Dollar for dollar, there is nothing more powerful, authentic, and compelling than employee-generated content. It can tell a direct and immediate story that cuts through marketing-speak and establishes a direct perspective on the role, location or brand.
That said, EGC isn’t easy. Many, many, many companies assume if they simply ask their employees to participate; it will only be a matter of days before they have a wealth of content to work with. In reality, unless you follow the five P’s of EGC, you’ll either end up with a library of worthless content or (possibly worse), little content at all.
Boiled down to its simplest form, an EGC campaign can be as simple as emailing everyone for stories and letting them all collect in your inbox. But if your department or company has more people in it than you can count on your fingers, you are going to need some sort of platform to manage this process.
High-end standalone platforms can cost close to six figures, putting them out of reach of most people. But you can either leverage free tools online (Google Forms for example), or work with your web team to build out two or three pages within your web platform to do the same things.
To be successful, all a platform needs to do is be a one-stop shop for everything you want staff to know and do. So if you want them to take a picture of their desk, you need to explain what you want, what it will be used for, who owns the picture, rules about what isn’t allowed in the picture, and dates and deadlines. A rule of thumb is to make sure there’s enough information on that page so that even a fairly new employee doesn’t have to ask any questions to get the job done.
In our experience, a good platform is mobile-friendly, mostly because any pictures and videos you ask for will likely come from the computer in their pocket. Asking them to figure out how to download the file to their desktop and re-upload it to you is tantamount to asking them to not bother.
If you see an EGC project as a one-off―something you just do once and forget about forever―you’re missing out on the point of EGC: to motivate employees to engage with the brand and talk about or illustrate the brand from their perspective. This is about building and strengthening relationships, not a one-time gimmick.
To that end, think from the beginning about building out EGC as a process, not a product. You want ways for employees to become a perpetual source of stories and content about what it’s really like on the job.
In a large company, perhaps the process is to rotate the campaign’s focus from one location to the next each month, or to pick a team every week and collect content that way. In smaller companies, it might be a call for stories on the last Friday of every month.
Once collected, the content doesn’t have to be single-use. If you plan ahead, you can build a library of images, videos and stories to be used on every social channel, every blog post, and every internal newsletter you offer. Even if you are focusing on a new location every month, showing the differences and similarities across all locations can become an interesting article.
A successful process starts with a single person charged with managing and sustaining the campaign. Assuming that you will throw the idea in the air and someone will jump at the chance to manage it assumes that people aren’t already insanely busy. After that, let that person design a process that works for them, but can be migrated to include other teams or can be transferred to someone new next year.
The part of the process most people forget is the step that comes between collecting content and using content. How will you filter the content so that it is able to be approved for use? Who will approve it? Who will write the rules for what’s appropriate and what’s not? These steps are crucial to ensure that the Publish step is executed properly.
You know the line “If they build it, they will come.” was from a movie, right? It’s fiction. Complete fiction.
The primary failure of an EGC campaign is that it didn’t plan for enough internal marketing. It assumed that a launch and an email from the boss would be enough. And it’s not.
I’m not suggesting you have to build a complex glossy marketing campaign with posters and other collateral, but if you can, you absolutely should. Physical reminders like posters, props, elevator signs, etc., have a long shelf life, driving awareness long after that first email announcement.
Even if you don’t go the showy route, one part of publicity that many people forget about is to leverage the corporate structure. If someone on the front lines gets an email from the CEO, the first thing they are going to do is ask their boss a question. If the boss doesn’t have a complete understanding of what the project is, why it’s being done, what the deadlines are, and if she was caught blindsided by the announcement, the employee will assume that this isn’t important and ignore the entire project. If you leverage middle managers and supervisors to become ambassadors of the project, it will feel like a new policy to the entire staff, increasing the overall participation.
With a great process, a solid platform and engaged managers, you’ve set the stage. But what will you actually ask employees for? You can’t just say, “Send us stories!” and expect to get anything useful. That kind of request is too broad, and staff who don’t immediately understand the request or can think of exactly how to respond will ignore it as soon as something more compelling (like work) comes along.
Designing smart prompts is the difference between collecting junk and collecting treasures.
In effect, you have to inform the staff about what you want; what’s useful to your outcomes. Do you want pictures? Video? Text? Can they take pictures in the building? Can they take pictures at home or outside the office? If you’re asking for video, are you asking for phone-quality video or does it have to be more polished? Is there anything in the picture or video you aren’t allowed to show (like other company logos or work-in-progress)?
The fastest way to do that is to start small. Make the prompt simple and easy to understand. Ask them to take a picture of their desk, of their favorite spot in the building, or of people at lunch. Then start to increase the size and challenge of the request. Ask people to take pictures together outside of work. Ask them to take on a work challenge together and document the process. Ask them to tell the story of how they helped a client or have them introduce a friend they recommended for a job.
As a wise person once said, begin with the end in mind. If you have no way of using video, don’t ask for it. If vetting and approving images is too hard to do, don’t ask for them. If you can’t use anything more than 200 words (for some reason), make that clear in the prompt.
Assume that you will get exactly what you ask for, so be smart in what you ask for.
Collecting all this content is a means to an end, not an end in itself. You collect this content to use it, to share it, to tell stories about your company, your team and your locations. How you put it out into the world is as important as how you collect it.
Here are some of our favorite ways to use (and re-use) employee-generated content:
A web page: If you asked your team the same question or you asked for information from a single location, putting all that approved content on a single page to give a 360-degree view is very powerful.
Social posts: Images and videos uploaded natively into Facebook and Twitter attract attention. So let them draw people from those social networks to compelling stories about you.
Marketing posts: Whatever you write about, “authentic” photos and quotes tend to convert users better than super-glossy photos or (shudder) stock art. So sprinkle EGC into your other recruitment marketing materials.
Ego bait: If I took a video and my company liked it, I’d tell people all about it, thus introducing my network to that brand. So leverage your staff’s social networks and ask them to show their friends the content you are publishing about and by them.
This content does its best work when the content lives as close as possible to related jobs. So if you have an extensive page illustrating ten nurses working a shift together, nursing openings for that location better be a click away.