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Advertising Without Advertising: User Generated Content Takes Control

User-generated Content (UGC) is a big thing for brands to embrace. The idea that a brand doesn’t have to pay for production and media is like having the barista buy your coffee for you. But do most brands realize this is even happening? I believe that it comes down to this, how well do they monitor their impressions on the web and what do they believe is scalable. Maybe responding to all of the content on the web isn’t economically sound, however, finding the best out there makes sense. Over the past year I have become a heavy user of Reddit and as an advertiser one thing has stood out, there is an enormous amount of content being created naturally about brands. One brand, Taco Bell, does a magnificent job at monitoring their UGC and provide witty, engaging responses. When seeing their engagement, I say, “That’s a brand who understands their buyer.”

You see the Reddit crowd is a very fickle, ornery crowd, but when they find something they love, they will stick by it. It’s the one place where I can find people opinionated enough to stand up for a type of Taco, or a Minecraft update, but piss them off and your head will certainly roll. They are not a crowd to be messed with, ask Chris Dodd. In fact, they are quite notorious for their lack of interest in advertising period.

It’s this lack of interest in government/corporate agendas that makes the crowd quite difficult to address. You either get on their level or just don’t make the attempt, because it will become wasted money. For awhile now I have been noticing several instances of UGC where Redditors haven’t seen it as advertising, but just natural elements of the Reddit content. Recognizing this natural direction is where a brand could potentially get in good with the Reddit crowds.

First, an understanding of Reddit is necessary. Looking at the data below we can see who the typical Reddit user is. Male, 18-44 and doesn’t have much buying power (obviously, this isn’t the case for every user, but for the average user it works).

Looking at the above data we can begin to dissect the average user. What makes them tick, what interests do they have, what type of content do they consume and what products are purchasable with their income levels.

One thing that makes them tick is their favorite brands caring enough to interact with them. The above screenshots are Redditors appreciating Taco Bell’s genuine responses. DirectTV didn’t get the memo on genuine. UGC was posted using the headline, DirecTV might be the craziest ex I’ve ever had, broadcasting to the world their desperation.

See, fickle. One minute, you can have love, the next, they will hate you and declare this to their entire community. The evolution of your UGC depends on your treatment of the consumer, treat them well and you can win. Treat them poorly and it will come back to you.

Much of this UGC originates on another social platform. A savvy brand can lengthen their impressions with minimal effort by continuing into the next multiplier segment. However, don’t become the creepy ex that DirecTV became, play it well and you can reap rewards. Clever responses, natural conversation and an understanding of what works or does not work can help you strengthen the bond as well as create new buyers out of the users who view the entire relationship being built up.

I believe that few brands understand the beautiful magic that happens on Reddit. Many are probably, rightfully scared. Reddit can be a tough crowd. But on a level that they appreciate, you could win over the hearts of young men across the front page of the internet. 

UGC is advertising, without advertising. The message is being created and then broadcasted for your brand. Understanding these supporters is the least you could do after they go to great lengths to show their appreciation for your brand. Ultimately, it can live to see even a better day based on how the brand approaches said UGC.

Community managers, I challenge you to pay attention to Reddit for those small instances where your brand could really be the difference between mediocre and truly savvy.

Danny Schotthoefer is the digital strategist/community manager at an advertising agency in Bozeman, Montana. He is also a TEDx event organizer and an avid Oregon Ducks and Portland Trailblazers fan. You can also find him running via Nike+ and cycling via Strava – he is highly social. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn. Forewarning: He Talks A LOT!


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