If you could give a microphone, camera and video recorder to every one of your listeners, what would you have them produce for you?
Of course, if you think about this seriously for a moment, you know that this question is moot. The majority of people who listen to your radio station have this media creation capability built into their smartphones.
iMovie for mobile is a go-to app for UGC, a screenshot of which is shown above. Curate submissions, post the best on your website and promote them on-air. “User-generated content” — created primarily on smartphones — has been exploding on social media for several years, but it has not yet been widely exploited by radio. I’d like to think this is due to a lack of station resources and not a lack of vision.
Why is UGC important? Because it’s part of a lifestyle that helps those who create their personal media to connect with others. This connection is emotional. The people who take photos and record videos and sound memos are already actively sharing this content with family and friends, and many try to go viral just for bragging rights. It’s also common to hear people get excited to see that a picture they took and posted got 40 “likes.” Imagine this same person having their content broadcast on your radio station’s airwaves and/or posted and promoted on your website.
Here are a few examples of how you can get in the UGC game.
The first one is obvious — and real. I heard it recently on NPR’s “Morning Edition” when one of the hosts asked listeners to email voice recordings of questions that would be posed on-air to a special guest.
Take this a step further and ask your listeners to email you voice memos concerning their opinions on topics: reviews of new songs, thoughts about movies, TV shows and local events.
When predictable holidays like Valentine’s Day roll around, you could easily be broadcasting stories of how people met and fell in love; all you have to do is ask in advance.
Imagine the online galleries you could create by soliciting the pictures and videos that your listeners are creating at concerts, local festivals and newsworthy events. Brag about the best ones on-air.
When a news/talk station doesn’t happen to have a staff member present in a breaking news situation, the answer may be to obtain UGC sound recorded by bystanders.
Instead of creating your own podcasts, try searching for UGC. There are many podcasts being created in your city that you might be able to use all or part of — perhaps on the air, on an HD channel or online via your website. A Web test of a podcast that you promote on-air could give you the feedback you need to see if it’s striking enough of a chord for you to make a commitment to production and real distribution.
Could you create your city’s biggest New Year’s photo album for 2016? Yes, if you plan it right now and prime the pump with a prize for everyone who submits photos. Thanking people who submit content by name on the air will also create action.
For UGC to start flowing, your station should create an activation plan so listeners hear examples of what you’re seeking. Offer them an easy way to send you the content via email or a social platform. As you give more exposure and credit to people by name, you will receive more content.
Now: Who will do the work of aggregating UGC? A content producer, under the guidance of your program director, is a good candidate. Perhaps this is a new position at your station or cluster for the coming year and you can still get it into the budget. If not, perhaps you could assign individual projects to on-air talent who are already familiar with your audience’s interests.
Great UGC is real, interesting, relevant to your local market and — believe it or not — plentiful.
And, oh, yes, don’t forget those release forms. You will need an agreement with the content creator that gives your station the rights to their 15 minutes of fame.
The author is president of Lapidus Media. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.