Telling Your Non-Profit’s Story through User-Generated Content

by Jamie Caswell

What is user-generated content?

You have probably seen a user-generated content campaign today, but you may not be aware of what exactly a successful campaign entails. User-generated content is media — including photos, videos, graphics, stories, etc. — that is contributed by individual users of a website or social media platform. User generated content is valuable because it eases the burden of creating original content from the organization itself, while at the same opening up ample opportunities for increased engagement and participation. It inspires fans and advocates, encourages creativity, and shows that the organization values it supporters. (Hint: If you need a quick overview, check out Starbuck’s white cup campaign or GoPro’s Video of the Day campaign.)

Photo Credit: Starbucks

Photo Credit: Starbucks

Is it for my non-profit?

Yes! User-generated content can be a powerful vehicle for non-profits. The power of loyal audiences – fans and advocates – is increasingly available at the click of a button due to the advent of social media. Time constraints that once existed when trying to communicate with volunteers, community members, service users, and the philanthropic sector are no longer the biggest obstacles to organizations. Social media allows you to cast a wide net without the heavy lift of traditional methods. Also, it is free, which is great news for your non-profit’s budget!

Tips & tricks for success

When preparing for a user-generated content campaign, it is important to do the following:

1)    Make your user-generated campaign work for you – know what you want to achieve from your storytelling initiative by asking questions like “Do we want to gain more organizational awareness?” or “Do we want more feedback on services and events?” Have a theme in mind or a reason for asking advocates for submissions.

2)    Let the fans, users, and supporters do the work of spreading your organizational message – allow the people you impact to tell their story through creative digital assets. This means giving up a little bit of control in order to foster a two-way dialogue.  For some top-notch examples of non-profit story telling through user-generated content, check out this npENGAGE blog post.

3)    Stay in control of the message while giving (some) creative control to supporters — create a very specific campaign that does not lend itself to hi-jacking from any perceived opposition. Be mindful and aware of social media practices while monitoring platforms as the campaign unfolds. Remove inappropriate posts that violate the specific terms you laid out in your submission guidelines. (Hint: Don’t get caught in a social media fail like the NYPD.)

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

4)    Wrap up the campaign by analyzing the results — track interactions on social media and compare with period before campaign started. This can be done for free on most platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Google Analytics.

Why should I care and how do I move forward?

Remember, user-generated content is your friend. It is powerful and painless way to have others tell your story and engage your fan base. If done conscientiously and thoughtfully, user generated content can propel your digital media campaign into the stratosphere. For more information on why user-generated content is helpful in non-profit storytelling and tips on successful campaign planning, watch my webinar:

Webinar Screenshot

Webinar Screenshot

By Jamie Caswell, a PR/Communications professional working at a trade association in the Washington, D.C. area and a public relations and corporate communications masters candidate at Georgetown University.