I’ve been asked a few times recently how social media users behave over different channels, and I thought it was worth jotting down some notes on what to expect if you’re running a campaign that includes user-generated content.

Campaigns that ask users to upload videos have fewer entries than those using images or text

 They’re also more likely to go against posting rules so are more likely to get rejected for having inappropriate content, for example copyrighted music playing in the background, or the TV on, as well as the obvious things like nudity or sexual content.

People rarely read the full terms of posting. We’ve found that if you outline the campaign terms using the format you’re asking people to post in (i.e. make a video post of the terms, if you’re asking people to upload video), you get a better response and higher quality video posts. 

It can help to be clear about what is and what isn’t acceptable too so that the community understands the rules and are more likely to flag inappropriate content on your behalf.

If you offer people the choice (video, text or images), video will get the lowest number of entries

People will enter by the easiest means. Interestingly, it used to be the case that you were more likely to get video uploads from a US audience than European, but this has changed as being in front of a camera becomes the norm for most people.

Image-based campaigns get a higher entry rate than video

 They are easy to find or take, and require no editing. But be warned: mobile phone cameras mean that there is a much higher proportion of obscene or abusive photos (things like bullying, firearms and drug use) or images of nudity uploaded. (People even do this from traceable mobile phones, and a number of these lead to arrests).  

Don’t just look at the overall image, check for hidden images, titles or text within a picture.

Live uploads attract the worst behaviour 

If content is being uploaded live onto a big screen at an event, or text to TV, for example, it’s more likely to contain inappropriate content like nudity or bad language.

If the brand is unpopular, these sort of incidents increase significantly, as people think it’s funny to get round the system and damage the brand’s reputation. The bigger the potential embarrassment to the brand, the more likely people are to abuse the system.

Check for permissions

 One of the most common issues is whether people have given permission for their images to be used. This can cause problems, particularly in countries with strict privacy laws. 

The best prizes are often things money can’t buy 

Understandably, the better the chance of winning a prize, the more entries you get. The best prizes are often the things money can’t buy, such as ‘behind the scenes’ trips, or a film role as an extra.

But the prize must be relevant to your brand. There’s no point in winning theatre tickets if you’re a shoe manufacturer (unless it’s to see the new musical, ‘Shoes’!). Being part of an experience can work well, such as including uploaded videos or images within a TV ad, or a film project online.

Just getting people to write your TV ad for you isn’t enough. They need something more, for example a chance to win the product advertised, to star in the advert, or recognition for their work.

Prizes mean better behaviour from users 

If there’s an end prize to be won, people tend to behave better, particularly as it often means filling in their real details – name, email address and so on – for notification of the prize to be sent.

Ten is the magic number

 As a rule of thumb:

  • 10% of people who look at the campaign will actively take part (post, like, upload etc).
  • 10% of those people who take part (10% of the 10%) will abuse the system.

Which channel? Consumer behaviour on Facebook vs YouTube vs Twitter

People behave differently on Facebook. They’re angrier, more opinionated, and spammier. Facebook pages get filled with spam very quickly if left unmoderated.

But the most abusive and bullying behaviour is shown on YouTube. Perhaps because there’s more anonymity – you don’t link back to your home profile – but people can be very unpleasant and personal in the video comments. Be prepared for that. You can’t rely on the community to report abuse, it’s just the way YouTube is.

Twitter is, of course, the fastest response channel. People expect an immediate response on Twitter – far faster than on YouTube or Facebook – so put the resource you need behind it. And if you’re feeding Twitter to an un-moderated big public screen, you’re asking for trouble…

No-one reads long Ts & Cs

No-one reads your terms and conditions of entry if they’re full of long legal language. If you want people to read the terms, keep them short and clear, and within the main frame of the community. 

Adding humour often works well if appropriate for your brand.

Any others? It would be great to hear experiences from other people who’re including user-generated content in their campaigns.

Tamara Littleton

Published 5 May, 2011 by Tamara Littleton

Tamara is CEO and founder of social media agency The Social Element and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (9)

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Some really good points there Tamara.

The trouble with Ts&Cs though is the legal coverage. Brands have to watch their back and check there are no loop-holes that can be exploited.

Social competitions are very interesting though, for many users entering comps is their primary reason for being online and once you start doing competitions there's a risk that you may lose some of your follower integrity. To paraphrase Seth Godin, it's better to have a smaller engaged community.

about 7 years ago



I would say people are more angry and abusive on Twitter than Facebook, because it has a slightly more anonymous feel to it (unless your username is your full name and you have a photo of yourself).

about 7 years ago



Totally agree about video's leading to less entries. As a general rule i've seen the less involved the more entrants.

about 7 years ago



Good list and good advices. The choice of platform (Facebook, twitter, tumblr...) narrows your audience and influence the quality of the participation, the 10/10 rules is probably most true for Facebook, and less for more niche platforms.

about 7 years ago


Thomas Messett

Really the issue you raise here is barrier to entry - videos require more time and effort than images which is more than text, so lower barrier = more entries, but it depends what you want, more entries / engagement doesn't = good, it depends on the individual goals of the brand and contest.

Also, you don't always need to incentivise people with a "prize" - for example I work on Nokia's facebook page, last year we had 300 pictures on that page (UGC) of good quality (nokia are known for their camera phones) so we started highlighting great pics in a "pic of the month album" commenting on great UGC and offered no other prize or incentive (we lent some camera phones to enthusiastic page members but gave nothing away) we now have almost 9000 pictures in the album including some insanely great pictures, many with hundreds, even 1000's of likes and comments, at last count (a couple of months ago) we had more UGC pics than all our benchmark global competitors put together... - we gave nothing away, no related incentive, but our priority isn't quantity, it is quality pics we can show off!

Just some late night thoughts and a bit of a brain dump! :-)

about 7 years ago


Greg Jarboe

I agree that you currently get fewer people uploading videos than photos, but that is shifting -- in video's direction. The new generation of smart phones is making video as easy as photos. On the other hand, I agree that comments on YouTube are more juvenile. It makes sense to moderate comments, although you need to have someone doing that actively.

about 7 years ago

Tim Akinnusi

Tim Akinnusi, Non-executive director at Glasshouse Consulting

Some good advise...I would consider including the impact of relevance to the question of “what attracts consumers to social media campaign”. For example, if Nike have a new running shoe range out and invite a group of individuals to share their thoughts about the new range and stand a chance of winning another pair!...Nike is more likely to receive insightful user-generated content from consumers that are runners and active gym members. In my view,relevance plays a much more vital role in generating social media engagement, rather than the type of content being requested…i.e. text, video, image, etc.

about 7 years ago

Tamara Littleton

Tamara Littleton, CEO at The Social Element

@Charlotte: Good point re: Ts and Cs. I do think though that it is possible to write Ts & Cs that are easy to understand, and still cover the brand from a legal point of view. You could pull out the most salient house rules up front (written in a user-friendly way) before going into the details of the Ts & Cs.

@Thomas: The Nokia example is really interesting – thanks for sharing it. I think having a picture featured in an ‘album’ is a sort of prize – that’s exactly the sort of thing I meant by an something money can’t buy, or recognition for the consumer; I think prizes can definitely be defined in wider terms than just cash value.

@Greg: You’re absolutely right, things are shifting in the direction of more video uploads and that is certainly in part because of the technology available, thanks for making that point. You won’t be surprised to know that I totally agree about the importance of actively moderating YouTube!

about 7 years ago


SEO Services

The ads would focus on the basics of Marketing- Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning the brand in the mind of the consumer. The campaigns would shift focus from mere product description to engaging the customer with the Brand.

about 7 years ago

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