User-generated content turns consumers and employees into brand representatives.

Word-of-mouth marketing: What once took place over phone calls and get-togethers has gone viral. Today, it takes the form of user-generated content (UGC). 

Indeed, 90% of consumers in the U.S. say it’s the top factor they consider when making a purchase, according to a survey by UGC services provider TurnTo Networks.

What Is User-Generated Content?

User-generated content turns consumers and employees into brand representatives. With UGC, users describe what they like best about a product, how they make the most of their purchase or why they’d recommend it. (Think of all those selfies that flood social media promoting a product.)

Besides photos, user-generated content marketing can take the form of: 

  • Videos
  • Testimonials
  • Text reviews
  • Star ratings
  • Surveys and voting contests
  • Gamification
  • Campaign hashtags
  • Sweepstakes and giveaways

While UGC can be shared on a company’s website, via email marketing or used to support an overall marketing campaign, it’s often seen on social media. Think of the last time you saw a branded hashtag and all the user posts associated with it.

Now that you know the definition of user-generated content, let’s take a look at how to make it work for your brand.

How to Incorporate User-Generated Content Into Your Marketing Strategy

Before you get started with this cost-effective marketing tactic, follow these 6 steps to get the most out of your user-generated content.

1. Set Goals 

Many companies employ UGC but don’t have a dedicated strategy behind it. Maximize your user-generated content marketing by having a plan in place. Determine what you’re looking to accomplish and decide how you’ll go about doing so.

Do you want to … ?

  • Build brand awareness
  • Raise conversions
  • Improve engagement
  • Educate users
  • Increase credibility

Once you’ve set your goals, decide how you will collect user-generated content and how you can incentivize users to be brand ambassadors.

2. Choose Your Social Networks

Social media ads using UGC benefitted from 73% more positive comments than conventional ads, according to Jukin Media, which licenses user-generated viral videos. That said, you want to make sure you’re choosing the right social media outlets. When you’re getting started with user-generated content on social, determine which platforms will work best for you as well as where your influencers will have the greatest impact. 

Here’s an overview of a few popular social platforms:

Instagram

User-generated content on Instagram is most popular in the business-to-consumer space and is a great visual platform for gathering high-quality UGC photos, stories, videos and quotes. It’s also a forum for online community building, particularly among the Generation Z and millennial crowd. Repost mentions of your brand or use Instagram as a platform to generate creative user submissions as part of a contest or giveaway.

Facebook

Videos account for the highest engagement on Facebook, twice the level of other posts on average, according to BuzzSumo, which provides a content analytics tool. What’s more, from reviews shared to Facebook, brands experience a 40% average higher conversion rate, according to UGC-collection platform Yotpo.

While you can gather UGC on Facebook itself, you also can use this platform for curated content repurposed from user-generated content you’ve earned elsewhere. 

Twitter

In a survey from portfolio website operator Visual Objects, user-generated content posted on Twitter was found to be less effective than branded content. Specifically, when surveyed about Netflix tweets, 68% of users preferred branded content over UGC. Perhaps, that’s because Twitter is the go-to platform for breaking news. 

That said, Twitter is a solid platform for blog posts and GIFs. Twitter suggests encouraging UGC on the platform by asking followers to help you name or design a new product or requesting input for a new marketing slogan.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the place for jobs and professional content. It’s no surprise it would be a great spot to showcase your company culture. Use employee-generated content to illustrate how workers feel about the culture and their work environment. 

Request that your team submit engaging, behind-the-scenes photos or videos or provide testimonials about what they enjoy most about their position.

A woman with question marks over her head is trying to decide which social media platform to choose.

3. Consider a User-Generated Content Platform

If you have an established following, consider simplifying the process by employing a user-generated platform. Use one to implement your campaigns, streamline postings and gather content from multiple social media sites

When evaluating contenders, consider how easy the platform is to use, what customizations and integrations you’d find valuable, the type of support available and whether the company caters to your industry. 

Examples of user-generated content platforms include:

  • Curalate
  • CrowdRiff
  • Photoslurp
  • Pixlee
  • Sparkle
  • Stackla

4. Specify the Details

If you’re requesting user-generated content from your followers, be clear about the type of submissions you’re looking to receive and be sure to post all requirements. The last thing you need is to get flooded with content that doesn’t align with your brand or is out of scope with your UGC-contest regulations. 

Include details about the deadline for submissions as well as when you’ll award a prize and announce a winner, if relevant.

5. Interact With Your Community

If you’re proactively seeking user-generated content and post about it, keep an eye on the comments you receive. You’re sparking a bit of excitement when you request user-generated content, so don’t be surprised by the flood of responses you might receive. 

Stay on top of them and respond often to foster a 2-way conversation. Also, if users post questions, reply in a timely manner.

6. Track Your Efforts

To find out if your efforts are working, keep track of how your UGC is performing. For instance, if monitoring engagement on social media is your goal, consider tracking such key performance indicators (KPIs) as interactions, reposts, hashtag frequency, engagement rate and mentions. 

In contrast, if you’re seeking to drive conversions, you might monitor traffic to product pages, promotion code use and referral URLs. 

If you’re not using a user-generated content platform, consider social media analytics and third-party tools for tracking, such as Sprout Social, Keyhole or Hootsuite.

Best Practices for Setting Up User-Generated Content

Now you know the how. So let’s go over the extra things you can do to help ensure the success of your user-generated content marketing campaign. 

Conduct Social Listening

Use social media analytics tools to stay abreast of what people are saying about you online and why. Be on the lookout for any activity around keywords, hashtags or posts related to your brand. See how your competition is faring, too. 

Analyze the data you gather to get valuable insights and find brand advocates. Not only can you see what your audience is looking for, but you can address customer service issues

Keep an Ongoing Library of UGC

As you begin amassing pearls of UGC, file them away. What you gather on one site, you can repurpose and submit on another marketing channel. 

You can collect many different forms of user-generated content to build a larger visual campaign. And by using different branded hashtags, such as those specific to employee stories and others specific to user submissions, you can more easily organize submissions. 

Ask Permission to Share

If you come across content posted with your branded hashtag and you want to share it on your social media page, ask the original source for permission. Keep in mind that it’s possible the poster wasn’t aware a certain hashtag they used was actually part of a user-generated campaign. So, always err on the side of caution. 

Give Credit 

Along the same lines, once you have permission to repost, be sure to credit the original source, tag them in your post and let your audience know what their specific contribution was. That said, don’t assume that giving credit alone will be sufficient. While some contributors are in it for the increased likes they’ll get as a result of the publicity, others may request monetary incentives. 

Benefits of User-Generated Content

You’ve heard talk about UGC, but what exactly is so great about it? 

Let’s look at a few benefits:

Tool for Customer Research

Because you’ll be “listening” to what people are saying on social, you’ll get greater insight into details you might never have considered. 

Also, see what kind of language people use to describe your product or service. And keep an eye out to see what other hashtags people are using in conjunction with yours. This could allow you to uncover innovative ways customers are using your product and possibly lead to fruitful partnerships.

Instills Trust and Credibility

Because it comes from real people, not a company, user-generated content is credible. Sure, UGC is used for marketing, but it isn’t being thought up in a think tank by advertising executives. As a result, it’s naturally viewed by audiences as more trustworthy and reliable. 

In fact, 75% of people surveyed indicated that UGC makes content more authentic, according to content curation platform TINT.

Time-Saving and Timeless

Not only is user-generated content cost-effective, but it’s an easy way to gather content that can be used (and reused) for marketing throughout the sales funnel and in various formats beyond social media. Because you’re creating your library of user-generated content, you’ll have it at your disposal when you need it. 

A bonus? UGC is often evergreen content, meaning it’s fairly timeless. 

Builds Engagement With Your Brand

TINT also found that content engagement was ranked the top KPI by 41% of marketers. User-generated content requires users to interact with your brand. 

Not only do they get excited to see their own contribution, but they get to read and see how others feel about it too. And when games or prizes are in the mix, it’s safe to say engagement expands to a whole other level. 

Promotes Purchases

Not only does UGC increase engagement, it’s also a great way to grow your customer base and reach audiences you might not have before. It’s also an easy way to promote new products to existing customers and foster brand loyalty. 

Did you know that user-generated ads benefit from click-through rates 5 times the norm? That’s the case, according to Social Media Week, which also indicated that it’s nearly 10 times more effective at driving purchases than influencer content. 

User-Generated Content Examples

While there are many forms that user-generated content can take, photos attached to branded hashtags are all the rage these days. They’re easy to promote on platforms beyond social media – think websites, television ads, emails. Plus, because submissions are tagged, they’re fairly simple to gather. 

Here are a few user-generated content examples:

Blundstone

Boot retailer Blundstone Canada posted this giveaway, promoting to more than 23,000 followers on Instagram alone. 

The instructions were clear: Users simply follow the company, like the post and comment on the road trip they want to take. They took it one step further and asked for users to tag a friend, a great way to expand reach. As a bonus, they asked users to share the post in their own story and tag Blundstone, establishing another touchpoint. 

Blundstone Canada posted this giveaway, promoting to more than 23,000K followers on Instagram alone.

Ulta

Cosmetics retailer Ulta posted this giveaway. To qualify, users had to post a question about the featured products or brand by the deadline. 

This one contest alone generated more than 8,000 likes and sparked conversations about the brand. Plus, marketers were able to see questions they might not have considered before, providing an added layer of consumer research. 

Cosmetics retailer Ulta posted this giveaway asking users to post a question about the featured products or brand.

Raymour & Flanigan

As one of the largest furniture retailers in the Northeast U.S., Raymour & Flanigan encourages customers to post photos of their furniture purchases using the Instagram hashtag, #myrfstyle. It’s worked, with more than 5,000 posts attributed to it. 

The company also promotes occasional giveaways, such as this one for National Dog Day, which called for people to comment with a caption to the photo they posted for a chance to win a dog bed featured in their inventory. 

Raymour & Flanigan encourages customers to post photos of their furniture purchases using the Instagram hashtag, #myrfstyle.

HGTV

The home decorating and remodeling cable channel and website does a great job of getting people engaged with voting contests, such as the one below. 

A long-time player in the giveaway field, they know how to get people talking, sharing and returning. Mom tells daughter, daughter tells friend, friend tells coworker and the post gets shared online. You get the idea. 

Rousing interest on the web and on TV, viewers feel like their vote could be a deciding factor. Plus, who doesn’t like the chance to win prize money?

HGTV gets people engaged with voting contests.

Ready to Ignite Your User-Generated Content Marketing Efforts?

Now that you know what user-generated content is and how to implement it, the next step is to put it to work for you. Earn shareable stamps of approval from real people who help spread the word about your company, products and services. 

You’ll drive traffic to your brand and gain repeat customers with genuine, credible and memorable user-generated content. 

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