By Kristen Dunne, technical customer success manager at Cloudinary
In early 2023 we live in a world where YouTube is now seen by two billion people a month watching a billion hours of video, and TikTok is not far behind. The star attraction drawing views to these two hot platforms is unquestionable: authentic, user generated content, or UGC.
The rise of combined video and social appears unstoppable, so if your brand’s not in this game, it’s very likely losing ground to competitors. UGC helps you grow your community, strengthens customer engagement and loyalty, and can lower your content creation costs.
Of course, there are also risks to manage with UGC including copyright issues and quality control. But there are established tools and processes to manage these so that the benefits can far outweigh those risks. To offer some inspiration on how UGC can boost your brand, I wanted to share a recent experience of mine from the gaming world. So, strap on your broadsword, cast your Arcane Brilliance mage spell, and enter the fantastic World of Warcraft!
WINNING THE BATTLE ONLINE
With more than 120 million regular players, Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft (WoW) is easily the most successful multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) on the planet. Last year, Blizzard came to us to help them transform imagery and open up easy ways for players to share their experiences out of the realm of Azeroth directly to Twitter.
This would be WoW’s first-ever marketing campaign, and it’s been a huge success. It led to #WarcraftStory trending number one globally and in the US for a full eight hours last November. We also helped secure the game’s highest day of brand conversation of all time across all languages, with more than 392,000 mentions — more than double Blizzard’s previous highest day of brand conversation, back in 2018. The second day of the campaign registered the second highest number of conversation metrics of all time for the product.
SO: WHAT DID WE DO RIGHT?
You really are a mighty warrior! (well, mostly) Timing was crucial. The campaign kicked off in early November 2022 ahead of the planned release later that month of the game’s Dragonflight season expansion. For sure we wanted to piggy-back off Dragonflight’s buzz with WoW’s existing fanbase. But we also hoped to attract new players and re-engage those who had not played lately. Second: we made it super-easy to share the cool things the completely unique character you design – whether a druid, shaman, or warrior – was doing in the game. We applied a clear formula for generating a rich response from the main World of Warcraft Twitter handle.
Players received a visual snapshot of their character and highlights of their key gaming statistics, like how many powerful enemies they’d defeated or even how many “warm embraces” a player had with friends. So players received a vivid, customised record of how their character has been performing, and in an authentic voice. We highlighted players’ successes but also made sure there was a fun snark or two about their less-than-glorious moments, which is true to the spirit of this community and gameplay conventions.
THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE OF STORMWIND CITY (AND THE CAMPAIGN…)
Once hooked, players loved the idea and kept engaging on Twitter — in fact, so far more than 300,000 of these custom player stories have been shared worldwide. Our role at Cloudinary was to help make the online imagery as awesome as possible. That meant automatically serving up visual content on a massive scale and transforming customised and automated content for every WoW user. One thing was non-negotiable: execution needed to be flawless and never below the high level quality that those millions of dedicated WoW players expect.
So here’s what’s happening behind the scenes: when Twitter detects certain keyword combinations, API calls are sent to the World of Warcraft API, which then sends return information to Cloudinary to automatically compile data into the Blizzard-created graphics. Next Cloudinary delivers this to Twitter via the automatically triggered response from the Blizzard Twitter page. All this happens at blinding speed, and at the scale this form of open world gaming demands. To cap it off, we ensured the integrity of WoW’s branding: Tweets were always produced with high-quality graphics and characters and the right WoW custom fonts and content.
For me, this form of UGC-leveraging marketing success doesn’t need any Eldritch magic to understand. It’s about the right level of internal brand control aided by the right level of tech functionality to support users having a fun content experience that’s always safe, bounded, and true to the WoW gaming philosophy. But then, why do you trust me? I might be a treacherous Blood Elf in disguise!