Social media has changed the way consumers — especially Millennials — interact with brands and, in turn, transformed the way brands communicate with consumers. Rather than viewing from the sidelines, today’s socially minded digital natives are eager to participate in shaping brand culture and media savvy companies are tapping into that desire to scale their marketing efforts.
Before the advent of social media, mass media shaped brand culture. There was a one-way information flow from major media outlets to the general public. This is no longer the case. Social media facilitates crowd culture — or media generated by the general public — to talk back to mass media and open up conversations in and between social groups across geospatial boundaries. Thus, walls of communication around corporations — and governments — are being replaced by a culture of proximity. In other words, everyday people are now able to actively participate in creating and curating content, starting and spreading trends, and engaging with politicians, celebrities and brands.
As Viacom’s new study highlights, 86 percent of Millennials believe, “Fans have at least some ownership of the things they’re fans of,” 61 percent say they “can influence pop culture” and 70 percent participate in activities that give them a reason to post on social media.
Further, compared with agency created content, user generated content, on average, receives 4 times more clicks at half the cost per click; is 20 percent more influential on Millennial buying habits; is 35 percent more unforgettable and 50 percent more trustworthy for Millennials.
Ultimately, Millennials want to work with brands to shape culture and some of the most successful marketing campaigns are capitalizing on this trend to magnify earned media, strengthen relationships with consumers and increase the bottom line.
Here are three ways you can encourage consumers to co-create your brand culture and content:
1. Host a Hashtag Competition: One way to inspire consumers to contribute to brand storytelling is by holding a social media competition.
A great example of a hashtag competition was National Geographic’s #wanderlust contest. The company invited consumers to post their favorite photos of the great outdoors using the hashtag and offered the winner, who they selected, a weeklong photography trip in Yosemite National Park. Nat Geo received not only excellent user generated content and expanded its social media presence, but also earned mentions from traditional media outlets.
Ultimately, consumers want to share their stories with their communities and be recognized as innovative creators. The Viacom study also highlighted how 50 percent of Millennials think “someone should make a movie about my life”. By offering consumers an outlet to broadcast their own experiences, brands can make marketing personal and inspire increased consumer engagement.
2. Crowdsource Creative: Another way to awaken consumer participation– and save money on content creation — is to ask fans to design advertising campaigns.
A company currently inviting fans and followers to tell its story is Tesla. The brand is holding the Project Loveday competition in which contestants can submit short videos via Tesla’s website and enter to win a trip to an upcoming Tesla product launch as well as video promotion.
Similar to the hashtag competition, this strategy offers participants a prize for their creative input. Essentially, asking consumers to co-create brand storytelling is an amazing way to harness the power of cultural proximity to touch upon Millennials’ desire to be part of the brands they love most.
3. Inspire Contributory Content: While previous examples focused on highlighting fan creativity and personal gratification, touching upon consumers’ desire to do good is also a great way to incite engagement and generate word of mouth advertising.
One of the foundational principles of We First thinking is the notion that consumers want a better world and companies can carve out a competitive advantage by inviting customers to participate in contributory consumption. In other words, people want to be part of the solution and are more likely to purchases products and services that not only serve their personal needs, but also fund a good cause.
Contributory content touches upon people’s’ desire to make a difference by inviting fans and followers to share content in exchange for corporate contributions to social or environmental causes.
A good example of a contributory content campaign is CricHQ’s #ICareISupport initiative. The cricket media hub made a donation to drought victims in Maharashtra, India whenever anyone posted a comment on twitter with the hashtag; effectively inviting consumers to join the brand in building a better world.
The lesson here is that contributory content is an excellent way for brands to showcase their social good contributions and invite consumers to participate in doing good while simultaneously amplifying marketing reach.
Today, social media allows the general public to participate in shaping media and cultural narratives. This global technological movement is inspiring Millennials — as well as consumers in general — to co-create company culture and storytelling. What’s more, it opens up amazing potential for brands to deepen connections with fans and consumers by welcoming them to participate in crafting communications strategies, social good campaigns and business decisions. Therefore, it’s vital for brands to encourage their fans and followers to share creative ideas, reward active participants and work together to make the world a better place.