social media case studies Are you soliciting user-generated content (UGC) for your business?

Would you like to know how to get the most out of user-generated content?

Medtronic Diabetes, which develops and sells diabetes management products, has been soliciting user-generated content since 2012.

Their Share Your Story Facebook app has been so successful that it is driving a 2-to-1 return on investment (ROI) for their entire social media program.

Read on to discover best practices from Medtronic Diabetes for how to get the most out of user-generated content.

medtronic diabetes first facebook share your story app for user-genrated content

The Share Your Story app prompts users to like the Medtronic Diabetes Facebook page before sharing.

Organization: Medtronic Diabetes

Social Media Handles & Stats


  • Since launching in June 2012, the Share Your Story Facebook app has generated a 2-to-1 ROI for their entire social media program via sales traceable from Facebook.
  • Nearly 300 customers have shared stories and photos using the app.
  • Over 80% of users have opted to allow their photos and stories to be used by Medtronic Diabetes in other ways.

#1: Put Customers Front and Center

Medtronic Diabetes does not use professional models. Their policy is only to use customers in marketing or product photos. So when they launched their Facebook page in April 2012, they featured a customer in their banner photo.

medtronic diabetes first facebook banner

Medtronic Diabetes’ first Facebook banner photo, featuring a customer.

“We had a huge ‘aha’ moment as soon as we launched,” said Amanda Sheldon, director of digital marketing and communications for Medtronic Diabetes. As soon as the page launched, people spontaneously shared their diabetes stories.

medtronic diabetes first facebook comment stories

Some of the stories Medtronic Diabetes fans shared after the page launch.

The company soon realized they wanted a Facebook app. They worked with Likeable Media to develop the Share Your Story app.

#2: Ask for Stories in the Right Places

Medtronic Diabetes has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as a blog. Each is used in a different way.

They started The Loop blog in 2011 as an owned channel to foster discussion about living with diabetes. They also post news about the company and its products.

Next they launched their Twitter and YouTube channels. They use Twitter for news and for fielding customer-service issues. “Twitter is for the in-time engagement, helping people out in that moment,” said Sheldon.

The company also uses Twitter to stay engaged with a community of diabetes influencers and bloggers.

They use YouTube mostly for product information/testimonials and customer-service tips.

But Facebook is where most of their customers are. “There are a lot more people with diabetes using Facebook than are using Twitter,” said Sheldon. So it made sense for them to solicit user stories and photos via a Facebook app. 

#3: Make Your Timeline Your Customers’ Timeline

Facebook came out with the timeline concept just as Medtronic Diabetes was getting their page up. Sheldon thought it would be a great idea to have their customers’ milestones be part of their timeline.

medtronic diabetes first facebook timeline

Medtronic Diabetes inserted customer milestones in their Facebook timeline.

“We had added major milestones in the company to the timeline, but we thought our customers were just as important as our innovations,” she said. “The idea of co-creating the timeline along with our community was amazing.”

The app prompts users for a “Diabetes Life Event Date,” and uses that date to place the story in the Medtronic timeline. The community manager also shares the stories as posts on the Facebook page.

medtronic diabetes first facebook shared story

Medtronic shares stories posted to the app on their Facebook page.

#4: Follow Up With Videos, Photo Shoots and Guest Blogging Offers

Medtronic Diabetes gives users of the Share Your Story app an opt-in form with three levels of permission for using their stories.

medtronic diabetes first opt in

Medtronic Diabetes opt-in language when people use the Share Your Story app.

Since people are sharing health care information, Medtronic wanted to be very specific in getting permission for how it is used.

Approximately 80% of customers sharing via the Share Your Story app have opted to let their photos and stories be used outside of Facebook.

But Medtronic is also proactive about contacting customers who have shared to do photo shoots, video testimonials and guest blogging.

Steve, a Facebook community member, posted a photo from his 2012 wedding using the app. Medtronic then followed up asking if he’d like to guest post on The Loop. The result was Getting Hitched With Diabetes: The Groom’s Perspective, which they reposted on the Facebook page.

medtronic diabetes first guest blog story

Medtronic reached out to a community member to guest blog after he posted a photo using the Share Your Story app.

#5: Keep Sharing Top-of-Mind With Customers

Medtronic periodically prompts its Facebook community with reasons to post their stories. Holidays, back-to-school season, wedding season, etc., are all opportunities. And sometimes no reason at all is required, as a post from February 2014 shows.

medtronic diabetes first facebook prompt update

Nearly 200 people responded to this prompt on the Medtronic Diabetes Facebook page.

#6: Prompt Users to Be Specific

The original Share Your Story app had the tagline, “Write. Share. Inspire.” It prompted users to share “moments in your life of living well with your insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor.”

medtronic diabetes first facebook share your story prompt wording

Original prompt wording from the Share Your Story app.

Sheldon found that while some people wrote a lot, many people would contribute only one or two lines. They wanted to refine the wording in the app to prompt users to give more detail and bring their story to life.

In March 2014, Medtronic worked with Likeable to reskin the app and update the wording.

Now the app has the tagline, “The Wonders of Life.” It prompts users to “Share with us your personal story about the pivotal moment you switched to the pump and CGM, and how insulin therapy has helped you focus on the wonders of life.”

updated medtronic diabetes first facebook share your story prompt wording

Updated prompt wording from the Share Your Story app.

Examples of photos and excerpts from stories that have already been shared give users an idea of what they can write.

updated medtronic diabetes user images

Photos submitted via the Share Your Story app that appear on the app cover.

updated medtronic diabetes user story excerpts

Excerpts from the stories accompanying the above photos that appear as rollovers.

Sheldon is not surprised by people’s willingness to participate. “We know our customers and know that they like to support each other,” she said. “Our hope that social media would bring this all together was definitely met.”

Her favorite stories are ones that result in community members learning from and supporting each other. Medtronic posted about a woman who shared about her two successful pregnancies using an insulin pump. A commenter noted that she was worried about having children while using a pump. The woman who had shared her photo responded to reassure her that it was definitely possible.

medtronic diabetes user submitted story

Medtronic posted this story from a woman who shared to the Facebook app.

medtronic diabetes user responds to story share

The original sharer responds to a comment to the Facebook post..

“It’s not us popping up in the conversation,” said Sheldon, “but the user. It’s that type of information that is valuable to get out there.”

What do you think? Are you soliciting user-generated content? How can you encourage your customers to share photos and stories? Include your comments and questions below.

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  • Great example of building a solid community! Awesome.

  • I’m curious to know how the App is powered. I solicit user-generated content, but also go out into the marketplace and identify it, which is quite time consuming and very manual. Any recos on how to encourage users to submit, when you don’t have a budget?

  • Guest

    What exactly is the 2-to-1 ROI? For every dollar invested a dollar is generated? Or are we talking about measurements of some other kind of ROI? I’m asking because this is a big claim that seems unsubstantiated, unexplained. Again, unless we’re talking about some kind of fluffy ROI metric that is not oriented around Medtronic making a profit. Thanks for considering!

  • Very clever way of finding out how customers use their product and what else the customer might need. Also gives users the platform for supporting each other. Win-win.

  • Louise Julig

    Hi Jeff — thanks for your question. The sales dollars that they can track directly from Facebook are currently double what they spend on their entire social media program. I mentioned this in the Highlights box at the top of the article but realize this could have been made more clear. Since user-generated content is the majority of their Facebook activity, and the Share Your Story app was launched very shortly after they launched their Facebook page, Medtronic is confident that it is the prime driver of these sales numbers.

  • Louise Julig

    That’s a great question, Ashley. I know that Medtronic did work with an agency, Likeable media, to develop the app. I would be interested to learn how small businesses are soliciting and managing user-generated content — maybe an idea for a future story.

  • Visual Mktg Partners

    How did medtronic put these measures into place? The article mentions the “app” but what app is it? Specifically this piece
    #3: Make Your Timeline Your Customers’ Timeline

  • Louise Julig

    Thanks for your question. They worked with Likeable Media, mentioned in the article, to develop their own app. The app has a field for a “Diabetes Life Event Date” that users provide. That is the date that is then used to place the event, with its associated story and photo, in the Medtronic Diabetes timeline. Does that answer your question? I don’t remember if this all happens automatically or if there is some manual data entry by the social media team at Medtronics Diabetes, but I can ask and find out for you.

  • Excellent post Louise. Many Pages forget that people are at the core of any Marketing activity (in fact, good Marketing starts at the customer). When it comes to Social Media, this approach is even more important, as we are talking about socialising, a basic human behaviour.

  • Medtronic idea of developing an app is probably the best one, but probably quite costly too. But there are other ways of doing this. For example: create a hashtag and ask followers to use it on Twitter, Photo contests on Facebook, etc…

  • Sharing others’ stories is so awesome because people can easily relate to stories. In addition, sharing others’ journeys can help inspire us and help us to be better. Great strategy, and I LOVE IT!

  • Amanda Sheldon, Medtronic

    Thank you all so much for the kind words, we are lucky to have such great community members who inspire us every day. We have found that fans enjoy hearing genuine stories and we feel this gives our already passionate and vocal customers a social platform to share their stories. We also receive customer stories through other channels such as email but we have found that having an organized way for customers to submit stories and give appropriate permissions is the most efficient way to manage this great content.

    Visual Mktg Partners, Louise is correct. The “Share Your Story” custom app that Likeable developed allows fans to submit their stories and give us permission on how we can share. From the back end of the app we’re able to access the story and photo and review the rights that we have. We are then able to select the stories we can share and put them through our internal approval processes. The manual part of the process is turning these stories into engaging social media posts and we post both the stories and milestones to the page based on the date the customer submitted to us.

    -Amanda Sheldon on behalf of the Social Media Team at Medtronic Diabetes

  • Olumide Ogungbemi

    A friend of mine Cyril Okafor died of diabetes on the 1st of January 2011. It is important to check your status regularly for those who are unaware. I am glad there are efforts such as these that help avoid such tragedies. Keep up the good work Medtronic.

  • Louise Julig

    See Medtronics’ reply in the comment stream from April 3 for your reply.

  • Louise Julig

    I’m so sorry about your friend. Diabetes is definitely a very serious disease, so it’s good to have communities of people to help each other in living successfully with it.

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  • Brad

    In-store or venue WiFi Marketing. Is cost effective works 24/7 and can extend your store front property with the signal. Create a social login & automate your internal lead generation capabilities.

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