A social media wall filled with UGC is used as event marketing by iHeart Radio

7 Exciting Ways User Generated Content is Transforming Events

Back in the day, events used to be insular occasions where only those at the event could enjoy it. Now, with the internet, the whole world can enjoy it too.

That means event organizers no longer have a singular audience of actual attendees to think about and entertain. Today,  there’s a whole audience watching from the sidelines (or Twitter, or Instagram…), and they present a great opportunity to generate additional buzz and exposure via event marketing.

But just the mere thought of catering to the potentially millions of people in a digital audience is more than a little daunting.

This is where user generated content (UGC) comes in.

UGC statistics for event marketing
Image by Benjamin Barber from Participation Marketing Conference

UGC is content created by customers — or, in the case of events, attendees– that’s then shared across social media or on a brand’s website. According to research, when users are exposed to a mixture of UGC and professional content, engagement can increase by up to 28%, taking the burden off event organizers.

Why Events Are the Perfect Place for UGC

Think about it: Events are fast-paced, in-the-moment, and attendees look forward to them for quite some time.

This lays the perfect groundwork for people to want to share their experiences with their social followers — if not just to do the old #humblebrag.

Outside the parameters of an event, companies might have to actively encourage their audience to share UGC (sometimes there might even be the bribe of a prize). However, event organizers tend to have a much easier time getting attendees to take photos and upload their experiences.

A Tweet and example of UGC used at the Unbound Marketing conference
A Tweet from an attendee at a recent Unbound London event

Basically, events are the perfect place for UGC. But how can you make sure you’re getting the most bang for your event marketing buck?

7 Fantastic Examples of UGC at Live Events

1. The British Heart Foundation taps into the power of selfies.

Everyone loves a good selfie (even if they’re too cool to admit it).

The British Heart Foundation tapped into this trend during the London to Brighton Marathon. Throughout the day, the social media team manned a big-screen on the beach that displayed selfies of race-day participants who used the hashtag #LondontoBrighton.

A selfie serves as UGC for the British Heart Foundation's event marketing

“People love to see and share their selfies on the big screen,” says Athar Abidi, the Social Media Manager at the British Heart Foundation. “We capitalized on this to turn our audiences into amplifiers and advocates, and get tons of great content in the process.”

On top of the selfie strategy, the BHF also sent individual Tweets to participants that included a personalized video of their UGC. As a result, #LondontoBrighton became a top trending tag in Brighton for the day, allowing even non-attendees to enjoy the buzz.

Overall, the campaign garnered more than 35,000 impressions and a 586% uplift in engagement.

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2. Adobe Youth Voices uses Twitter to start a conversation.

Twitter chats were all the craze a couple of years ago, but the aftermath of them is still reverberating today in the UGC world.

You see, Twitter chats cast under a specific hashtag actively encourage participants to get involved by asking a specific set of questions — they were made for engagement.

A tweet from a remote participant of the Adobe Youth Chat event

Take the Adobe Youth Voices Twitter chat that ran alongside the brand’s annual summit to generate engagement and conversations around themed topics. Participants logged in from all over the world to answer questions sent out by the Adobe team, bringing together young voices from every corner of the globe under one hashtag.

3. L.A. Fashion Week creates authenticity and builds trust.

From travel to brand marketing, the concept of authenticity is huge at the moment. Consumers are seeking deeper connections with the brands they buy from and will only part with their money if they trust who they’re giving it to.

Statistics that show people trust UGC more than communications that come from brands
Source: Revoo

Add to this the fact that people trust the opinions of their peers more than those of a brand, and it’s easy to see why UGC is the perfect way to build authenticity.

LA Fashion Week saw the potential of using UGC at their event,showcasing a social media wall with content created by attendees rather than the shiny and polished professional images they’d turned to in the years before.

This gave attendees and those tuning in on social media around the world the chance to see the show in its rawest form — a far cry from the often heavily-manipulated photos that the fashion world is known for.

Plus, the UGC campaign sparked more conversations on social media, as people were more likely to interact and engage with peers who were at the event.

4. 9Apps runs an event-wide UGC contest.

Usually attendees at an event will willingly post photos and videos of their time there on social media without any prompting. However, you can 10x the amount of content published by running an event-wide contest that’s open to more than just attendees.

9Apps presents #9AppsSuperfan contest: Tell us which app you are a #SuperFan of & why? 3 most creative answers will win exciting prizes. pic.twitter.com/nBDv8cqIht

— 9APPS (@9Appscom) April 27, 2017

9Apps ran a nine-day contest to coincide with their nine-day festival. Throughout the online event, there were a number of activities and contests taking place where fans could engage and share their creations.

The 9Apps team selected a few winners each day who would then be a part of the Finale events on the last day. Each morning at 9am (notice the “9” trend?), a new contest was launched giving participants a fresh chance to get involved.



5. iHeart Radio gives the public their 15 minutes of fame.

One of the biggest reasons UGC works so well at events is that people love seeing their name on the big screen.

A social media wall filled with UGC is used as event marketing by iHeart Radio

At the iHeart Radio music festival, the social team gave attendees the chance to have their 15 minutes of fame.

Attendees were invited to share their photos, videos, and experiences using the hashtag #iHeartRadio, which were then pulled together on a big screen behind the stage for everyone to see.

Millennials need to feel like a part of something, and hashtags give people a “tribal” feeling. This creates a space for attendees to get involved and belong on an organic level. Most people at events have a similar interest in common, and sharing these experiences brings them closer together.

As a result, the event saw a 40% increase in engagement over the previous year. “7 billion social impressions,” said Chris Williams, the Chief Product Officer at iHeart Radio. “That’s up from 5 billion last year.”

40% more impressions as a result of using UGC

For brands like iHeart Radio, encouraging UGC at an event or festival is about creating an experience that leads attendees to say “I really need to share this with my network!”

6. SXSW gets interactive to inspire

No matter what kind of event you’re running, there’s always an opportunity to inspire and get your attendees involved. Because let’s be real, an inclusive event that boasts an engaged audience is way more fun… and way more effective.

At the South by South Lawn event, inspiration and interactivity were the names of the game. In addition to a selection of interactive activities that attendees could take part in (including a vast number of VR games), there was a big screen set up on the grounds showcasing live Twitter feeds and Instagram feeds with posts from attendees.

Using the#FacesofFounders campaign, SXSW sought to provide a more inclusive approach to entrepreneurship, encouraging guests to share their photos and giving the event plenty of UGC to fill the screen.

7. Mazda and Tomorrowland Leverage Influencers

Social media is an even playing field for everyone. All sorts of people from all walks of life have the chance to grow huge followings and have an impact on those around them. These people are known as influencers, and they are being used more and more across hashtag campaigns to generate engagement.

Statistics about the ROI of influencer marketing
Source: Sidebuy Blog

Earlier, we mentioned that consumers trust the experiences of their peers more than those of brands, which is why influencer marketing is so big right now.

Leveraging influencers at events can generate more buzz, as they already have a solid and loyal following built up. These are the people that online users trust, and tapping into their credibility can be a great way to build authentic engagement.

Last year, Mazda sent 10 Instagram influencers to the massive Tomorrowland festival in Belgium to create content for the #MazdaSounds campaign. By bringing together a mixture of micro and macro influencers with follower counts between 44,000 and 2.2 million, the campaign reached 1.3 million people through a series of static Instagram content and Stories.

UGC Can Make Events Better Than Ever

Events are an exciting landmark in any calendar, but creating one that’s bursting with engagement and interactivity can create something that attendees truly want to be a part of.

Giving attendees the chance to get involved generates a “tribe” like feel, bringing guests closer together and making them more inclined to share their experiences. When they do, their messages spread far and wide to friends, family, and followers, building an even bigger event marketing buzz and exposing your brand to a potentially huge new audience.

Published August 8, 2018

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How are you using UGC at your own events? Let us know in the comments or let your fellow #eventprofs know on Twitter.

This guest post was written by Jose Angelo Gallegos, an award-winning Content Marketing and SEO Strategist. Connect on Linkedin!