Contact us: Why not get in touch to discuss how Miappi could help you increase the reach of your social media? Miappi Ltd. Level 5 22 Upper Ground London SE1 9PD Tel. +44 (0) 203 6374360