After recently posting an article about a Border's User Generated Novel it made me wonder, why do so many user generated content campaigns fail? What should companies be doing to build participation on top of great ideas? How do you leverage social networks?
There are some great examples like the Cadbury Gorilla I blogged about, Dorito's (nice coverage over at Mumbrella), and Tourism Queensland but I opened up the discussion with my fellow Linked In connections about why so many fail and there where some common answers present in many responses.
1. Failure to consider the human element
Above all things, people are time poor with families to feed, jobs to manage and their own dreams to fulfil. Social networks do foster engagement but it's by no means uniform. The level of required participation is a major factor to success.
A combination of a low level work on the participants behalf, with a high level of campaign ownership generally has a good impact on a campaign. Imedia highlight a simple campaign for the release of "Transformers" asking users to submit phrases for Optimum Prime. Visitors to the site voted for the 30 best phrases, and the winning entry appears in the film.
2. An ineffective engagement strategy
Many companies approach social media (and often the net as a whole) as any other traditional advertising channel. A "book this and send it off" mindset which is likely to fail in the social arena. As there is no emphasis on building relationships.
Why would you not want to communicate with the users you are targeting? There needs to be a bond formed between the brand and the participants before users will digg, tweet, bookmark or share a brands campaign.
3. Lack of credibility in the space
Building solid relationships in the space a campaign occupies also plays a massive part in the success of a campaign. Once the relationship is in place (and is a true relationship) then users will feel confident in the brand to “spread” the word and the idea through posts, tweets, conversations etc.
Take for example Skittle's recent foray into social media. A domain mashing up content solely produced by users on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube & Flickr is a gutsy move. But initial responses in marketing circles has been somewhat critical of the implementation of the campaign (See Laurel's Post and Mashable coverage).
4. Failure to empower participants. Engagement + content = ownership
The key here seems to be the ability in gaining the endorsement of a few influential advocates while remainging open to positive and negative discussion.
Perfect example of this is the explosion of wikis and wikipedia the free online encyclopaedia reviewed by users for users. It has changed the way people contribute to discussions, debates and ideas in the social sphere and even in the workplace.
5. A great idea.
Before any of the above can make a difference at the heart of it all needs to be a cracker of an idea that can be easily communicated, is original and compel people to be involved.
Overall, keep it simple, make it worth their while, make it relevant to the brand and most of all don't send it out into the world without a little support.