In a nutshell, user-generated content (UGC) is any content created by unpaid contributors that makes reference to your brand or business. Usually, when we’re talking about user-generated content, we’re specifically making reference to the sort of content a fan of your brand might make – i.e. a happy customer who wants to tell his/her own network of friends and followers on social media how good your product or service really is.
UGC becomes a part of your content strategy when you share what your customers, followers and fans are creating across your own social media channels and – more importantly – when you devise tactics to encourage the creation of the user-generated content in the first place.
Sharing pieces of user-generated content across your business’s networks is a powerful content strategy because it taps directly into your fans’ desires to be appreciated and recognised. When you do this, you’re strengthening the bond with those fans and encouraging them to share even more of your own content – which, of course, is of great benefit to your business.
For instance, here’s an example of a user-generated content campaign from Badass Beard Care on Instagram. We think it’s safe to say that the badass in this picture will be pretty pleased for the recognition of his exceptional beard – perhaps even more than he will be for the $10 of store credit he’s in-line to receive.
(Images source: instagram.com)
Customers Trust User-Generated Content
Yes, they do – especially millennials.
Let’s face the facts here. Today, marketers and advertisers are plastering their brand messages all over the internet on a pretty much constant basis. Consumers can hardly move online without some company or other vying for their attention with ads, blog posts, videos, retargeting campaigns or what have you.
(Image source: adweek.com)
As such, the average internet user has become quite cynical if not outright immune to such branded messages a lot of the time. We’re not stupid. We know that the content any brand creates is going to paint its products or services in an overtly positive light no matter what – so how can we trust what any brand says about itself?
The short answer is we can’t and often don’t.
But we do trust the recommendations from disinterested third-parties. We trust customer reviews. Indeed, research from earned content platform Olpaic found that 76% of consumers believe that the content that average people share is more honest than advertising from brands.
As such, it comes as no surprise that further research from The Bazaarvoice has revealed that consumers who interact with user-generated content buy more often and spend more when they’re doing so.
(Image source: bazaarvoice.com)
User-Generated Content as Part of Your Content Strategy
User-generated content clearly creates value. To put it another way, by building UGC into your content strategy, you’re encouraging users to create added value for your business on your behalf.
But how to go about incorporating user-generated content into your ongoing content strategy?
Well, you need to create a campaign whereby users are given a reason to want to add value to your business. They need to want to be a part of your online community.
Here are a couple of ideas to help you start up a community of engaged user-generated content creators.
Competitions on Social Media
Social networks, of course, will be where all the UGC buzz happens. One easy way to kick off a user-generated content craze is with a competition – much like the Bearded Badasses above.
Indeed, Bearded Badass Care is a prime example of a UGC competition. It’s an example of a campaign whereby users are encouraged to send in a picture (it could also be a video) of themselves using a product that the business wants other users to buy.
Such competitions are not limited to the B2C realm, however. B2B companies can make great use of social media to start incorporating user-generated content into their content strategies, too.
The idea of the campaign is not to generate downloads of its app, but rather to engage its community – and indeed create a sense of community – by encouraging existing users to share photographs of where they do their social media marketing work.
Here are a couple of examples of what the marketing team behind Hootsuite were able to generate from the campaign.
(Image source: instagram.com)
Sharing Positive Results
Encouraging users to share where in the world they’re using your product is one thing – but if you can persuade users to share the positive results they’ve had through getting onboard, you’ll surely be onto a winner.
That’s exactly what FinTech startup Mint did with its #MyMintMoment campaign.
The contest encouraged users to share photos that depicted how, through gaining control of their finances – precisely what the Mint personal budgeting app and MintLife blog are designed to help people do – they were able to turn their lifelong dreams into a reality.
(Image source: mint.com)
Mint offered a prize of $1,000 to encourage submissions of photos of special financial moments – dream weddings, paying off a loan, getting the keys to a new home, saving for a holiday, etc. – and allowed people to enter as many times as they liked.
The idea was to promote Mint’s central ethos and get real people to show the Mint community just what’s really possible when they reach their financial goals.
Over to You
As you can see from the examples we’ve chosen, the best user-generated content campaigns are usually those that involve encouraging users to share imagery – either of themselves, or of products/services being used. Instagram, of course, lends itself perfectly to such UGC campaigns, but, to be honest, practically all social networks are visual these days. There’s nothing to stop you from running a similar campaign on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or even LinkedIn.
The important thing is that you devise a user-generated content campaign that manages to engage your community and promote your brand at the same time. Get the balance right and you’ll soon have a ready team of brand ambassadors creating all sorts of great user-generated content that will give your company the positive exposure it needs.