How User-Generated Content Makes Brand Experiences Better

March 30, 2017

Dan Hoffend

As president of FreemanXP, the fastest-growing division of Freeman, Dan Hoffend is creating a bold, fresh culture that leverages technology, expertise, access and business acumen to uncover unique insights into client audiences, industries and marketplaces. 

Creating a great brand experience and creating great content are not distinctly different activities. A successful brand experience maximizes all the ways you can engage attendees, setting the stage for them to interact, network and share information. And as they say, content is king.

Content is a natural extension of any brand experience, whether that’s the thought leadership shared during the experience itself or content that attendees generate around an event when they are inspired and engaged. It allows for a deeper, lasting connection and creates value for attendees. It is a key part of the marketing mix that helps amplify reach during registration, throughout the event and in ongoing conversation.

It’s time for us to stop thinking of ourselves as only marketers and more as content generators and maximizers. In today’s world, our audiences are craving a more social, personal, experiential connection to brands and that has made the experience medium more important than ever. 

Brand experiences are not passive events – we are makers, creating the kind of content that acts as a powerful PR generator and has the power to amplify brand influence. And thanks to widespread technology, our attendees have become content promoters and creators in their own rights.

Here’s how harnessing our attendees’ passion for creating content can help improve the brand experience.

User-generated content enriches your event

What better way to add a deeper layer of engagement for attendees than by bringing their creativity into the mix? Weave generation opportunities in with your existing event content – try an attendee-generated art installation or a social media mosaic wall created with an onsite photo booth. Or you can go organic and curate attendee blog articles and social media posts into a single location thanks to a little keyword magic.

And don’t forget, user-generated content doesn’t have to begin or end at your event. Get attendees started beforehand with a fun campaign that whets their appetites for in-person brand experiences – or even use it to drive interest toward registration. Find out what topics they are most interested in and make sure to weave that into your education program. Harness future brand ambassadors to help you spread the word using a social-powered contest.

Fashion brand Perry Ellis even went one step further, using user-generated photographs to curate an online fashion show event on Instagram. 

Content: the best press that money can’t buy

Everyone wants their brand experience to buzz, whether that means blowing up a hashtag on Twitter or hitting the front page with a great press placement. But many marketers make the mistake of thinking of social and PR as two separate entities when in fact they’re inextricably tied. Public relations in the digital age is a completely different strategic beast and social media can be extremely important to a successful visibility campaign.

For our client, Warner Bros., brand experience helped them tackle the challenge of building excitement in China around the newest installment in the Harry Potter franchise, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Our team worked with Warner Bros. to build an immersive experience to take fans into the magical world. The accompanying digital platform promoted social media sharing and produced huge amounts of social exposure from the hashtag, social posts on Weibo and WeChat and it even acted as the catalyst for media cover stories. The buzz extended the experience from its inaugural event and it also created hype for the premiere events that followed in different cities around APAC.  

When you add user-generated content to the mix, that is the kind of coverage that even the best PR can’t come close to touching. Influencers with high social capital are the hot reporters of today, so giving them the opportunities and reasons to create content centered around your brand experience is key to the best kind of coverage. It’s genuine, in the moment and liable to resonate with your target audiences – because it comes straight from those audiences themselves. 

Utilizing the attendee influence

Attendees even have the power to influence the experience themselves, generating content at a meta level through interaction and input. At one HubSpot conference, attendees were hot to learn more on a particular topic and took to social media to share their thoughts. The team behind the event took that feedback to heart and created an extra session just to fulfill that audience’s need.

Before the event for one of our healthcare technology clients, each attendee was sent a series of personalized content that catered to their event goals. It included emails, print mail with sneak peeks at content and personalized event swag to build excitement.

During the event, general session content was crowdsourced by allowing attendees to vote for or against a session topic. Letting attendees guide the content gets them more engaged and invested in the sessions, which can have a real payoff in social sharing and posting.

Today’s attendee wants to be involved, to dig their hands into a brand experience and not just see it but shape it. Supplying them with a steady stream of great content and providing pathways for generating their own infuses your experience with creative energy, adds dimension to the traditional content approach, and helps bolster media strategies to generate influential coverage for both your event and your brand.

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