The story behind GoPro’s radical user generated content marketing strategy

30 January, 2015

GoPro have an extreme jump on the competition (pun firmly intended as always).

User generated content or UGC (I’ll try not to use this bewildering digital marketing speak acronym) always had the potential to be a phenomenal asset for the cool new kid on the electronics block.

GoPro made it happen.

A tiny online retailer with one big dream gave the keys of their brand to their customers.

A community of passionate advocates and unprecedented success was their reward.

GoPro’s UGC advantage

  • The GoPro product is literally a content creation machine. You might be more familiar with it’s slightly better known title of ‘video camera’.
  • Their product is also designed to be used in the most head-shakingly outrageous of situations. Most often, extreme GoPro shenanigans take place in the most envy-inspiring locations of beauty around the world.

All this combines to make user generated content a virtual shoe-tie for GoPro.

Of course, there is bound to be no shortage of online customer-attracting content coming from the lense of GoPro fan boys and girls.

If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen a GoPro vid – chances are, someone has filmed a clip of themselves free-jumping off your rock into a freakishly terrifying abyss.

Here’s an example for you:

You need to make it easy for your users to generate content

As much as GoPro’s product lends itself to UGC, you still need to make it happen.

There’s a plethora of other camera retailers who have the same opportunity to maximise the value of their customer’s content.

Noone else has managed to realise this in practice.

No other GoPro competitor has established a content marketing platform to harness this opportunity.

GoPro made it happen.

You see, GoPro grew into an extreme ecommerce success story without the widespread use of advertising.

Their marketing budget looked more like that of your local accounting firm.

Instead of paying to rent a media company’s audience, they use the brand-building services of millions of customers. Unpaid marketing resources.

It’s kinda like having a team of enthusiastic interns in every city across the developed world.

Except you don’t even need to supply them with stationary.

How does GoPro’s user generated content work in practice?

GoPro’s content marketing strategy is much simpler to execute than one of the manoeuvres its product shares with the world.

The marketing team provides the tools and platform to enable their customers to share the videos and images they capture.

This makes things sound like you need an enterprise-level software program and a couple of hundred thousand dollars for a slick new microsite.


Around 6000 GoPro videos are posted online each day, and this is about all the company needed to make it happen:

  • A #GoPro hashtag to help users categorise their content so that GoPro’s social media team can find new videos uploaded to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube

Gopro's Social Media Curation Program

  • A webpage dedicated to showing the best content generated by their customers

Make Your Customer's Content The Hero

  • Another webpage dedicated to explaining how users can upload and share content from different devices

Encouraging Social Media User Generated Content

  • A big button urging viewers to upload their own videos

Give Your Customers A Chance To Create And Share Content

For your audience – Not so hard, right?

If you can jump off a cliff and navigate your way through several highrise buildings, You’ll have no problems uploading your clip for the GoPro world to see.

For the marketing team – Also pretty low maintenance.

You’re just setting up a couple of simple foundations to empower your customers to do the content creation and promotion grunt work for you.

All you need to do is curate the best stuff, show it off on your social media platforms, create a competition or two and give away a few prizes.

Just a couple of webpages, a hashtag, and some internet-scouring required.

If you can manage to build a community even half the size of GoPro’s, you’ll be on top of the world…

Metaphorically of course.

Because literally would be explicitly frightening – as this GoPro daredevil nutjob can attest to after free climbing the world’s second tallest building in Shanghai, China.

What separates the UGC grommets from the seasoned pro’s?

(We’re not talking about ear infections here – for you non Aussie folk, a grommet is a greenhorn amateur surfer)

Maybe it’s not quite as simple as I’ve made out.

Handing the keys of your content creation machine to your customers is a scary thing. Almost as scary as this GoPro clip

  • For starters, you need a quality product.

If you can’t be sure your audience’s interaction will be positive, you have to be prepared to deal with the negative fallout.

McDonalds are one of few companies that still generate customer engagement amidst some guaranteed backlash form the haters.

  • You need to understand your brand, and your customers.

You’re leaving your brand in the hands of your audience. So you’d better be nice and clear on what your brand is all about.

The content that GoPro create, curate, and share, communicates the brand’s belief. Anyone that sees a GoPro vid understands the lifestyle of the brand’s fans.

There is an authentic connection between the user and the brand’s ethos of sharing your passion with the world.

I3 Innovate spoke to Nick Woodman, founder and CEO of GoPro, to hear him explain the GoPro brand’s content marketing mission:

“We believe the best stories are being lived by our customers… We want to help people self-document themselves engaged in their interests or passions.”

If you want your customers to create and share content that spreads your brand to their friends, you need to develop a genuine relationship with your community.

For ecommerce stores, it’s a tricky one.

There’s no face-to-face contact, so you need your website and your content to communicate your brand’s belief.

So how do you actually go about encouraging your customers, susbcribers, and followers to start creating content about their experiences with your brand? It’s one of those marketing-isms that’s a whole bunch easier said than done.

There’s more than one article’s worth of learning to be done on ecommerce UGC if you want to make it work sustainably for your online store. We know how important it will become to empower your community to help share the messages your brand believes in – so we prepared an entire downloadable guide to help you understand the concept.


Download Your Ecommerce User Generated Content Guide

You’ll find over 40 pages of UGC helpfulness, with successful case studies from nine different online retailers of all different shapes, sizes, budgets and industries.

How user generated content can help you build a community of loyal customers

Engaging your audience to create content on behalf of your brand can develop the most authentic kind of relationship that an online retailer can hope to build.

User generated content is not about your product, it’s about showcasing the way your brand fits into the lifestyle of your community.

By resharing customer content through your email marketing, blog, website or social media platforms, you can make your community members the hero.

This almost guarantees that your new brand fan will share their fame with the rest of their social media followers. As friends of your customer, they probably share the same lifestyle and interests, and they probably shape up as an ideal target audience.

This is where UGC marketing allows you to build a community of potential customers with speed and thrift.

The vast majority of GoPro’s customers have purchased after consuming content created by their customers. Gnarly, rad, dope, tubular, insert extreme sports adjective of your choice here – this is content marketing at it’s very best.

Let’s go back to Nick again, the CEO of GoPro, to hear his explanation of the importance of a branding to their success:

“When you factor in the strength of the brand, it’s so aspirational and high-energy and cool that our customers want to be associated with it. That is another reason why they tag, title and describe their content as GoPro. The result is that GoPro is arguably the world’s largest production force in the form of our customers and arguably, one of the world’s largest ambassador movements.”

GoPro has gone to places no other brand has been. You can’t even begin to compare the brand to the likes of Nikon, Sony, Android or Apple. The GoPro camera has carved out its own crystal clear extreme-niche.

What other brand could bring you the delights of a dirt biking dog, a surfing pig and a bunch of dancing penguins?

The business impact of user generated content

Let’s be clear here…

All this brand building, storytelling, social-sharing marketing guff can start to sound a little high and mighty.

Online retailers need profit.

There’s certainly no time to be mucking around trying to make everyone feel all warm and fuzzy, while stock sits idle, gathering cobwebs.

Make no mistake -building an audience of captivated fans gets real business results.

It’s an inexpensive, swift, effective way to communicate with a large bunch of targeted consumers.

Fast Company explains the business impact of GoPro’s reliance on user generated content:

“Everyone got a glimpse of the power of user-generated content thanks to GoPro’s recent financial disclosures leading up to its public offering. The company more than doubled its net income from 2010 to 2011 to $24.6 million but only spent $50,000 more in marketing costs to do it, according to Wall St. Daily. And GoPro repeated the feat in 2013, increasing marketing costs by only $41,000, but making $28 million more in net income.”

All this branding, content marketing, community building stuff works when you do it right.

It’s not just smiling marketers and social media likes.

In fact, GoPro’s rapidly established target audience has led them to a new ecommerce business model. The one time camera manufacturer is looking to capitalise on it’s publishing prowess to develop a media empire.

The company has taken its first steps along the brand owned media trail that RedBull has so famously blazed.

Red Bull's Media Marketing Powerhouse

Viewers can enjoy the delights of a dedicated GoPro channel during their Virgin America Airlines flight, or stream thousands of hours of content through their Xbox gaming system.

Maybe a Netflix series, a GoPro movie, or an extreme sports print magazine is next.

Whatever the case, it’s clear that GoPro media will keep on allowing their dedicated community to document and share their life’s passion.

GoPro has found a way to monetise content that their customers have created for them – free of charge.

That’s kinda like a newspaper getting you to write all of the articles you want to read, at your own cost, then asking advertisers to pay for the privilege of supporting its publication.

This move into media only serves to underline the success generated by their community’s engagement with the brand.

Bravo, and good luck GoPro – we Gorillas salute you and your ecommerce marketing domination.

Take GoPro’s leap of faith and let your customers share your story

Make Gopro Your Community Building Marketing Inspiration

Now is the time to focus on developing your content marketing mission and building the framework to encourage user generated content.

UGC is definitely a 2015 ecommerce marketing buzzword. But the benefits are genuine, and the approach is sustainable. The excitement within the industry stems from the fact that it’s effective and inexpensive.

Now that consumers have wrested the control of their own content consumption from traditional media companies – interruptive and irrelevant advertising is thankfully fast retreating .

As we learn to focus more on delighting our potential customers, user generated content shapes as a way for brands to create genuinely good marketing – for profit margins and humans alike.

GoPro’s content inspires awe, envy, passion, and desire.

Their competitor’s content just talks about waterproof lenses and metapixel levels.

You need to create your brand’s story.

Then give your fans and their followers the script.

Need some more help before you start developing a community of rabidly loyal, repeat purchashing brand ambassadors? There’s plenty more online marketing gorilla wisdom where this came from. Our Ecommerce User Generated Content guide has over 30 pages of learning just like this – with expert advice and insights to help you develop a customer-attracting strategy. Just click on that big button below, and we’ll ship that package of ecommerce marketing wisdom straight to your inbox door.

By James Dillon
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