Tapping Into User-Generated Content for Promotions

Graphic: Digital Juice
Graphic: Digital Juice

In the advertising world, there’s a lot of buzz about user-generated content. That’s where consumers are invited to create ads for everything from ketchup to credit cards to cars, and they’re eager to participate. When Doritos held their contest to air a user-generated commercial during the Superbowl, they received over 2,000 submissions and two million votes!

Now while these campaigns range in their level of control over the message, typically the best content comes out of the ones that are less controlling. But then there’s also the risk that the final message won’t exactly be the one you would have chosen (like the SUV maker that was blasted by consumers for being anti-environmental).

How can all this apply to trade shows? There are many ways, starting long before the event opens. Show organizers can invite conference speakers or exhibitors to post teaser videos of what attendees can expect to discover. For example, IMTS ran a “Convince Them in 60 Seconds” video contest for exhibitors on YouTube and had more than two dozen of them submit videos. You could also post a specific question related to a hot industry topic and invite responses from thought leaders.

During the show, invite attendees to post photo galleries using the pre-assigned event hashtag in Facebook, Flickr, or Pinterest or share videos on YouTube. You could also allow attendees to test products on the show floor and post their experiences online. (Now in case you’re wondering whether or not anybody would watch those, consider the popularity of “unboxing” videos where people film themselves simply opening up a new product and experiencing it for the first time. A quick search for “unboxing” in YouTube produces over 21 million results!) You could even turn your booth into a TV studio and let attendees record their own “commercial” for your product, which then gets uploaded to YouTube or your own website. Offer a prize for the best commercial, as voted by other attendees. Participants loves this type of promotion because it offers those much-desired 15 minutes of fame, along with the ability to express themselves creatively.

Here are some keys to launching user-generated promotions:

  • Offer incentives for sharing content and reward the contributors
  • Set clear expectations of what is and is not appropriate
  • Outline how to submit the content and where

What can you expect to gain from these types of promotions? In addition to the boost in booth traffic and show floor buzz, you’ll also get insights into what customers and prospects really think about your product, as well as getting enhanced visibility online … perhaps even gaining new fans and customers who weren’t even at the show.

So give your marketing team a break and let your audience create the promotions. You may discover some hidden gems!

Want more tips on creative promotions for both exhibitors and show organizers? We’ll be focusing on this topic in July’s Strategy of the Month in the Exhibit Marketers Café.

© 2015 Marlys K. Arnold (from the June 2015 TradeShowTips Online; parts of this article originally published in May 2008. To receive tips like this in your inbox every month, please take a moment to fill out this request.)

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