Crowdsourcing Helps Brands Communicate

With the immense popularity of photo sharing apps like Instagram and SnapChat, it’s no surprise that big brands have followed consumers to these platforms. Some brands advertise on Instagram like it was any other channel while some brands use Instagram to shake things up a bit. What is the distinguishing factor between these two breeds of brands? Authenticity.

A few months ago, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when a picture of Big Ben caught my eye. At first, I thought that my friend, who was studying at Oxford University, had posted it after her weekend trip to London. As I was about to leave a typical “looks like you’re having the time of your life” (read: I want to be you, I wish I was in London right now) comment, I discovered that the photo wasn’t posted from her account. It was an advertisement for Burberry. Here is a brief version of my thought process after discovering this ad… 

  • How did that get there? I don’t follow brand pages on Instagram.
  • Get off my feed.
  • At least it’s Burberry and not something tacky like Walmart.
  • Get off my feed. This is my Instagram feed, not yours.

Thankfully, some retailers are challenging the norm. Instead of forcing content down our throats (ahem, Burberry), brands are recognizing that we love social media because it gives us (the users) a voice. Brands are also recognizing that we are far more likely to listen to our peers than to big brand voices that are advertising to us. We don’t like being sold. We do our research, and a lot of that research comes from friends and people in our networks because we like genuine, authentic conversation.

Enter Coach, one of the many big brands with a social media presence. Coach is rewriting the playbook for online retail by using social media in new and engaging ways. According to this Businessweek article, Coach has begun to crowdsource photographs of shoes and other merchandise from consumers on Instagram. That’s right, instead of looking at Coach shoes on the feet of some industry standard, ridiculously Photoshoped model, you can look at Coach shoes on the feet of your every day consumer (through a strategically chosen Instagram filter, of course). You can even Instagram your own shoes and use the hashtag #CoachFromAbove for the chance to be featured on their site.

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Their website highlights consumer created content with links to buy your own pair of trendy, crowd approved shoes.

Lancome is another great example of a brand that is using new, innovative ways to reach out to consumers without run of the mill advertising content. Much like Dove, Lancome is urging women to post Selfies to showcase their natural beauty. It does fit into the promotion strategy for one of their new products quite nicely, but Lancome isnt buying up space on my Instagram feed to sell it to me. Instead, Lancome is acknowledging me, asking me to engage (using #bareselfie) and become part of the conversation. Lancome gets to know me and I get to know Lancome. They are communicating with me in a more personal and authentic way and showing me how personalized their products can be.

I’m glad brands are starting to get it. We join social networks to have a voice, and Coach, Lancome, and others are changing the game by giving us one. This isn’t just an email complaint system or a hotline to call with comments. This is content that we generate on our own and we can immediately see it integrated into the brand’s identity. It gives the brand a more relatable and authentic personality. In this way, brands can seamlessly integrate themselves into the fabric of social networks and be invited into conversations between consumers. It is not an intrusion. It doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb in the way that traditional advertisements do. It is welcome and invited by social network users, and I hope we see more of it from other brands.