Turn Your Audience into Your Content Creators


Zachary Owen Social Media

When did we start wanting to become the protagonist of every scene and event? Older generations would probably pinpoint that moment at around the creation of platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. That would be a fair assessment in most cases as it was certainly the time in which our narcissism got given the perfect stage from which to shine. It is easy to understand why older members of society look on in a state of bewilderment at the wave of selfie-sticks, Instagram and Facebook live streams that has swamped our lives.

 It often seems that we no longer travel to be amazed at iconic landscape, architecture or cultural masterpieces. We travel because we want to tick off another item on the list and let everyone know via a Facebook checkin that we are leading interesting and enriching lives.  Why else would the Louvre be overrun by flocks of tourists taking photos of the Mona Lisa when they could get a far better picture of it online? This is not a criticism, I stare at my own Instagram profile and see an endless stream of photos of myself in different places. I have inadavertently built an online shrine to myself. I think most of us have.

Despite the perception that this is a modern phenomenon, it is not. For as long as humans have told stories, we have enjoyed giving ourselves a role in them. Just look at Velazquez’s Las Meninas in which the Spanish painter made himself a central figure. A more modern example would be any Quentin Tarantino film in which the director is an enormous fan of giving himself a cameo despite a lack of real acting credentials. 

It is in the nature of a huge percentage of people to seek the spotlight. The question for marketers is how best to take advantage of this self-obsession. How do we make our brands something that brings out that almost compulsive need to star in and share? 

Over the years there have been some outstanding campaigns that have gone viral by placing social media users at the heart of the content. An example of this can be seen in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that encouraged social media users to share videos of them pouring freezing water over themselves (accompanied by a donation to the ALS Association) and then nominate friends and family to do the same. The initiative went viral and raised over $115 million for a disease that few people had heard of before their trailblazing campaign. 

The Ice Bucket Challenge combined a good cause, peer pressure and people’s willingness to share their own content to create an amazing outpouring of support and recognition. It was a game changer in terms of bringing fundraising strategies into the digital age and has fundamentally changed the way that charities go about promoting their cause and message.  Private companies would do extremely well to take lessons from this enormous success that garnered the attention of figures such as Bill Gates, US presidents and even the Simpsons. To take something from the fringe and push it into the very heart of public consciousness is the very essence of marketing.

Of course, you would be right to say that people are far more receptive to marketing when it focuses around a cause such as curing a degenerative disease. It becomes much harder however when profit hungry companies try to start a movement based on getting people to voluntarily create and share content in order to increase brand awareness. This its where a certain element of bribery comes into play with the introduction of a competition or prize draw.

Marc Jacobs did this fantastically when they sought to search for a new face for the brand as well pushing it into the public eye. The #CastMeMarc campaign was a competition that encouraged people to upload a photo of themselves on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag and the winner would be chosen to star in the company’s new line. Not only was this a way of uncovering hidden talent that had been overlooked by the world of modelling but it also got people talking about the brand. Through this, the company managed to bridge the gap that exists between the public and the world of high fashion. 

Social media is often criticised within the world of marketing for its failure to deliver a consistent lift in sales in the same way that traditional advertising might. There is no doubt that there is enormous potential in using these networks to turn your audience into your own content creators. However, it requires enormous creativity whilst at the same time giving your audience a concrete reason to want to engage with your message. To start by thinking from the point of the view of the customer is essential to building a campaign that can go viral. The fact is that most of us want to have our fifteen minutes of fame. If you are able to tap into that then a medium that so many companies have struggled with will become your oyster and a key source of brand awareness and sales.