It doesn’t matter if you’re a start-up, an SME or a corporation with a global reach, user-generated content (UGC) has the power to help you connect with your target audience and encourage them to engage with your brand. But what exactly makes UGC so effective to consumers?
We’re going to delve into the reasons why UGC inspires such a strong reaction from consumers and how you can encourage your own target market to create it. We’ll also reveal the ways you can leverage user-generated content to increase engagement, conversions and much more. Let’s get stuck in!
What is user-generated content?
User-generated content (or UGC) is content that has been created by people outside of your brand. This could be customers who are fans of your product/service, social media followers engaging with your brand, or even employees who are giving people a glimpse at their work life.
Forms of UGC include:
- Reviews and testimonials
- Social media content
- Video content
- Blog posts
- Hashtag campaigns
- Case studies
User-generated content is often prompted by businesses. You might have experienced this yourself when making a purchase. Not long after you’ve received an item/service, you get an email asking you to leave a review or post a picture on social media. Of course, if a consumer is happy enough with their experience, they might create such content without being asked.
Why do businesses love user-generated content?
Image source: Dylan Gillis (via Unsplash)
It helps you save time
Do you spend the majority of your time stuck in marketing strategy meetings trying to come up with new, flashy content to increase brand awareness and engagement? Have you run out of ideas? User-generated content is the answer you’ve been looking for.
Instead of trying to come up with content on your end, you can save time and energy by using content that your own customers, employees and followers have created for you. It doesn’t cost you a penny and it means that you can supplement your original content with UGC.
It helps you engage with your audience
No matter how many buyer personas you create and how much target market research you do, it can be difficult to really know who your audience is. With UGC, however, you’re getting the chance to connect with real people who actually want to engage with your brand.
Every time you like someone’s photo of your product, or respond to a customer’s comment about their experience, you’re building a valuable connection with people who care about your brand. This gives you the chance to refine your personas and keep your finger on the pulse of your potential customers.
It helps you further your reach
When consumers share content related to your brand on social media, they’re automatically widening your brand’s reach. This is because they’ve got their own set of followers who may not be following you, or haven’t heard of you. As a result, you’re able to reach people who you might not ordinarily be able to target.
The beauty of this is that it helps you to build up your followers and audience base without having to do much legwork yourself. You don’t need to do any outreach or spend days building up your followers—your UGC creators are doing it for you!
It keeps things fresh
Content that is generated by your target audience and general consumers will always be more fresh and relevant than content created by your own business. Why? They know what they like (and what their followers like) better than you ever will.
Even with audience research, it can be a struggle to keep up with new trends and interests. With user-generated content, however, you can gain insight into the motivations and interests of your target market without having to do any of the heavy lifting yourself!
Why do consumers love user-generated content?
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First and foremost, user-generated content is effective because it is a form of social proof. When we’re mulling over a purchase, we look to see what other people think about the business and its products/services first. This is because we value the opinion of other consumers more than anything else.
So, we look at reviews, endorsements and other types of UGC to gauge how trustworthy and reliable a business is. The assumption is that if a lot of people are talking positively about a business and sharing content about it, it must be a worthwhile investment.
With user-generated content, consumers are getting a real look at what your products/services are like. Though you might see a low quality picture on Instagram as amateur and useless, a consumer sees it as an authentic glimpse at your products through the eyes of a customer who likes your brand enough to post about it online.
Unlike your pristine photoshoots and perfect stock photos, this UGC is relatable to consumers. They’re always going to appreciate real people sharing their experiences of a brand more than your own marketing content.
User-generated content aids in creating a sense of belonging. Every time a consumer posts a photo with your products, they’re engaging with your brand and connecting to other similar consumers. Each connection creates a stronger sense of belonging and slowly but surely helps your brand to curate a tight-knit, like-minded community.
This is something that will help build brand awareness and increase your general audience base. The power of this cannot be overstated. It will take time and effort, but it is an investment that will pay off in the long run.
Though we’re not saying that every person who posts user-generated content is looking for validation from others, it’s not a stretch to say that the majority of consumers would be happy to receive some kind of approval from brands. When you like one of their posts or reply to their comment with a witty retort, you’re rewarding them for engaging with your brand.
This turns into a beautiful cycle of further engagement, more validation and increased word-of-mouth marketing! Your encouragement inspires consumers to post more UGC, which connects to more people who might become actual buyers, who then in turn might go on to post UGC. Brilliant, right?
How to encourage consumers to create UGC
Image source: Callie Morgan (via Unsplash)
Now you know the reasons why user-generated content is so successful for both you and your target market, it’s time to look at how you can encourage consumers to create some for you!
Make your own hashtag
The easiest way to encourage consumers to create user-generated content, and collect it, is by creating your own branded hashtag. Before you go basic and pick your company name, double check that it isn’t already in heavy use—you don’t want to end up competing with other businesses.
You might even want to consider creating a range of hashtags to meet different goals, e.g., one for customers who’ve made a first time purchase, one for those who are repeat customers and/or one for employees.
The beauty of branded hashtags is that you use them anywhere. You can include them in emails, put them on a poster and advertise them on your website. Once you’ve set them up, you’ll be able to view your UGC on a single feed.
Make sure that you let people know what the deal is with your hashtags though. You’ll need to inform them that by using your hashtag(s), their content might be used on your social media or on your website.
Send follow-up emails
If you don’t ask, you don’t get! Instead of waiting around for customers to write up a review or post a picture, be more proactive and ask them. It’s as simple as sending them a follow-up email after they’ve made a purchase. You can thank them for their purchase and give them a link to a review site, or share your social media handles and/or hashtags so that they can post a photo.
Struggling to gain traction with this method? Consider incentivising it with a discount code. Though you’ll technically make a small loss (from 10 to 20%), you gain some valuable UGC and encourage a repeat purchase.
Host giveaways and competitions
Another way to incentivise people to create user-generated content is by giving them the chance to win something. Whether it’s a free product, a voucher code or something much larger like a free holiday, you’re increasing the chances of consumers engaging with your brand.
You can ask customers to pose for selfies with your products, post pictures inside your store(s), or take pictures that fit a certain theme (very handy for seasonal campaigns). You could even get them to submit stories about their experiences with your brand. This would be great for testimonials on your website and is an effective form of word-of-mouth marketing.
You can set these giveaways up using a specific hashtag on one of your social media accounts or with third-party tools that collect user information and content. Whichever you pick, be sure to specify the rules to those taking part. You will need their permission to reuse their content.
Reward people for creating UGC
Want to keep people creating user-generated content so that you can reap the rewards? Give them a reason to! We’re not talking about monetary rewards here. As useful as discounts and giveaways can be in incentivising consumers, engaging with them can often have the same effect.
It’s as simple as liking a consumer’s picture, responding to them with a compliment or expressing your gratitude for their content. This tells them, your followers and their followers that you care about what people post about your brand and that you’re not above engaging with your target market.
Your consumers get the burst of approval and appreciation that they’re looking for and you get the opportunity to build strong relationships with them—gaining a much better understanding of what it is that your target market likes and dislikes.
How to leverage user-generated content to increase engagement
Image source: Domenico Loia (via Unsplash)
Getting consumers to create their own content is only half of the task! You’ve now got to figure out what you’re going to do with all of this content to encourage further engagement and, potentially, conversions.
Share and repost on social media
The easiest way to use user-generated content to increase engagement is by sharing and reposting it on your social media channels. All you need to do is share the photo and/or caption, tag the creator and add your own comment. You could thank the creator for their lovely work, highlight what it is that you like about it or tie it into a specific promotion you’re running.
There are a few advantages to sharing UGC on social media. Firstly, it’s not time-consuming or strenuous to do. Secondly, you can use it to supplement your original content which gives you more time to strategise. Thirdly, it gives you a chance to connect with the creator’s audience and potentially convert them to buyers.
Showcase it on your website
In case we haven’t made it clear enough, social proof sells. If you can give consumers a reason to trust your business, the sale is an inevitable conclusion. So, if you’ve got heaps of user-generated content at your disposal, showcase it on your website and watch your conversions grow!
You can do this in a range of ways:
- Set up a landing page or gallery dedicated to your consumers’ photos
- Turn the best reviews and social media comments into testimonials and quotes for your homepage
- Embed your Twitter/Instagram feed so that people can see the latest submissions under a certain hashtag
If you’re able to leverage user-generated content in this fashion you’ll be able to highlight just how much people like to engage with your brand. It tells interested parties that you’re popular, trustworthy and authentic.
Use it in your marketing campaigns
No amount of audience research will be able to replicate the ‘realness’ and authenticity that user-generated content brings to the table. That’s why it’s such a waste to use it only for your website and social media.
If you’ve got permission to do so, you can leverage user-generated content in your marketing campaigns—giving potential customers a rare chance to see your brand through the eyes of people that they relate to, admire and want to be like.
The power of user-generated content is immense and should never be overlooked or underestimated. It is a brilliant way to connect with your target market and increase engagement across the board. Additionally, it can help you to develop your brand by improving your reach, your reputation and your trustworthiness.
When you consider the fact that user-generated content doesn’t require much in the ways of money or energy yet promises a decent ROI, you’ve got to ask yourself: why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of the power of user-generated content?