LEGO and GE: How they use UGC and Target Geeks in Social Media

storm trooper lego.jpg

With another Social Media Week over, there were some social media strategy standouts from established brands that reminded you of how to target your niche audience with UGC and periphery topics. Your groupies may not always be able to access your product, like General Electric, it may seem ‘too techy’ for those geeks with an interest in fashion or music, or like Lego, you can’t directly target kids through social media but you need to inspire the parents. Katrina Craigwell, Head of Global Digital Programming at GE discussed her strategy to ‘Ignite light-hearted curiosity around science and tech, and to create moments of engagement.’ Lars Silberbauer, Global Director, Social Media, Search & YouTube, at Lego discussed a ‘The joy of building together’ which, for me, brings to mind Coca Cola’s sharing happiness but with more family time.

Katrina Craigwell gave us examples of periphery outreach to niche geeks and how to highlight the GE Tech online with social media, and offline, using their vast locations available all over the world. (A fantastic resource to have, although a question asked later was how you get the factory location on board with having a film crew invading their workplace for a day or more. Katrina said you need to find the one champion who works there, who has an interest and a passion to expose their venue, their product, their surrounding environment, and just focus on them to make it happen and to influence the rest of the reluctant players.)

They have a multitude of platforms in use, check out just some of icons top right of theirwebsite which is not displaying Tumblr, but which Katrina emphasised is a great platform to showcase the various images and interests that make GE look as innovative with their social media as they are with their products. Here you can see many examples of the subcultures of geeks they are reaching out to. One group is targeted with a post on clothes by Xioatian Zhang with ‘hundreds of faceted spherical beads across her garments in a manner closely resembling the appearance of fruiting slime mold’ – uh a play for the science fashion nerd. Another subculture is sneaker obsessed geeks with the reworked Moon Boots created in new materials to celebrate the 45thanniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. They received the attention of fashion site ‘Fashionista’ who opened their article with ‘Oh man, sneakerheads, do we have news for you.’

GE Xioatian Zhang fashionGE Moon Boots

For GE, social media allows for innovation as a big legacy company, and it helps the board members as well as the public ‘rediscover how to see GE’ with the emphasis on imagery. Katrina is keeping a close eye on what does work, to build on those successes, and ensure consistency within a channel or ongoing campaign. There was a question around the platforms they use (as there is so many) and Katrina said they ‘lean into’ the unique functionalities and audiences of each platform.

Is it great content for a science and technology audience? Looks like it, but what about getting it shared? GE has the resources to demonstrate beautified machine vignettes, while accessing their international locations, and reaching out to various interest groups. They access communities by getting their geek influencers/creators involved. An example is having dubstep dancer Marquese Scott in Moon Boots in front of GE machines, dancing to a track created by musician Matthew Dear and GE Acoustics Engineer Andrew Gorton, who teamed up to collect and compose thousands of audio emissions from the world’s most powerful machines.

Just to rattle off a few of the metrics Katrina said they pay attention to; measure the value – overall reach, shares, cost per view, brand awareness/perception changes, best engagement, themes that have high organic reach and engagement, creator work that is surprising.

Want to copy them and venture into peripheries? Go back to your brand’s foundations and identity, find what’s real for you, not what’s trendy. Be passionate about what you’re doing and find partners that it can work for as well, who bring-it to compliment you.


LEGO! It’s easy to love Lego, because it’s a part of everyone’s childhood, (please leave a comment if you didn’t own any and what your substitute was), Lars Silberbauer at Lego made his own presentation (I asked) which was clean and colourful with a lively sense of play as the theme, it brought out smiles and highlighted the two social needs Lego attends;

1. Building Together – create something together as a family

2. Pride of creation – kids being proud of what they’ve built and the parent being proud too, and geeks reminiscing

— Dean Samways (@Deanways) September 23, 2014

Lars let us in on how much of their content is UGC, an honest move considering how much of it actually is, but as he said, they may not have Coca Cola’s budget, but they have a very engaged crowd and still rouse feelings of sharing good times. The four main areas of ‘The joy of building together’ are: Increased sales (fair enough), Brand affinity – kids are being born every day, Improve marketing efficiency, and (don’t ask about Shell) damage control (someone did. It was a standard ‘no comment’, and back to fuzzy feelings of how to properly use UGC in social.)

— Ketchum UK (@KetchumUK) September 23, 2014

#ShareTheForce on Facebook is an example of the awesomeness of sharing Lego moments

Lars shared a good example of how a small investment of time can be measured in sales. This ‘May the Fourth be with you’ Facebook post used a fan photo, with permission and credit, received 21,152 likes 256 comments and 2,279 shares, and Lars said that by tracking the click-throughs there was $10,000 made in sales. For one free fan photo.

There is more extreme fan content like the mock Felix space jump claimed as the ‘Startos Jump Successful – Original’, watch it, it’s cute. And that’s what Lego is, it’s cute, it’s cuddly, and for tiny hard plastic bricks that’s no small feat.

As leaders in using UGC you can see how they continue to pat the heads of us all, with memories of our own childhoods and delivering those to the next generation. But as an adult, not only are you entirely complicit in this handover to the next generation, you are invited to share your best Lego ideas and crowd sourced ideas whereby if you get 10,000 supporters for your Lego line you might be selected for a full product line and get a share in the revenue. For more family fun Lego ideas see all the interaction generated from Happy Holiplay campaign.

Lars’ genuine passion for the brand was understated and obvious, showing his absolute suitability for the role. He mentioned a post from a mother who shared an image of her son who had recently died. One of his wishes was to be in the Lego magazine, they published it on the Lego FB page. Lars delivered this without fanfare, just as one of the reasons he does this job. His choice of words – hard work, timely, relevant, brave, personal. Long Live Lego.

For another view on the talk, see Alex Bourgeois from Social Media London.

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