What Hollywood Pitches Can Teach Us About Storytelling, Social Media Marketing, and User Generated Content.

Keith Quesenberry Social Media Marketing Content Marketing Strategy Advertising PR

In Daniel Pink’s book To Sell Is Human, he references a study by two business professors who analyzed the Hollywood pitch process to discover how writers got their movie and TV series ideas approved by producers. What they found can help improve our social strategies.

Keith Quesenberry Social Media Marketing Content Marketing Strategy Advertising PR

The researchers observed that the most successful pitches didn’t push their idea on the person they were trying to convince. Instead, the “seller” invited the “buyer” in as a collaborator. The more the buyer was able to contribute, the better the idea (product) became and the more likely it would be approved (bought). One of the producers told the researchers, “At a certain point the writer needs to pull back as the creator of the story. And let [the buyer] project what he needs onto your idea that makes the story whole for him.”

I’ve written before about the power of story, my research in that area, and how to leverage storytelling in social media strategy. Yet, here I want to focus on collaboration. It is important to tell your organization or brand story and ultimately we all want to sell something, but don’t be too “pushy.” Invite the consumer in to tell their story and help expand upon your brand story to make it more of their own. When they start feeling like it is more of their own they have already bought in. So when you do present them with a sell message it is seen as more of an opportunity than a hard sell.

In social media, inviting the consumer in as a collaborator is called user generated content (UGC). Not only is this good for the user, but the content they create is more convincing than your own content. Research has found that 66% of consumers rely heavily on user generated content when making purchasing decisions Click To Tweet and 65% of consumers trust word-of-mouth on the Internet (UGC) more than content produced by advertisers.

Surprisingly, 51% say user generated content is more important than the opinions of their friends and family, and far more trustworthy than website content. How much user generated content is there? Researchers estimate that 25% of search results on brand names return user generated content from review sites, blogs, and social media updates. So how do we invite consumer social media collaboration? I’ve collected some ideas from Social Bro, Sprout Social, and HubSpot.

Here are 6 strategies to increase your user generated content:

  1. Share consumer comments, photos and video. It amazes me when I see awesome brand fan comments and photos and the brand does nothing. I ran an experiment once where I posted some positive comments and photos directly to various brands on Twitter. Two responded, but one ignored me. Don’t miss out on this easy opportunity, if you see a fan compliment your brand or share photos and videos using your products or services thank them and then share the content to your own followers. Fashion brands and GoPro are good at doing this. For the super contributors consider sending special offers and gifts as a reward.
  2. Reward fans by featuring their content in your advertising. When I was an advertising copywriter I always got a kick out of seeing my ideas and lines on TV, billboards and in magazines. Most consumers feel the same way. Plus, UGC is more believable, so including it in your advertising could make the advertising more believable. Doritos turns UGC videos into Super Bowl commercials every year and gets a lot of press for doing it. Of course, before placing that fan photo in your next print ad always get permission.
  3. Make user generate content part of a competition. Sweepstakes and giveaways are tried and true marketing methods, but instead of simple entry forms suggest users submit a photo, video or quote. Starbucks challenged consumers to decorate the Starbucks white coffee cup and post on social media. The winner’s design was turned into a limited edition reusable cup.
  4. Crowdsource ideas for new products, services, designs and ad campaigns. Who knows better what they want than your customers? Why not ask them? In the process they will generate a lot of brand content that will help get your organization noticed. Fiat Brazil crowdsourced a concept car design and now collects ideas for new car features via Facebook and Twitter. Dell’s IdeaStorm has collected over 20,000 ideas and implemented over 540 of them.
  5. Create a specific user generated content campaign. Ask for content by creating a campaign hashtag and promoting it on your social channels, but also in ads, in-store, and on packaging. Under Armour has #IWILL. Tourism Australia gets amazing photos and videos from all over the country. Photos they could never afford to take on their own. They post on their Facebook “Tourism Australia’s official Facebook page. Post your best photos to our wall to give us permission to share.”
  6. Just ask a questions. Perhaps this suggestion is the simplest, but it is a basic social media engagement strategy that we should not ignore. In Daniel Pink’s book he also cites research that says people are more likely to support something if presented with a question. Instead of telling them the benefits, asking a question makes people come up with their own reasons for agreeing or believing in what you are selling. GRK Greek Kitchen asks simple fun questions to encourage response such as “fill in the blank,” and “what is your favorite flavor?”

A nice big brand example of UGC is the “Share a Coke” campaign where the brand produced Coke bottles with customers’ names on them. Customers were asked to share the pictures of their personalized coke bottles on Twitter and other social media platforms. Coca-Cola attributes the UGC campaign to a 2% increase in U.S. sales after over a decade of declining revenues. Also check out Pantagonia’s Worn Wear website and Tumblr blog where they ask for and feature customer’s stories about their well worn Pantagonia clothing.

How is your social media pitch? Are your being too pushy or are your letting consumer’s in on your brand story? Leveraging user generated content could mean the difference between a social media flop and a block buster response.

Big Data Hype: Don’t Forget The Big Idea.

Social Media Marketing

Big data is very valuable, but it can’t do everything. The numbers can only take you so far. Even as big data gets even bigger, don’t forget the value of big ideas based on true human insight and how they can be what really drives social media content and engagement.

Social Media Marketing

Big Ideas, Big Results.

On Business 2 Community, author Jason Bowden stated that: Digital marketing professionals declare big data as the next BIG thing in digital marketing … there’s no way of stopping the surge of big data explosion upon the emergence of better online marketing analytic tools, mobile marketing schemes, internet technology and social media platforms.”

I completely agree with this sentiment. A Google search of the term “Big Data” reveals 787 million results. In contrast, the search term “Big Idea” reveals only 335 million results. Is big data really deserving of nearly 50% more of our attention?

Big data is defined as extremely large data sets that may be analyzed, computationally, to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions. Big data requires new tools to handle the amount and complexity of data, but with investment comes valuable insight. On the other hand, a big idea is the driving, unifying force behind a brand’s marketing efforts. Big ideas are also valuable. In a piece for Entrepreneur, Chris Wirthwein stated that big ideas provide ten valuable qualities: transformation, ownability, simplicity, originality, surprise, magnetism, infectiousness, contagiousness, egocentricity, and likability.

I’m not advocating replacing big data with big ideas. In a recent survey more than three out of five companies (62 percent) have started investing in data marketing solutions. And almost half of brands (47 percent) are already seeing a positive return on data-related investments. What I am advocating is that in all the excitement over computer generated big data do not leave the human generated ideas and creativity behind. Big data cannot generate a big idea and big ideas can generate real feelings, big movements and real big results.

When Big Data Meets Big Creativity.

At the recent Advertising Week gathering of marketing communication professionals some professed this same sentiment. In a panel called “When Big Data Met Big Creativity” advertising agency executives were adamant that creativity goes hand-in-hand with data and should complement each other. Tham Khai Meng, worldwide chief creative officer and chairman of Ogilvy, cited the Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty,” campaign as an example. The campaign won many creative awards and produced amazing business results but grew out of single data point: Only 4% of women considered themselves beautiful. Meng said: Data is the orchestra, creative is the music. You need both.” John Hegarty, founder of Bartle Bogle Hegarity, said that data provides insights, but warned that: Human beings are not a collection of algorithms.”

What Does A Big Idea Look Like?

Proctor & Gamble is the global package goods company that has built enormous brands based on enormous amounts of traditional and digital research data. Yet, even they know the value of big ideas. In 2012 they needed a global campaign to help reverse the brand Fabreze’s sales decline. Research pointed them in the right direction, but the big leap came in a big idea based on a globally relevant universal human truth – something big data could not spit out of a data set. The big idea was to “Involve real people in visceral experiences to prove Febreze makes even the filthiest places smell nice, no matter what they look like.“ You can view how the campaign was set up in this behind the scenes YouTube video.

What were the results? It won an Effie award that explains how the effort reversed Febreze’s sales trend, by increasing sales by 10% with 10 weeks of growth resulting in a 36% point turnaround. The Breathe Happy Campaign also received 511MM earned media impressions in high profile media publications and many bloggers developed rich content with their own Febreze experiment videos uploaded to YouTube. 
In addition, Febreze Facebook fans increased from 235k to 600k in 6 months.

In the end computer data and human ideas produced real business results. What’s your view on the value of big data and big ideas?

This blog post originally appeared on Social Media Today here.