Ignoring fan content takes the social out of social media

Ignoring fan content takes the social out of social media

Since the 1980s, professional wrestling has had me in a headlock.

In awe of larger-than-life heroes like Hulk Hogan, as I child I dreamt of entering the ring. As an adult, I’ve found wrestling to be reliable, escapist fun, and I still want in -- not to step through the ropes but to be some part of the show. Whether writing stories, developing characters or promoting events, I think have something creative to offer. The best I’ve done do so far is as a ringside photographer for two independent wrestling events.

The pain of content creation — similar to that experienced by Slyck Wagner Brown — can be taken away when user-generated content is embraced. (Credit: Bill Zimmerman)

My experience presents a moment to discuss why your brand should be open to outside content. (And gives me a chance to get my photos seen -- more on that later.)

A missed opportunity

I snapped photos for a promotion that hosts events in several states and relies heavily on booking wrestling stars of the past and another on a much more grassroots level that relied mostly on local talent. The promoters of the show gave me free access and the ability to get extremely close to the action. I could feel the rumble of each slam as well as the fans’ ire, adulation or indifference for each performer. I left each show with joy from being so close to the wacky action and a few dozen usable shots. I shared my work in less than 24 hours with the promoters with hopes of seeing my best on their social media channels and websites. Ultimately, they tossed my pics like a wrestler being dumped over the top rope in battle royale. (A selection of photos later made it into a photo essay I did called “Cheers, jeers and steel chairs” for The Obligatory Gridiron Annual publication from Dead Center magazine.)

To summarize, in an age when a brand should be hungry for content, two upstarts ignored free content. Potential reasons could have been:

  • They didn’t think it was worth the time to select photos, write captions, schedule posts, etc.

  • The quality wasn’t up to their standards.

  • There was a resistance to use content from people outside the organization. Also, wrestling is steeped in a tradition leery of outsiders who could potentially expose the secrets of the business.

  • They wanted to avoid issues regarding image usage rights.

Social media platforms are highly visual, so strong photos are a major asset. (Credit: Bill Zimmerman)

Social media platforms are highly visual, so strong photos are a major asset. (Credit: Bill Zimmerman)

Embracing content

The point of all this goes beyond expressing my irritation, it’s also an opportunity to call attention to any content sources that you may be ignoring. Essentially I was hired with access as my only payment and no promise was made to use any of my work, but a quick scan of each indie group’s social media showed no representation of outside content, whether from me or fans. Each group refused to put the social in social media by sharing user-generated content, a missed opportunity to engage with fans and share fresh perspectives on the product. The videos and photos shared by your customers and fans can be re-purposed for your branded social media accounts and can be located through searches of hashtags and keywords as well as via any @mentions or tagging of your account.

To drive the point home, we’ll address the potential concerns in using outside content.

  • They didn’t think it was worth the time to select photos, write captions, schedule posts, etc.

It is. One report found that Facebook posts with images experienced 2.3 times more engagement than those with just text. Sticking with Facebook, a gallery of photos could have been used to recap the night’s events, tagging each of the wrestlers, encouraging them to share with their own networks. More potential future fans and talent would get a better a sense of what to expect next time a shows rolls into town.

  • The quality wasn’t up to their standards.

Overall, my photo would not have been out of place on the promotions’ social media accounts from a quality standpoint. But when it comes to gathering outside content, it is useful to set standards for what you’re willing to use. That images are well-composed, clear and not overly edited is a good start. That photos come with adequate information such as date, location and names is important, too.

  • There was a resistance to using content from people outside the organization.

Fans/customers/clients often tell their social networks when they’re happy with a brand experience. On the brand’s part, this presents an opportunity to engage, cultivating a return customer, and opens up a potential content stream. A study found that 93 percent of consumers find user-generated content (UGC) useful when making purchasing decisions and 85 percent report that visual UGC is more influential than a brand’s photos and videos. Photos of fans enjoying your product can be shared on your brand’s platforms -- just make sure you get permission.

  • They wanted to avoid issues regarding image usage rights

This is a tiny hurdle when it comes to user-generated content. To seek permission, a brand’s social media manager will often reach out to the photo’s owner via the comments sections or a direct message to acquire an OK. Fans are typically happy to comply. Also, platforms such as Shareroot can make it easier to find content and acquire the proper licensing to share it.

Lucha libre legend Rey Mysterio Jr. embraces strong photos — many cleverly obscuring what’s under the mask — and fan engagement on his  own social media . (Credit: Bill Zimmerman")

Lucha libre legend Rey Mysterio Jr. embraces strong photos — many cleverly obscuring what’s under the mask — and fan engagement on his own social media. (Credit: Bill Zimmerman")

Wrap-up

Don’t let ignorance, arrogance or fear get in the way of capitalizing on your fans’ enthusiasm. Today, every company is encouraged to be a media company, and content is needed to tell that brand’s story. Tag your fans into the match to make the process easier.


Final note

A promoter/wrestler did make savvy use of one of my photos on his personal Facebook account, humanizing his brand with a sincere reflection.

Branding advice from a lifelong wrestling fan, The Promo delivers insight on getting over in the digital age whether you’re in the office or in the ring.

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