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A New Take on UGC: Curating Creative Content from Your Community


User generated content (or UGC) is a powerful marketing tool. But too many brands sit back and wait for their users to post something shareable online. Rather than wait, or worse talk on and on about themselves, organizations should stop to ask, “What do you think of us?” The results, ideally, are abundant, authentic, and pretty darn interesting. Submittable tried the technique on some of the most anti-establishment among us—poets. It turned out to be a really good time.

Here’s an overview of the campaign to spark your own ideas. You’ll find details about our contest strategy (basically, a Submittable contest about Submittable using Submittable forms and a premium Submittable feature–we are so “meta”), data on the outcome of these efforts, and reasons you might also want to consider a UGC campaign to amp up your brand.

Our Submittable-centric poetry contest

There are, to date, four (known) poets working at Submittable and all four are part of the marketing team. That makes the Submittable crew roughly 5% poet overall and the marketing team 50% poet—good enough odds to ensure we enjoy National Poetry Month. In an effort to play with one of Submittable’s premium contest-focused features—Gallery—and get people psyched on verse last April, we put out a call for UGC as part of the first-ever Submittable-Centric Poetry Contest.

Our goals were to:

  • Connect with the poets who entered the contest
  • Engage site visitors with the humor and creativity of contestant responses
  • Highlight the Gallery feature
  • Highlight submitter talent
  • Connect with new networks on social media
  • Demonstrate Submittable’s literary citizenship and willingness to laugh at ourselves

To this end, we asked contestants to send us poems about our product. The entry was free and the goal was fun. We offered a cash prize to a single winner, merchandise prizes to two runners-up, and gallery participation for any poems we liked. One of our team members created custom sketches for each poem included in the gallery, inspired in part by the Instagram of Susan/the Journal, a Submittable-user. As submissions came in, we added them to the gallery to increase interest in the contest and utilized our social media channels though out (Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook). We also promoted the call and the gallery in our Submishmash newsletter, which goes out to thousands of creative professionals every week.

Results and highlights from the Submittable poetry contest

The whole project took us one month exactly.

  • Contest Prep time: 4/1-4/5
  • Contest Submission Window: 4/5-4/20
  • Final Gallery Assembly: 4/20-4/25
  • Public Voting: 4/25-4/29
  • Winner Announcement: 4/30

Submissions were devilishly good.

Just look at some of these entries:
submittable poem
submittable poetry illustrations
submittable poetry gallery

People got involved.

Total Contest Submissions: 181
Gallery Submissions: 51
Total Gallery Pageviews to date: 8,649
Unique Pageviews to date: 5,955
Total Contest Votes Collected: 1246

3 reasons to run your own contest

Maybe you’ve thought about running your own UGC contest. If you’re on the fence, here are some potential benefits to consider:

Engage and empower creative consumers

UGC contests invite talented people from outside your professional team to participate in your vision and brand. They’ll see your product in a way you can’t, and they’ll offer the sort of genuine and unique content people learning about you for the first time will appreciate. In our case, Submittable has many great poets using the software who don’t have the opportunity to share their work with us directly and publicly—this contest gave them a chance.

Expand your network

Contestants in your contest are sure to engage their social media networks to encourage voting and fight for the win. Whether the people in their network already know your brand or are discovering you for the first time, this sort of campaign makes the next interaction fun and personable. Because Gallery includes integrated social sharing tools, our contestants could share their poems quickly and widely, bringing new visitors to our social sites.

Harness the power of aesthetics

It’s no secret that Instagram is the fastest growing social network for several reasons: people love images of people, people love to capture and share their own lives, images spark our appreciation of beauty, and they also speak to our emotions. A good-looking contest, that is easy to navigate and pleasing to peruse, will encourage participation. Including text in our gallery was an experiment, but we felt that by creating images with hand-script and varying background colors, the work of our contestants would be extra enjoyable.

Interested in Gallery or Submittable-assisted marketing campaigns? Contact our sales team: sales@submittable.com

Rachel Mindell

Rachel Mindell is Senior Editor for Submittable's Marketing Team. She also writes and teaches poetry. You can find Rachel's creative work here: rachelmindell.com