What is User Generated Content? How to Leverage UGC for Marketing
For some companies, the concept of giving some marketing control to customers seems frightening. After all, it’s easy to imagine a disgruntled customer badmouthing your company because they didn’t like your return policy. However, along with upset customers, there are likely to be even more happy ones that love to share their positive experiences.
Of course, user-generated content (UGC) is about much more than customer reviews. Rather, it encompasses a variety of activities, such as making tutorials about a product or posting pictures of that great vacation on Instagram.
Before we get into the world of UGC, though, let’s look at some statistics.
- 90% of consumers say that UGC holds more influence over their buying decisions than other content, such as promotional emails and search engine results.
- 92% of consumers will trust a recommendation from another person over branded content.
- 48% of customers say that user-generated content is a great way for them to discover new products.
- 86% of marketers say they’ve tried to incorporate user-generated content into their campaigns.
- 84% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as in-person recommendations.
As you can see, user-generated content has become very important for marketers in the 21st century. People love to hear from everyday consumers who use products and services. In addition, it’s fair to say that everyone understands there are going to be bad experiences with even the best companies.
5 Reasons Why User-Generated Content is Important
Naturally, there’s a reason why user-generated content has such impressive statistics in its favor. In the 21st century, society and the media are more decentralized and accessible than ever, especially on social media. However, some of the reasons that UGC has become so important have to do with the operational benefits of letting other people talk about your brand. Let’s look at some of them.
1. Takes Authenticity to the Next Level
Let’s be honest: the more someone is dependent on the success of a brand or product, the less genuine their praise seems to be. After all, a company employee or sales professional will go to great lengths to sell their products. And considering the proliferation of stories where company personnel knowingly lied to customers, there’s reason to be skeptical.
On the other hand, nothing is more authentic than the voice of a customer. Often, these customers have spent significant time using the product or, in the case of services, seen what the company is capable of doing. For this reason, people tend to put considerable weight on what their fellow customers have to say.
2. Acts As A Trust Signal
Besides the authenticity of user-generated content, this kind of material shows that other people use your products. And, while some people love trying the latest and greatest thing on the market, many others want to be certain that a product is something they can trust. This is especially true with durable goods, like electronics, but it also holds true for personal care items, small gadgets, and even food (you wouldn’t want a picky eater to go hungry).
If you don’t have to create the content yourself, then you aren’t spending money on content creation for everything you use for marketing. Depending on how you use the content, you may only have distribution costs-if at all. Some tools, like GMB and review sites, cost little or nothing. And, if you offer a small incentive, like a discount, you can get a larger amount of UGC and repeat business. It’s a bit more expensive, obviously, but you’ll still get a great return on investment.
4. Increase Conversions
Did you know that there’s a 29% increase in web conversions when websites featured user-generated content? This is a lot of extra business, and all you have to do is provide some options for people to contribute user-generated content. A common example is Amazon, where anyone can post a review of a product on its page-and a lot of other eCommerce sites do this, including the ones that are linked to their bricks-and-mortar locations.
5. Diverse and Creative Content
Diversity and creativity are not limited to your own internal content creation team. If anything, there’s more creativity in your users. Staff, while creative, generally don’t have the depth of perspective, and their jobs depend on your company’s overall performance.
On the other hand, end-users don’t view your products in the same way: it’s one thing to tout the benefits of your products as defined by the company and something else to experience the benefits as a user. For B2B brands, however, end users’ jobs might have a close tie to the performance of your products. Either way, users have different ideas than your internal team, if only because they’re different people.
Further Reading: 15 Creative and Killer Content Marketing Ideas (with examples)
5 Types of User Generated Content to Consider Using
It’s one thing to talk about the importance of user-generated content, and another to leverage it for your company. In order to harness the power of UGC, though, you need to know what kinds of content are available. These are some common options that a lot of companies use successfully.
1. Product Reviews
There’s no better way to leverage UGC than through actual reviews of your product. After all, potential customers can learn how awesome your product is. In addition, reviewers will often tell readers what problems the product helped them solve, if applicable. You can post reviews in many different places, from a link on your website to an excerpt in advertising. For maximum results, try to get product reviews from a variety of user types, if applicable.
Less even-handed than user reviews, even a short testimonial can go a long way. The main difference between a review and a testimonial is that the former can discuss both strengths and weaknesses of your product. On the other hand, testimonials are a type of user-generated content that is exclusively positive. Nobody gives a testimonial for a product they consider to be flawed.
Further Reading: 4 Effective Ways to Use Customer Testimonials in Your Content to Increase Conversion
For many companies, video content seems relatively complicated. After all, you feel a need to shoot footage, do video editing, and even add special effects. However, user-generated content is expected to be amateur, and some video types are intended to not be edited. Whether the user makes a tutorial, displays your product favorably, or does something else, videos using your product are golden and easy to republish on social.
Further Reading: Small Business Video: 8 Creative Ways Your Small Business Can Leverage Video Marketing
Images are a great form of user-generated content, especially when your ability to sell something depends on its appearance at least somewhat. For instance, fashion or home décor, but there are plenty of other examples. Not only do images help people visualize the possibilities, but they can also be easily included on websites and product pages. That includes social media, especially Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
5. Hashtag Contests
Want something a little different? Create a hashtag contest to encourage the creation of user-generated content centered on a product or campaign. Usually, you’ll have a campaign-based or product-specific hashtag you’ve already coined. For smaller brands, anything that’s brand-specific can work well. Here, you’ll give out a small prize to a lucky winner. It’s a nice way to give people some recognition.
Further Reading: Revitalize and Scale Your Content Strategy with Influencer Generated Content (IGC)
5 Successful Examples of Brands Leveraging UGC to Inspire You
It’s one thing to talk about types and uses of user-generated content, and quite something else to have some great examples. Not only can these teach you more about ways to leverage UGC, but they also can inspire you for the future. To that end, let’s look at some great examples.
GoPro is a company that was started by a surfer, with the goal of helping other surfers share their experiences. Because waterproof cameras were in short supply, the founder saw an opportunity. And even though the global pandemic reduced opportunities for travel, GoPro was able to build a large community on social media. The trick was to have people take pictures with their camera and post it on social media. Then, people could discuss their experiences with each other.
There’s one thing about activewear: it’s associated with working up a sweat and getting fit. In the process, most people like to have fun, so Lululemon has some brightly colored leggings. To capitalize on the combination of fun and fitness, Lululemon ran the #thesweatlife campaign, which encouraged people to post pictures of themselves in Lululemon activewear. The campaign was massively successful, bringing in a lot of money from clickthroughs. One reason it was so great, is that people got to see the activewear in use, rather than on models.
Like most fast-food chains, Chipotle must deal with a labor shortage and rising wages. So, to get the best people to work for them, they launched the #peopleofchipotle campaign. In this campaign, they encouraged employees to showcase themselves at work. The idea was to demonstrate that Chipotle is a great place to work because it has great employees. Then, the content gets distributed all around social media to give their audience plenty of opportunities to apply.
Here’s one company that has a great way to gather user-generated content-they go out and meet their customers, with pasteboard La Croix cans and other photo opportunities. In particular, the company wants to reach out to younger people who don’t want to drink a lot of soda but need something different than plain water. And, especially in an age when everyone’s getting more health-conscious, this niche is very competitive.
Over time, the user-generated content has helped La Croix build a significant brand community. People from all walks of life share photos of themselves drinking La Croix or showing off a can. The result is a very loyal, almost cult, following that helps a smaller company compete with the bigger players.
Glossier is unique for one important reason: It’s a makeup brand that grew out of a blog. Yes. A blog. And Glossier is an up-and-coming brand that’s worth over a billion dollars, even though it’s been in business for barely over a decade. How did the brand become mega-successful? By listening to women and implementing their ideas. This happens both on the blog, Into the Gloss, and on social media. User-generated content is, therefore, central to the brand itself.
5 UGC Content Tips
Although it’s increasingly popular and highly effective, it’s important to maximize your user-generated content. After all, more and more companies are using UGC-based advertising. So, here are some tips to help you use this powerful medium effectively.
1. Remind Customers Everywhere to Use Your Branded Hashtag to be Featured on Your Social Media Feeds
This one is relatively simple: if people like your stuff, they should know you’d love to include them in your social media campaigns. Or even your social media feed, which can be a lot of fun. To that end, publicize your branded hashtag and encourage people to use it. After all, it’s cool to be associated with your brand, right?
2. Motivate Customers to Create UGC
Especially if you have a loyal customer base, this is almost a no-brainer. By saying things like, “support our business by leaving a review” or “we really enjoy pictures of people using our product,” people can get inspired. Plus, getting involved in an online community can be a significant encouragement by itself, especially in an era where there’s less interpersonal connection.
Further Reading: 12 Content Promotion Ideas to Supercharge Your Digital Marketing in 2022
3. Offer Incentive/Rewards for Sharing Photos
Sometimes simple encouragement and free motivation methods aren’t enough. IN this case, consider incentives or rewards for additional motivation if you need more UGC. An easy option is a discount code or an opportunity to get a little bit of swag. After all, free stuff is often fun stuff, and as we all know, people love to get both. Just make sure that whatever you offer is something they’ll want.
4. Observe Best Practices
Leveraging user-generated content is more complex than just getting content and putting it up. Rather, individuals have legal and regulatory rights that you must content with. In addition, people who create things should be credited. For this reason, it’s always good to check with legal counsel if you intend to do anything with user-generated content and to always request permission from the creator to repost their stuff. Often, this is a simple disclaimer that submission of content grants permission to use it. Similarly, you can establish an independent agreement with content creators to use their material. This helps both you and them.
5. Credit The Original Creator When Posting
Finally, be sure to always credit the original content creator. Not only is this common courtesy, but it acknowledges their natural right to claim ownership of their work. Plus, these credits help the creator raise their profile on social media and, in some cases, other internet forums too.
5 UGC Tools to Make Finding and Publishing User Generated Content Easier
The internet is vast, even within a given niche. This is even true with social media, where there are many millions of new posts every day. For this reason, besides sorting functions like hashtags and Twitter lists, it’s essential to use some basic tools to find user-generated content. And once you’ve found it, you’ll want some tools to help publish the content quickly and easily.
Let’s face it, the king of hashtags has become the central warehouse for UGC. Follow some hashtags, and make your own branded hashtag. This way, it’ll be easier to find relevant content. At the same time, ensure that you occasionally re-run your hashtag search to find new ones. By keeping your searches up to date, you can avoid missing too many opportunities.
Further Reading: How to Use Instagram User Generated Content to Be a Social Media Success
This is a social media tool that has added functionality to help you find and leverage Instagram UGC. There are several ways that Later find user-generated content, besides hashtags. They also look through any mentions, import external media, and find username tags. Finally, you can use Later to see what your regular contributors are looking for.
Tint is a user-generated content and marketing platform. It scrapes the web and social media for UGC, then shows it to you in a dashboard. From there, you can use Tint to get the right permissions from creators, prepare it for publication, and more.
Pixlee is similar to Tint, in that it scrapes both social media (including TikTok) and other places, like review sites. You also get the opportunity to work with content creators and leverage UGC without leaving the platform. Uniquely, though, Pixlee also supports influencer marketing, which involves compensation to content creators.
With Yotpo, you can do more than find and repost user-generated content. This platform helps with rights management and other legal issues. In addition, it helps you post UGC all over your website with permission from content creators. You can even create advertisements with Yotpo, and monitor advanced analytics information related to your campaigns and social media following.
User-generated content is a very valuable tool for marketers, especially because customers love to hear from their peers. By leveraging UGC, most companies can expect to see an increase in brand awareness, sales, site visits, and more. However, there are some guidelines that should be followed in order to ensure UGC reaches its full potential without creating liability for the company. Luckily, this guide is a good place to learn more about UGC and how to use it.
Hero Photo by Bibi Pace on Unsplash