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How to create user-generated content that works
One of the most significant challenges posed to businesses in their marketing efforts is being able to engage with their potential customers at every point of interaction. A secondary problem is making sure these customers feel good about the company and its reputation through this interaction. A brand that can do this effectively will benefit from a captivated audience, lower cost of acquisition per customer, higher conversion and better public sentiment.
In trying to achieve this, many businesses will implement content strategies with hours of planning, creation and analysis behind them. While it is always a smart idea for a brand to create their own content, this often puts the spotlight on the company and not the people who matter most: your customers.
This is where user-generated content (UGC) comes in: content created by your customers, for your customers. By utilising such material in your strategy, you can bring consumers into your marketing efforts with amazing results and engagement, but with very little resource internally.
In this blog, we will explain what UGC can do and how to make it work for your brand.
What is UGC?
UGC is simply content that has been created by ‘users’ – the people that use your products and services. This can apply to many types of content, such reviews, testimonials, case studies and even influencer content. The only rule is that it must come from genuine users of your brand, rather than coming from your business itself.
Brands can utilise UGC by sharing it on their public channels. Examples of this include sharing social posts from your customers, hosting image galleries from people using your products or creating content based on the stories of your unique users.
We will touch on some ways to collate UGC on behalf of your brand later in this post, but there are endless opportunities to get your customers involved in your output. UGC content can be shared across channels including email, social media, video, digital and print, making it a comprehensive solution for all your marketing streams. The result is low-effort, customer-centric content that unifies your strategy.
The benefits of UGC
Consumer research in recent years has suggested that consumers prefer to buy from people rather than faceless brands. UGC allows you to play into this by putting your customers at the heart of your promotion. As a result, it carries benefits including 50% more engagement on social media, a 73% increase in email click-throughs and a 10% higher rate of online conversions.
One of the reasons that UGC seems to be so powerful is because it’s authentic. 90% of consumers believe that authenticity matters when buying from a brand, and UGC allows you to tell truthful stories about how your customers feel about your products. With reviews and recommendations now a standard research tool during the purchasing decision, being able to showcase positive experiences from your customers on your marketing channels will help to convince potential customers of the future to buy. This is particularly effective when it comes from real people, like those in your audience, who are genuine fans of your brand.
Another benefit of UGC is that it gives your customers a reason to get involved with you. The nirvana for any business is to have an engaged audience that wants to interact with you so that they’re regularly opening your emails, sharing your social posts and reading your updates. If a customer believes there is a chance their thoughts might be shared on your platform, they will be more willing to interact with you. You can even incentive this further by giving rewards like prizes, discounts and exclusive offers to those that provide the best content.
By using UGC across your channels, you can show your customers that you genuinely care about their experiences and create two-way communication between brand and consumer. As such, you’ll build a loyal customer base who want to interact with you consistently, as well as create a positive brand reputation through sharing complementary experiences. Over time, you will be able to identify brand ambassadors who will vouch for your business, leading to increased word-of-mouth marketing.
By implementing UGC, you can therefore benefit from an optimised content strategy that efficiently targets your customers, enhances brand reputation and drives performance in the key metrics you want to see in your marketing. Better still, this content is created by customers not by you – making it a low-cost, low-effort form of promotion.
How can I get UGC for my brand?
The easiest way to get UGC is to make sure your customers have the means to share their experiences. Review sites and social media have made this easier than ever. Make sure you are keeping tabs on reviews (such as on TrustPilot or Google) as well as your brand mentions elsewhere so you can capture any feedback you receive from your customers. When you find content you want to share, such as a favourable review, consider ways you can distribute this on your other channels – but make sure that doing so conforms with data protection laws.
There are measures you can take to encourage UGC. One of the most common is the use of branded hashtags on social media. Due to the high volume of users on social media, and the instantaneous ability to post content, this is an ideal channel for your customers to share their content. By encouraging them to use branded hashtags, you can collate their content together and make it easier for you to find it when monitoring social posts.
Decide which hashtags you want to use and make sure they incorporate your brand name. You should then use this hashtag in your own content and can even include it in your packaging, on your website and in your social media profiles to spread it to your customers. Ask people to use the hashtag to have a chance of getting their content shared, so you can get a view of what people are saying about your brand and share those that highlight your products.
Another way to obtain UGC is to simply ask your customers for it. An example of this could be running a competition that asks users to send in their best photos of your products, with the winner getting a special reward (such as a freebie or discount). You can then access a host of imagery, willingly supplied by customers, to be repurposed across your channels.
Alternatively, you can reach out to customers who are already sharing positive stories about your business and ask for permission to share their content – or even work with them to create additional material through interview or testimonials.
Once you start sharing UGC, you may find that customers begin to share their images and stories without you having to ask. Be present on the channels your customers are using and monitor any tags, hashtags or other mentions your brand receives. This is a sign that these people want you to see their posts (as well as the rest of the world) and can provide you with a bank of content to repurpose.
Who should provide my UGC?
While the term ‘user’ can apply to almost anyone who buys from you, it is essential to be careful about who’s content you are sharing on your channels. A fundamental rule is making sure that the content you are sharing comes from those who are positive ambassadors of your brand to allow you to build your reputation.
Beyond this, it is essential to use real people. The appeal of UGC is that it builds authenticity, and you will only achieve that by using genuine customers who are sharing their actual experiences of your products. You should also make sure these ambassadors are people who fit within your target demographic and with whom your audience can relate.
Use data and insight to identify your loyal customers and those who have previously reached out to you with their praise (such as through reviews or social comments). These individuals will already be fans of your brand, meaning you may be able to convert them into ambassadors who can create shareable UGC. Don’t feel you have to airbrush their experiences so that your brand comes across as ‘perfect’. Instead, give them free rein to say how they think, warts and all, to boost authenticity.
Many brands will use influencer content as part of their UGC strategy. While influencers can yield significant results with their broad following, synthetic content from these personalities can alienate other users, particularly given that social media is now flooded with sponsored content. If you are using influencers, make sure they align with your brand and that they genuinely use and like your product. You should also make it clear if they have been gifted or paid to use your brand to avoid misleading consumers.
Examples of UGC
From this blog, you will know that UGC can relate to a wealth of different content. It is also easy to create, meaning you can frequently embed it into your content strategy and across your marketing channels. We have listed just some examples of UGC below that you can implement for your brand.
As review sites have become an integral part of the purchasing decision, it is wise for your company to have a way for customers to provide their feedback. However, experiences shared on these review channels can be repurposed to share on your other channels, such as via social media posts. Many brands will also highlight their review scores on their websites and email campaigns, providing it’s reasonably high. You may also be able to take quotes from these reviews elsewhere – as per this example from Etopia Homes.
Video is one of the most effective forms of content, so it makes sense to combine it with UGC. You can do this by either asking users to send it relevant videos for your brand (such as product reviews and vlogs) or by conducting video interviews. Both will give your customer a platform to talk about their experience in detail, which can help potential customers get more information about your brand. An example of this is Hootsuite’s video case study of one of the clients, Herschel Supply Co, detailing how the brand has benefited from using Hootsuite.
Imagery is another highly impactful way you can share UGC. There are several ways to do this. One way is for them to take photos of how they use your product. This is a great way to showcase the diversity of your products and let customers highlight their unique uses of it. It might even be something they have created using your product, or merely an image of them holding it to build excitement around your brand.
Another way is for them to share a snapshot of their customer journey. An example of this could be a housebuilder sharing a couple outside their new home, holding a key. The story behind this could be a first-time buyer who has been able to buy their dream home. The result is a visual representation of what someone has achieved with your brand and how it has made them feel. You could even revisit customers to document their journey over time. This will give other users in-depth and long-term insight into what being your customer could mean for their lives.
User-generated content boasts big benefits for your business. By shifting the focus from you to your customers, you can enjoy better engagement and increased conversion without having to spend hours creating content. Better still, this content can be used on multiple channels to spread the results across your different marketing efforts.
The key to success in UGC is finding the right ambassadors and sharing their content in an authentic way that makes your customer feel good while making your brand look good. As a result, you can boost loyalty by showing your customers you care about what they think and convince consumers that buying from you has helped people like them. In essence, you are opening up communication between your existing and potential customers in a genuine way that benefits your brand.