What Makes You Say “I Want That”? A Look at User-Generated Content

Laura Petrolino (here she is on Twitter) and I have been friends online for five years but never actually spoke face to face (via video conference) until when we were putting together this post!

It’s a miracle we were able to coordinate a time, given our mutual inability to tell what day it is. Case in point from a 2016 Facebook message exchange:

User-generated content examples

How Does Our Experience of the World Compare?

As communications professionals, Laura and I are both interested in user-generated content (UGC) — messages and images created by consumers rather than brands — that help tell a brand’s story. In fact, Laura wrote a post, The Magic of User-Generated Content, for Spin Sucks on the topic back in 2014.

For the #BridgingTheGap Campaign, in which 100 Millennial and 100 Midlife Influencers are coming together to blur boundaries, we each decided to share examples of favorite pieces of UGC, and let you see how the perspectives of millennials and fifty-somethings compare.

We needed some kind of structure, so I chose to use the four categories described in this analysis by Kantar Added Value: discovery, fun, status and wellbeing.

Discovery

Meet my canine friend, Rocky. Rocky has quite an active life on Instagram, and watching him since he was a tiny puppy has been a discovery adventure. What matters for an image like this as UGC is that it clearly shows the brand of bed he is using, but it doesn’t scream “YOU SHOULD BUY THIS PET BED.” It’s more of the kind of thing that would be in the back of my mind if I were in the market for a pet product.

And because I know Rocky, I feel a connection. It’s not the brand saying “you need a Snoozzy bed because your dog will like it.” It’s Rocky’s family saying “here’s a day in Rocky’s life and he’s on Snoozzy because he clearly deserves the best.”
user-generated content examples

Fun

What would you wear to spend a day at the park with your toddler (or, given my generation, perhaps your grandchild)? You would want to be comfortable, prepared for changes in temperature, and look decent enough that it wouldn’t be embarrassing to run into a friend.

This post from MommaInFlipFlops accomplishes all that in its display of a Prana product. (Note: I participated in the same campaign, but her toddler is way cuter than the jar of catnip I held up in my UGC!).

Here’s why this works as UGC for me. The main thing I am drawn to is the relationship between the mom and the toddler, and the beautiful setting. When I scroll through the hashtags, I can see that she’s wearing prAna and can choose to pursue it.

user-generated content examples

Status

Is there anything more affirming that the start of a new married life? Although my niece Olivia had a fantastic photographer at her wedding, this shot is one I grabbed with my iPhone from my perfectly positioned seat as her sisters toasted her and her new groom.

Why is this effective UGC for Hayley Paige? It showcases a bridal gown and two bridesmaids’ gowns in a genuine moment, not an artificial pose. It could appeal to a potential bride OR a mother-of-the bride, all depending on the consumer’s perspective.

user-generated content examplesWellbeing

This is just a simple selfie (and it sort of bleeds over into the bonus category I’ll be adding…) but it’s so much more as UGC goes. The Charity Miles app is used by runners, walkers and cyclists to generate donations to favorite charities.

The app is designed so that the user can add a picture of himself or herself that can then be shared on social media.

Like I said, this isn’t just any wellbeing selfie, it’s Charity Miles founder Gene Gurkoff and running legend Bart Yasso.

From a UGC standpoint, it makes me say, “gosh, if Bart Yasso is staying healthy anhelping a great cause at he same time, maybe I can too.”

user-generated content examples

BONUS: Causes

It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t add a “causes” category. I adore advocating on behalf of causes, and hopefully my UGC shows it.

Team RWB is one of my favorite causes. It’s an organization that supports veterans in various ways.

This image of a Team RWB supporter doing the Old Glory Relay evokes the sense of the journey, the walker’s purpose, and the unifying point of the organization.

It works for me as UGC because it makes me say, “hey! I could do this and help veterans like this guy,” rather than “you should care about this and sign up now.” It’s a subtle but powerful difference.

user-generated content examples

Bridging the Gap

Are Laura and I totally different from each other when it comes to how we view UGC?

The New Jersey American Marketing Association writes:

There are clear differences in how millennials and baby boomers consume and trust branded content. Millennials enjoy images of real people using a product, whereas baby boomers care more about the quality of the product or service. Boomers also enjoy written and video content just as much as images.

Judging by the images I chose, maybe the difference isn’t actually that big after all.

Take a look at Laura’s post and let me know what you think.

It’s something we can discuss the next time Friday rolls around, if we can figure out what day it is.

 

Florida State University: How We Get Made

I recently discovered (via Laura) the “A Learning A Day” series. The series delivers concise, insight-filled emails which prompt recipients to think about work/life issues from different and deeper angles.

This recent post, for example, looks at our tendency to think “if only conditions had been perfect.” My runner peers and I undoubtedly think this frequently:

If it had been cooler (hello summer running in Florida!)

If the race course had been flatter

If my shoes had been newer

If I had not had that second glass of wine last night

The list goes on and on

The Learning A Day post ends with this observation:

The only trustworthy indicator of our performance level is our performance on a bad day.

So, if you get that opportunity to perform on your best day with perfect conditions, revel in it. It doesn’t happen often. But, when it does, it is magical.

On the other hand, if you feel most things are going wrong as you enter that important presentation [or insert relevant challenge/assignment here], welcome to life. This is how we get made.

Over the past few weeks, as I have joined my fellow Florida State alumni, fans, and supporters in sharing what I love about FSU via the #somuchmorethanfootball hashtag, I have been thinking more than usual about all of the incredible memories I made at FSU, the memories I still make here, and how to reconcile decades of great experiences with the FSU (and Tallahassee) which distills itself into the sneer I hear in the voices of national news anchors and celebrities (at least I feel like I hear it!).

A Personally Fearless Time

Through an unexpected series of Facebook conversations over the past few days, I ended up telling a Facebook friend a story that in retrospect is so embarrassing but lends itself to my point. When I was a senior at FSU, I wanted to be Homecoming Princess. The process was detailed and arduous: there were interviews to be selected as one of ten candidates, and then of course you had to accrue the most votes to be princess or be in the top five to be on the Court. I studied my FSU history so hard to be prepared for the interview. I made it to candidate level, and I did make it on the Court.

Florida State University: How We Get Made

With my parents after the Homecoming Parade.

Here’s the embarrassing part: I asked people to vote for me. Not just one or two friends. Another candidate and I went to fraternity and sorority houses who did not have candidates and asked them to vote. I did not hesitate to ask complete strangers to vote. In retrospect, of course it was a completely classless thing to do. On the flip side, I treasure the memories of being on the field during homecoming, proud to represent my university. Putting aside the “tactless” part, I remember feeling fearless in my quest. In the times over the ensuing decades when I have failed myself in the area of assertiveness, I remember what it felt like to tell strangers what I wanted, confident that I had a case.

It’s 2015; Time to Make a Different Case

Florida State taught me fearlessness. It also taught me so many things about Strength, Skill, and Character (Vires Artes Mores). It taught me to learn new things, meet new people, pursue new experiences. The background music of my time at Florida State is undeniably punctuated with the FSU Fight Song, The Hymn to the Garnet and the Gold, and the Alma Mater. I have sat through countless football games, long before we were National Champions, in years when the record was most definitely average. Our family has spent more money than the family budget really accommodated to be Seminole Boosters, purchase tickets, and park among the other faithful (although we are not currently Boosters or ticket holders).

For every #somuchmorethanfootball sentiment we share on social media, I do think we are kidding ourselves if we do not think the image of our football team and the actions of a few players disproportionately influence what the rest of the world sees and believes.

We can make every effort to share with the world all of the accolades which lead us to #praisegarnetandgood. But the headlines are not likely to gush about those when they can rant about the bad.

I don’t know the solution. I do know, that just like a family would not turn its back on a child who has gone astray, we owe it to ourselves to own this series of crises and contribute to a solution.

However we choose to react to the current spate of negative publicity, there may be negatives. Loss of revenue, loss of bragging rights, loss of football season habits and rituals built over decades by generations of fans.

This particular time in the public eye is difficult. I choose to think that these imperfect conditions are part of “how we get made,” that with strength, skill, and character, we can return to the “heads held high” we sing about in the Hymn to the Garnet and Gold.

Florida State University: How We Get Made

7 Quick Takes – My World for a Wheelchair and Other Observations

I don’t usually blog on Fridays, but when I saw the “7 Quick Takes” format on Filling My Prayer Closet, I thought I’d give it a try!

1 – My World for a Wheelchair

Twice this week, I have had the responsibility for taking my father-in-law to the hospital for diagnostics followed by a neurosurgeon appointment. Our hospital has an awesome (and affordable!) valet service, but the “valet service unit” and the “wheelchair unit” are completely disconnected from one another. Wednesday, after the valet said it usually takes 30 minutes to get a wheelchair, I was trying to walk my father in law in when it became clear that he could not continue; fortunately another patient got me a wheelchair. Today, the valet staff said they would call one for me. It “only” took 14 minutes this time but, honestly why is it so difficult?

2 – I Am The Parent of an Adult

My daughter, Tenley, turned 18 yesterday. EIGHTEEN! With all the emotion that brings up, I have to admit I kind of love it that one of the touches she liked the most about the day was the “Frozen” balloon I had put in her car to surprise her when she left for work.

2014-06-25 19.53.07

3 – SUP Boarding Rocks

I read in Jennifer’s post that she is going to have an opportunity to do SUP Boarding soon. I had an opportunity to do it while I was at the beach last week and it was so much fun (and, surprisingly, quite the upper body and stability workout!).

All in the family ... staying afloat (mostly!)

All in the family … staying afloat (mostly!)

4 – Cycling Sure Would Be Fun

Even though my bicycle on vacation was a basic non-descript getting-around-the-beach bicycle, I was reminded of how much fun cycling is. I have always said I’ll wait and add on another sport once I reach my running goal of breaking 30:00 in a 5K but that’s taking quite a while, so I may need to sneak some cycling into my life pretty soon, not just when on vacation.

5 – My Heart Had Left My Job Long Before My Body Did

I left my job on May 2, 2014. When I had to return to the office earlier this week to drop off some paperwork, it was difficult to walk into the building. But not difficult in a sentimental way. Difficult in a “how did I simultaneously separate my mind and heart from this place while I kept coming day after day?” Now on to pursue that legacy I want to leave my kids.

6 – What Else Can I Do For Silvia and Christopher?

After my Unbound Blogger Trip to El Salvador in early June, I was asked to share details about Silvia, an adult with special needs including epilepsy, and Christopher, an adorable 3 year old, two individuals who would benefit from sponsorship through Unbound. I am searching for ways to expand the reach of my blog post. Does anyone have feedback about other methods I could employ to get the word out? (And even if you don’t have feedback, prayers would be mighty appreciated!)

Silvia, Age 21

Silvia, Age 21

Christopher, Age 4

Christopher, Age 4

***UPDATE*** Silvia has been sponsored (as of 7/2/14). I am so happy to hear this and grateful to whoever sponsored her!  ******

7 – Give As Much Praise As Complaint

After reading Laura Petrolino’s blog post about customer service the other day, I shared it on Facebook along with the suggestion that people should make sure and commend the good at least as often as they condemn the bad. Even in the midst of the wheelchair-challenged day (see #1), I encountered moments of professionalism and compassion, such as the other patient who found a wheelchair for me and the staff member (Delvin) who stayed with my father in law until I could bring the car around. Literally, each one was a godsend!

St. George Island, FL June 2014

St. George Island, FL
June 2014