2016 has proven to be an engrossing year in social media. Marketers have been faced with a deluge of new information, from the growth of Snapchat and LinkedIn – where marketers once feared to tread – to substantial changes at more familiar channels like Twitter. Through it all, the canniest marketers and have found novel ways to deliver incisive messages to their audience. Here are a few of Target Internet’s favourite examples – the social media success stories of 2016 so far:

Tasty – the world’s favourite new recipe publishers

Hands up, it may have launched in December 2015 – but 2016 has been Tasty’s year. As of October 1st, the BuzzFeed-owned food channel had 70 million likes and monthly viewing figures stretching into the billions. And that’s before we even take into account Tasty’s regional spin-offs, including the UK-focused Proper Tasty and its 13-million-or-so fans.

Most of you will already be familiar with Tasty’s videos. The premise is simple: take one in-trend and eye-catching dish, film how it’s made from a bird’s eye view, include a bare minimum of text instructions, and finish the whole thing off with a shot of some lucky so-and-so digging into the completed recipe with a fork.

For our money, Tasty is the social media success story of 2016. Let’s take a look at the winning factors behind this bona fide digital phenomenon:

Not a second is wasted

We live in an age where content consumers will go so far as to listen to audiobooks at 1.5x speed, just so they can absorb as much new information as possible. Every second matters. Viewers appreciate Tasty’s videos because they provide useful and appealing information in a highly direct manner. Note the fast-forwarded visuals and the brevity of the instructions.

Cross-pollination of channels

Have a quick scroll down Tasty’s Facebook page. You’ll find plenty of those unmistakable recipe videos, but you’ll also see numerous links to BuzzFeed articles, other BuzzFeed brands, and Tasty content on other social media. BuzzFeed is extracting extra value out of Tasty – its star performer – by using the brand to channel users to its other channels in vast numbers. Tasty vids also earn BuzzFeed money by means of a bespoke ad revenue sharing deal with Facebook.

On a side note – Bearing in mind that Shell sold seashells before they sold oil, and Nokia sold paper before they made your 3310, will BuzzFeed as a news (read: listicle) provider find itself a mere footnote in the history of Tasty?

The money shot

You may have noticed that a guy says “Oh, yes!” at the end of every Tasty video. That was BuzzFeed video producer Andrew Ilnyckyj’s unprompted reaction to an egg yolk bursting as he filmed one of the prototypes for the Tasty format. There may have been a stroke of sub-conscious brilliance in the utterance, because it captures exactly how each Tasty video is designed to make the viewer feel. At the end of each recipe you get a shameless food porn payoff – gooey ingredients sprawling across the plate; a knife cutting cleanly through a cake. Whatever the action, it’s designed to elicit both hunger and satisfaction simultaneously.

It’s on-zeitgeist

You’ll never see an unfashionable foodstuff on a Tasty video. At the time of writing, recent posts on the Proper Tasty Facebook page feature cupcakes, sliders, avocados, chicken parmos – and for good measure, an article denouncing the humble garden pea. By featuring trendy food, Tasty greatly increases the share-ability and essential appeal of their videos.

West Elm – at the forefront of the UGC revolution

One of the top marketing trends of the decade so far has been the increasing use of user-generated content in digital marketing. T-Mobile, Belkin, Walker’s, Pizza Hut… they’re all at it. User-generated content is on every big brand’s shortlist of marketing campaign ideas, but one big name in particular has placed UGC at the heart of its marketing efforts in 2016.

US homeware retailer West Elm have been using UGC for years, but since this summer they have made user-generated images captured from an Instagram hashtag – #mywestelm – the basis of a huge share of their social media marketing, from Instagram posts to a series of much feted carousel ads on Facebook.

And the policy has proven itself a runaway success! When West Elm’s tech partners Olapic ran an A/B test pitting UGC against West Elm’s regular Facebook content, they found that the UGC delivered a click-through rate 2.6 times higher than the regular ads.

UGC is reaching new heights

Marketers have been cashing in on user-generated content for years – so why bring it up now?
Until recently the bulk of UGC was clearly homemade, restricted in quality by the standard of technology available to the public. UGC could be charming, creative, ingenious – but it couldn’t match the gloss of professionally produced content.

Now that we have high-res smartphone cameras and Instagram filters, it’s a different story. Technological advances have democratised content production – so much so that the marketing industry is leaning perceptibly away from production and further towards content strategy.

According to CrowdTap statistics cited last year by The Huffington Post, millennials consider user-generated content to be 20% more influential, 35% more memorable and 50% more trustworthy than content produced by marketers. UGC is social proof in action; reliable evidence that people just like you, the consumer, are buying into the brand.

Inspiring and using UGC

Just about every brand has the potential to do great things with user-generated content – but first you’ll need to get your customers to generate it. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • #competition – Run a photo competition on Instagram. Ask your customers to upload photos depicting their interactions with your brand, your products, or whatever it is you would like the content to promote. The best photo wins a prize – and you get loads of UGC!
  • Outstanding aesthetics – If your products or locations look great, there’s a much higher chance that people will want to feature them on their social profiles. If your restaurant has the coolest décor in town, people will want to be photographed there; if your books have the prettiest covers, they’ll wind up on more Instagram feeds. This isn’t an instruction to give your brand an outlandish makeover – it’s a reminder that paying attention to aesthetics is now more important than ever before.
  • Just ask – Simple as that: ask your customers to post their images featuring your brand on social media. Promoting a hashtag including your brand name will help a great deal when it comes to harvesting the UGC created.
  • Look in every nook and cranny – The best UGC campaigns often source their content from unlikely places. Take #LidlSurprises for example. This great campaign from the value supermarket chain takes customer complaints and turns them into positives, by simultaneously refuting the point and winning over the person who submitted the complaint by sending them on an exciting, big-budget experience.
  • Always remember – It’s important to contact the content creator before you go ahead and use their content, especially if you plan to edit it.

Now you have your user-generated content – but how to put it to good use? Here’s how we would go about it:

  • Giving UGC a starring role – Featuring UGC in your higher budget marketing activities pays a huge compliment to your customers. Think TalkTalk’s karaoke-style X Factor idents (and tailor that basic premise to your budget).
  • Facebook carousel ads – This ad format from Facebook has proven highly compatible with UGC – interested users can swipe or scroll through a series of themed images just as they might when browsing hashtags, albeit on a horizontal axis.
  • In-place of traditional advertising – Swap UGC in for your trad ads, and run an A/B testto see which works better for your purposes.
  • Build a tradition – If you’ve struck upon something great with a UGC campaign, you should consider establishing it as a long-term fixture – a ‘Your Best Photos’ section in a monthly newsletter or catalogue, for example.

Kylie Jenner’s Snapchat make-up tutorials

Why on Earth haven’t you been following Kylie Jenner’s Snapchat account? Never mind – the important thing now is to realise that Jenner’s snaps are essential viewing for social media marketers, and particularly for those with an interest in influencer marketing.

Many of Jenner’s snaps are just your average plugs for the products sold by her makeup brand, Kylie Cosmetics. That’s effective influencer marketing in itself, but it’s not what we’re interested in here.


Earlier this year, Kylie Cosmetics hit upon an ingenious new format for makeup advertising: the Snapchat makeup tutorial. The videos – split up into several snaps, posted successively – show Kylie demonstrating how to imitate her looks using a combination of her own and other cosmetics products. This video shows how the snaps appear when played continuously:

Earlier we talked about user-generated content imitating professional marketing; well here we have the opposite. Jenner’s make-up tutorials mimic the production values and scripting of your run-of-the-mill semi-professional YouTube tutorial – only they star one of the world’s most famous teenagers, and are delivered over Snapchat. This innovative model has much to teach brands large and small about how to excel on social in 2016.

Mastering emerging channels

What’s especially interesting about the Kylie Cosmetics makeup tutorial campaign is the primary channel used in its delivery: Snapchat.

Up until this point, Snapchat as a marketing tool has received mixed reviews. Big label Stories campaigns have often failed to connect with their audience, the media production requirements involved in creating adverts are too great for many small companies to accommodate, and there are plenty of digital marketers out there who won’t go near the channel as a result of these and other factors.

The success of Jenner’s tutorials would suggest that influencer marketing (i.e. endorsement from a high profile figure outside of a traditional ad context) may be one of the best ways forward on this tricky channel. The good news for SMEs is that you can achieve the homemade feel of Kylie’s snaps on a minuscule budget; the slightly more challenging news is that you would need to identify and commission an influencer to carry the campaign.

Whether or not you decide to use Snapchat to market your brand, you can certainly take inspiration from this clever use of an emerging social media channel. Consider the options open to you beyond the obligatory Facebook: Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and whichever social networks emerge next. Can you craft a new strategy that’s perfect for one of these less popular channels? You may well find it’s better to make a big impact on a smaller audience than to fight to get your message heard in the largest audience of all.