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In a time where it is increasingly difficult for brands to cut through the noise, frequent, relevant and captivating content is critical to a brand's success on social media channels. The challenge, however, is finding and producing content that people actually want to engage with.

One way companies are building their brand experience is by encouraging their communities to contribute user generated content (UGC). UCG is one of the most coveted forms of brand content, but is also one of the most difficult to activate. Its success is largely dependent on recognizing when people feel the most inspired and capitalizing on those moments.

Events and festivals encourage audiences to focus on a core theme, idea or feeling and generally offer an experience that people want to share with their friends. Here are some other great examples of how brands can use events to source user-generated content:


From Sept. 5 to 15, Toronto plays host to one of the most highly anticipated festivals of the year, the Toronto International Film Festival. And while some Torontonians are gearing up for celebrity sightings and live film viewings, this year TIFF has given the rest of the world a chance to get involved.

Recognizing that their audience is global, TIFF has incorporated a range of tools on their social media page including Facebook, YouTube, foursquare, Instagram, GetGlue, Sina Weibo, Google+ and Pinterest. By being intuitive to the social behaviour of their audience, TIFF has made it easy for attendees to share their experience giving an authentic and unbiased voice to the festival.


New York Fashion Week is fast approaching and we're starting to see how brands plan to capitalize on the event through social engagement. The Council of Fashion Designers of America is doing this well through a variety of different channels, but being aware of the photographic nature of fashion week, the CFDA is focusing their social efforts on one of the most visual platforms, Instagram.

Instagram takeovers from various designers, models and celebrities are building anticipation for the week. This in turn is inviting CFDA followers to engage and post with the brand as they are eager to interact with some of fashion's biggest stars. By being perceptive to their audience and the nature of the event, the CFDA is successfully leveraging their consumer's love of fashion and enticing them to share content with the brand.


Sporting events are another prime example of using social media to engage fans and encourage them to contribute user-generated content. The Toronto Blue Jays have a Blue Jays Social Media Clubhouse where they encourage fans to share game time experiences on social media. An official hashtag is used throughout the games to enable easy sharing and tracking.

Jays fans who use this hashtag during a game are given the chance to not only have their content broadcast on the big screen but in some cases can also win a fan prize. The Jays organization paid attention to what would resonate with their fan base, and have successfully leveraged the excitement around home games to bring in user-generated content without breaking the bank.

Social media has created a society where people are continually updating their statuses to share what they are doing or what is happening with their friends. Smart brands foster these conversations and tap into the content that is being produced. Being attentive to who the audience is and where they are spending their time online can determine a brands success in producing user-generated content.

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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