In the last 10 years, some 85% of the 2014 Best Global Brands have used crowdsourced content, according to eYeka, 2015. At a time of ever-increasing demand for content, it’s telling. And what is the most crowdsourced type of content used by these brands? Video (45% of all initiatives in 2014).
“Crowdsourced, or UGC (user-generated content), video is growing as brands want to be more natural and authentic to their customers,” said Olga Egorsheva, co-founder and CEO at social media marketplace Lobster. “They want to appeal to real life with real-life videos. It’s all about being interesting. This helps them put the person at the heart of their message.”
Emily Forbes, founder of Seenit, an app that enables brands to co-create content, adds that people are capturing increasing amounts of video on their phones and becoming more comfortable with it, citing the fact that 60% of all Snapchat users are submitting content daily. “UGC enables brands to broadcast a very authentic message, which has the ability to put trust and intimacy back into the story. People follow people, not brands,” she said.
Footballers Play Their Part It is a shift that is changing the way brands tell stories, a move that involves their biggest fans in their brand narratives. Adidas is one company that has invested in more UGC on its brand channels recently, working closely with members of its communities on social and key influencer partners, such as F2 Freestylers and Copa90.
“It enables the company to collaborate on content that is not solely directed or produced by the brand,” said Ben Goldhagen, senior manager, football and team sports, adidas U.K. and Ireland.
Adidas has big plans to step up its investment in crowdsourced content in the second half of 2016, notably in London, in key categories including football, running, and women’s sport. “We have actively engaged over 600 young footballers in London within our football initiatives so far in 2016, many of whom have both starred in brand-led content or submitted their own to be run across our brand channels,” said Goldhagen. “We recognise [crowdsourced video’s] storytelling potential and have plans in place over the summer to make this a key focus of our campaign planning.”
He adds that the more adidas has listened to what its audience wants from the content it creates and shares on its channels, the more engagement it has been able to drive. “This efficiency is at the heart of why embracing UGC and crowdsourcing is a key focus for us.”
Fergus Dyer-Smith, founder of video production marketplace Whooshi, says that crowdsourcing video is a means of discovering new stories and inspiring huge creative communities—without boundaries. “It allows brands to discover new ways of telling stories uninhibited by their or their agencies’ politics. Group think is a killer of creativity and crowdsourcing provides a great way to get a large diversity of thinking on any given project.”
Employees Share Tips And Tricks Benefit Cosmetics has made video a priority this year, and its weekly Benefit Presents video content is posted every Friday on Facebook. The company began by working with a videographer, but, according to Michelle Stoodley, head of digital marketing, Benefit, it was a “very resource heavy” approach. Instead, it recently began working with Seenit, which allows it to crowdsource video content from its counter staff all over the world. It is an approach that has opened the brand’s eyes.
“We have a trend team who are our core make-up artists, and they do things a certain way, but seeing how [our counter staff] put on eyeshadow or apply their brow products, for example, has shown us that there is more scope for tips and tricks and mixing make-up in ways you didn’t do before. I think we will start to see more of that, and it is something we will encourage.”
Next month Benefit has plans to begin crowdsourcing video from beauty bloggers too—influencers who can be powerful mouthpieces for brands. “[Brands] are looking at opinion-making individuals (influencers, we call them) and talented members of the public to guide their creatives,” said Egorsheva. “They are trying to capture the moments where their brand may bring most value and then communicate those through the videos these moments are shot in.”
Superfans Film Their Reactions It is a sentiment that is echoed by Solomon Wilkinson, researcher, digital storytelling at the BBC, which is currently trialling the Seenit app within factual television. Its most successful project to date was for “The Sky at Night,” around Tim Peake’s launch to the International Space Station. “The video we made was the highest engaged bit of content of the whole social campaign. We reached out to thousands of stargazing ‘superfans’ who are highly engaged on our Twitter feed and asked them to watch the launch live and film their reaction to it. It worked really well.”
He says the secret to its success was the commitment of such “superfans.” “I think it worked well because the people we selected footage from were so engaged in the content and so up for it. Crowdsourcing video content doesn’t work when you have to cajole people to do it—they have to really want to be a part of it,” he said.
Goldhagen takes a similar view and believes that, for adidas, football possibly has the most potential when it comes to crowdsourced video. “[Football] has an existing, highly engaged community that already creates and shares content in real time across social and, therefore, we have a huge, highly engaged audience already in situ, which, if we can get the creative right, we can tap into without having to engineer or force an entry point.”
Going Beyond Passion But it doesn’t just mean that crowdsourced video works for so-called passion subjects. “Every brand has a community, whether that’s employees, customers, or a group of experts that have the ability to crowdsource their stories,” said Seenit’s Forbes. “Some content produced may be more appealing to a wider audience, but every brand has the ability and need for storytelling to engage more [people].”
Seenit, for example, has worked on recruitment campaigns: “We work with a lot of large corporates internally connecting their employees around the world to tell stories together. These stories are then shared online to showcase the real character and values of the brand.”
Lobster’s Egorsheva also agrees that it can go beyond passion subjects. “Pets is a good example, while food is perfect for crowdsourced content. At the same time, we have also seen very niche crowdsourced video demand—for business services brands, for example,” she said.
That said, doing it well is paramount. Wilkinson at the BBC says the key to unlocking the potential in the wealth of crowdsourced content out there is curation. “It is about knowing where to put it and in what form. Brands have to apply a lot of careful thought and editorial judgement to craft a narrative out of the content. It is an interesting challenge.”