How Big Brands Get Permission to Use UGC

Jon Steiert, Social Media Manager & PR Specialist at Pet360, Inc., joins the Social Pros Podcast this week to discuss social as a way to improve the customer experience, the value of listening on social, and the scalability of user-generated content.

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Full Episode Details

Creating a Better Customer Experience

Jon Steiert knows a lot about cats and dogs. As he should, since he works at Pet360, a site that strives to be the all-encompassing location where pet owners can take care of any and all of their pets’ needs. Beginning as PetFoodDirect.com in 1997, it was the first pet e-commerce site. In 2010, the CEO realized there was a content gap and acquired PetMD.com. Then, last year, PetSmart acquired Pet360, creating several integration points between the two. They are excited to have an e-commerce company that thinks digitally first.

Pet360’s audience is made up primarily of dog and cat owners. The third most popular audience is horse owners. Pet360 also caters to owners of small animals like hamsters and guinea pigs, as well as reptiles. With such a huge customer base, Pet360’s in-house staff and freelance writers create a huge amount of content – about 75 to 80 pieces per month, in addition to 25+ pieces of editorial content on a quarterly basis.

They scour their overall editorial calendar to determine which pieces should be scheduled on various social media channels. There isn’t necessarily a primary metric to decide which pieces get shared where, but they pay attention to what has been successful depending on seasonal themes and relevancy to different segments of their audience.

For the C-suite, it always comes down to how social brings value to the overall sales funnel. For Jon and his team, it’s not about making direct sales. In fact, they specifically don’t try to make sales when they answer questions on social media because they work very hard to avoid appearing biased. Instead, it’s about providing content and servicing customers. Whether that’s through direct customer service, answering questions with content, or general consumer information, social is used to make the customer experience better. 

Scaling User-Generate Content for a Big Brand

BeyondTheYardFacebook has been the best platform to share content via social media because it makes it so easy for people to ask questions and share information. There are about a million people tuning in across the three Facebook channels (Pet360, PetMD, and PetFoodDirect) where Jon and his team see 95 to 98 percent of their social media traffic.

In addition to tons of written content, Pet360 also utilizes lots of visual images. Instagram is of course a great place for images, but Jon has been happy to see Facebook and Twitter make it easier to share images as well. This year, they’ve focused on Pinterest as the next opportunity for growth in the social media world.

And of course, when it comes to pets, there is no shortage of user-generated images. The challenge for Pet360 has been finding a way to gain explicit permission for UGC on such a large scale. They’ve recently brought Curalate onboard as a vendor to solve this problem. Curalate is a visual marketing platform that helps with scheduling, analytics, and gaining permission to use images.

For example, to support the Spring Guide, Pet360 had a #BeyondtheYard campaign that produced a ton of great photos of people hiking with their pets. Far too many photos to reach out to each individual and ask for permission. But with Curalate they could ask permission at scale, allowing them to use UGC across social platforms as well as in a slide shows for email campaigns.

“Everybody was always so thrilled that we had called them out and recognized them that I would say 99.9% of the time they were saying, ‘Absolutely, yes. We can’t wait to see it on your social channels.'”

Bonus: Thank goodness Jeffrey Rohrs is back. We are reunited, and it feels so good.

See you next week!

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