I've been kicking around this mantra for a long while: "you need to earn the right to get your Consumers out of lurker mode." Lurker mode is a not-so-creepy thing in the Digital world. It simply means someone who is on your Website, but has not identified themselves (be it through leaving an email address or a comment). I'm sure you've seen the surge in traditional media asking for our "stories." They're encouraging people to submit videos, audio, photos or their stories for any number of products and services (you know, the whole, "tell us your story," chestnut).
I just shake my head in disbelief.
I think about all of the traditional advertising funds that are being pumped into the message in hopes that someone sees it, records their own message (be it text, audio, image or video) uploads it to some random site, and then what?
What is anybody going to do with this content and what's the point?
If someone found your product or service that interesting to begin with, don't you think they would have already created some content, and either sent it to you (or posted it somewhere)? What makes brands think they've earned the right to engage their Consumers to create content just because they created an advertising campaign asking them to?
While this may come off as a rant (or, as Joseph Jaffe once asked, "does Mitch Joel rant?"), I think within this Blog posting lies the answers to getting User Generated Content right. User Generated Content needs to be something so compelling that the people creating the piece of content are compelled to do it. They're passionate about it. They're simply not going to do it just because you're running a bunch of ads asking them to. Mostly because there's no payout. And, the payout is not cash... it's pride. It's the User's (or Consumer's) ability to be proud of what they've created (so much so that they will tell others about it - maybe even post it to their Facebook profile).
It is healthy that Marketers are excited and inspired by the potential of User Generated Content. It's also important to try a bunch of different advertising campaigns to see which best suits your brand. It's also important to, sometimes, take a step back (and a deep breathe) and ask the toughest question of all: "does anybody care about us that much that they'll take time out of their busy schedule to tell us why?" And the next (logical) follow-up question, "If they do... what will do with it, and how do we honour their efforts?"