All Articles Marketing Do brands need submission guidelines for fan-submitted content?

Do brands need submission guidelines for fan-submitted content?

2 min read


SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

This week, we asked: When soliciting crowdsourced material from fans, do you post a written set of submission guidelines that detail the kinds of content you will and won’t accept?

  • Always 56.76%
  • Sometimes 18.92%
  • Not sure 13.51%
  • Never 10.81%

User-generated content can be a wonderful thing. Your fans aren’t just a source of content, they’re also the most powerful promotion engine you have. The can also be a potent source of news ideas, seeing your brand in ways you can’t from the inside, for better or for worse. Embracing user-generated content means giving up a measure of control. How much control? Well, that’s up to you.

Durex ran into a spot of trouble earlier this month when they ran a social contest around a proposed condom delivery service, asking fans where it should debut. When fans chose the conservative Turkish city of Batman, however, the brand was put in an awkward position.

Was that contest a mistake for Durex? Not exactly. The brand’s idea was good one, but it was let down by lax execution. The key mistake here that they didn’t put bounds on what kinds of submissions were acceptable — say, by offering a list of 10 cities that users could pick from.

The annals of social media marketing are littered with similar examples of brands failing to create environments where fans can make choices and engage with the brand in a safe environment. The key is setting bounds on fans creativity. This isn’t a new idea. Publishers of all kinds (including SmartBrief) have always had submission guidelines. The only difference is that most brands are relatively new to the publishing game, so there is a lack of institutional memory. That will pass. Brands will learn that by letting fans know what kinds of submissions are acceptable, they can have their cake and eat it to when it comes to fan-created content.