Imagine a situation in which you can work on bettering your relationships with customers AND get relevant content from them. That is essentially what happens when you implement a good user-generated content marketing strategy (and more!).

What started as customers simply sharing their favourite products on social media in various formats (reviews, photos, videos, etc.) soon became a great way for brands to leverage that content to increase organic growth.

Since user-generated content is considered an important part of marketing efforts, let’s dive in and explain its ins and outs.

What is user-generated content?

According to Stackla, user-generated content (or UGC) is any form of content—text, posts, images, videos, reviews, etc.—created by individual people (not brands) and published to an online or social network.

It’s important to point out that brands don’t pay customers for user-generated content.

Typical user-generated content is organic and posted on social media (predominantly Instagram). Customers usually post a picture of a product and tag the brand and/or use the hashtag that the brand created specifically for UGC purposes. 

For example, online fashion retailer ASOS encourages its customers to post photos of the clothes they’ve bought from the website and use the hashtag #AsSeenOnASOS. Customers like using the hashtag because they might get noticed by the brand and have their photo featured on ASOS’ official Instagram page. On the other hand, ASOS gets relevant and engaging content for their social media.

Why is user-generated content important?

Who would you believe more? A brand who’s telling you their product is awesome, or your friend telling you that brand’s product is awesome?

A social media management platform Hootsuite listed three reasons why it’s good for brands to use UGC.

Promoting authenticity

Consumers find UGC to be almost 10 times more effective than influencer marketing. Also, they find UGC to be 2.4 times more authentic than the one produced by brands. As Hootsuite notes, that offers brands an important credibility boost, since most people say less than half of brands create authentic content.

Creating trust

Consumers want to know what they’re going to get before they think of getting it. According to Hootsuite, it’s all about creating trust – 92 per cent of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, and 70 per cent trust online consumer opinions.

Driving purchasing decisions

Hootsuite says that 90 per cent of consumers say UGC has a high impact on their purchasing decisions and many examples of successful UGC campaigns prove this. That’s a no-brainer then!

Suggested read: Importance of Media Monitoring for User-Generated Content

How to get user-generated content?

There are different ways brand can get user-generated content. It can be through different social media platforms, hashtags, contests, interesting product designs, etc.

Here are the three most common ones:

Special hashtags

Just like ASOS created the AsSeenOnASOS hashtag community, you can do a similar thing as well. Make sure your hashtag is engaging and that the idea behind the project is something that customers will want to engage with.

There are a lot of great examples of hashtag campaigns that provided brands with tons of UGC and a massive reach.

Creating a designated hashtag for your brand is great because a potential customer who’s not familiar with your brand can easily scroll through other customers’ posts and learn about the brand and its products. The more UGC posted under a hashtag – the better. 

Contests

If you want to reward your customers for creating UGC or increase the amount of UGC quicker, contests are a great way to do that. 

Make sure to set clear contest rules and prizes to avoid miscommunication.

For example, brand Khiel’s created #KhielsSelfie campaign in which they awarded the best UGC each week through March and April on Instagram. The customers had to take a photo of their Khiel’s routine on Instagram, shortly explain it, and tag the brand. 

The brand would post the best photo of the week on their official Instagram page and tag the person who created it.

Creativity

Remember when Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign from a couple of years ago?

Instead of brand name, they’ve written different names on the Coke bottles. They also encouraged customers to share the Coke with a person whose name is on the bottle.

The campaign was a big success because of two important aspects – it had a clear call to action (#ShareACoke) and it was personal (customers liked having their names on Coke bottles).

The campaign didn’t only generated tons of UGC for Coca-Cola and boosted social media traffic, but it also increased overall sales of the drink, as well as sales among teenagers. 

When it comes to using UGC on your official social media or website, make sure to always ask the authors for permission to use their content and tagging them.

What to do with user-generated content?

There are a lot of ways you can use user-generated content, just make sure, and I can’t stress it enough, you get the permission from the author. 

Here are some of the suggestions:

  1. Digital Ads – UGC can help make your ads more authentic and effective.
  2. Official Website – UGC such as photos, videos and online reviews can be a great addition to product description on your website because customers can see how the product looks “in real life” and even get some tips from fellow customers on how to use the product most efficiently.
  3. Social media – using UGC on your social media can increase customers’ engagement and help you reach wider audiences.
  4. Newsletters – UGC can make your newsletters more interesting and lively, so don’t be afraid to incorporate photos or online reviews from happy customers in them.

Netflix – the king of UGC

Netflix has been one of the brands that are excelling in user-generated content. If you scroll through Netflix’s Twitter page, for example, you’ll see that they retweet a bunch of user-generated content. I would dare to say 80% per cent of their posts is UGC.

Netflix utilizes social media to spread the word about its upcoming movies and TV shows. They also tease followers about new projects to spark their curiosity.

Hyping Bird Box

One such example is when they started promoting Bird Box. It’s a movie about people walking around blindfolded so they don’t accidentally look at the monster and commit suicide as a result. Okaaay… Anyway, Sandra Bullock is in it. 

According to The Ringer, before the movie’s release, images of blindfolded Sandra Bullock started circulating on social media. That’s how the fans first found out about it. Fans turned those images to memes, and soon enough they were all over the internet. Then, different BirdBox challenges appeared (basically, people doing random stuff blindfolded) and also spread like wildfire on social media. 

Even Good Morning America wasn’t immune to the Bird Box challenge:

Netflix brought the matches and the world light the fire.

As Leila Michele writes in her article:

…Netflix has done something that’s actually pretty incredible: Remained hidden in plain sight as they created one of the most effective social media marketing campaigns of all time, all the while using its fans on social media to spread the message – for completely free.”

She also mentions that there’s a chance Netflix created several bot accounts or paid real accounts to spread the first memes on social media. Netflix is denying that, so we can only speculate. But, the point was to create a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) that would motivate people to watch the movie. 

Netflix even bragged about the viewership numbers which they usually keep in secret:

To sum up

No matter whether your brand is big or small, it can benefit from user-generated content. 

As you can see in the blog, there are many great examples of how user-generated content can boost sales, increase social media engagement, give brands authenticity, improve customer relationships… The list goes on.

If you haven’t incorporated user-generated content into your marketing strategy yet, give it a try! 

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