User-generated content is one of the best (and cheapest) forms of content marketing you can leverage for your branding strategy.
No matter how small or new your brand, there are people out there talking about you, and you want to engage with these loyal, happy customers in order to keep them coming back, while also showing other prospects that you have a solid fan base behind you.
People love talking about products which reflect their lifestyle through social platforms. User-generated content - the content that they create - helps to spread the word about your brand, and you can use it to your advantage.
What is UGC?
User-generated content (UGC) refers to photos, videos or reviews that customers post on their own feeds about your brand or products. The ideal UGC is when a customer who loves your product posts positive feedback about it or your business through their own social channel/s.
Basically, your customers are creating their own content about you, content which your brand can then repost and reuse as a means to spread the good news about your offerings.
What makes UGC so unique, however, is that users aren’t just leaving a review or giving you feedback. They’re actually going out of their way to create content about your brand. That can help to build a deeper level of engagement and interaction with new audiences.
UGC is not the same as influencer marketing, though the two are similar. Influencer marketing is when you partner with an individual (or individuals) to create a mutually-beneficial marketing campaign. With UGC, even if you’ve incentivized customers to put out their own content about your brand - like a discount code or giveaway - they’re not “marketing partners” per say.
You can think of UGC as word-of-mouth marketing.
What are the benefits of UGC?
User-generated content can have incredible benefits for your marketing strategy - in fact, it’s one of the most beneficial and cost-effective strategies you can implement.
It’s a lot less expensive to repost user-generated content than it is to continuously create and publish fresh marketing collateral.
Even incentivizing for UGC will generally end up being a lot less expensive than continuously creating your own promotional material - and it'll help to boost trust in ways that brand-lead promotion cannot, which brings us to the next point:
Research shows that consumers generally view UGC as being more genuine and authentic - since it’s actually coming from “real” people and not a brand. As such, they tend to trust it more - in fact, Millennials trust UGC 50% more than brand-created content.
Establishing a level of trust is one of the best ways to prompt customers to action and start building baseline relationships.
Because UGC has an innate sense of authenticity and trust, users are also more likely to engage with it.
One of our favorite statistics that we’ve discovered is that reposting UGC on Instagram can see up to 690% higher engagement compared to other forms of content. That’s a lot of engagement you just can’t ignore.
Plus, you can get a major boost in engagement from the original poster of the content. Let’s say Lilly posts about your brand, and then you repost Lilly’s post on Instagram. Lilly will feel like you appreciate her as a customer, so she’ll feel even more engaged with your business.
Users get a rush of dopamine when your brand promotes them, so they’ll get an even better (fuzzy) feeling towards your brand. This can further increase brand loyalty, and make them want to purchase from you and share even more.
The more people that are talking about your brand, the wider your reach. This extension of your network also becomes more natural and effortless, since your customers are positively promoting you to their friends.
There’s no better reach than natural “word-of-mouth” reach.
Since, as noted, UGC is seen as more engaging and trustworthy, it also has a greater recall than other forms of content. Reports show that Millennials find UGC to be 35% more memorable than content that comes from mainstream sources.
When people trust you, they engage with you, and they remember you. Altogether, that means they’re also more likely to buy from you. 84% of millennnials report that UGC influences what they buy, and over 68% claim it’s a good indicator of quality of a brand or service.
UGC is like a product review. Consumers want “personal recommendations” from people who have tried the brand. They want recommendations from people like them, who are living the same sort of lifestyle.
Bottom line: UGC is influential, and well-received. And there’s no better way to promote your brand than by promoting the people who love your brand.
How can your business use UGC in its marketing efforts?
As noted, UGC can deliver great results - but how can you actually promote UGC and then use it in your marketing?
Here are some quick tips to help you make better use of user-posted content:
1. Check your tags
If someone posts a picture of you on their Instagram feed or in their Story, they’ll likely tag your brand, so be sure to keep an eye on your mentions to see who could be talking about and tagging your brand. If you see a tag, repost.
2. Create a hashtag
#Starbucks is one of the most popular tags on Instagram, and the coffee giant has seen major success launching new products just by word of mouth on social media.
Having a branded hashtag is a great way to find all of your UGC in one spot. You simply search for your hashtag, and all of the recent posts with that tag will come up.
If you’re looking to gain more UGC, we recommend creating a hashtag through-line to keep all of your content in one “spot.’ It helps ensure nothing slips through the cracks, and your users will know how best to engage with your business.
For example, all of your own Instagram posts might include the tag #brandlife, and your customers can also use #brandlife when posting about your business.
3. Repost and give credit
If and when someone does create content about your business, you'll want to be there to receive it, thank them, and repost it. If you don’t engage with UGC, people may stop sharing about your brand - and then you’ll be missing out on all of the incredible benefits mentioned above.
Remember to not only repost but to also give credit to the original poster. This will make them feel appreciated, which, in turn, will make them like your brand even more. It also shows others that you’re loyal to your loyal customers.
4. Be fast
Instagram and Facebook Stories are becoming more popular, especially when talking about brands. Consumers may not want to dedicate an entire “feed post” to you, but they’ll show a Story using your product.
But Stories only last 24 hours, so you need to be on top of the UGC bandwagon every day to check for tags, geotags, and hashtags. You want to repost fast before the Story (and your user content) goes away.
UGC can be a great way to fill up your own Stories without creating a lot of fresh content.
5. Ask for UGC
Unless you’re a huge brand like Starbucks or Nike, you probably won’t get an influx of UGC. Unless you ask for it.
Customers who love your brand will likely be happy to talk about you, especially if your brand reflects a lifestyle they identify with. Yogis will tag your yoga mats to show the gear they use, pet owners will even talk up your flea and tick repellant if they feel you’re doing a good job.
All you have to do is ask (and sometimes incentivize).
6. Host a contest
Still not getting UGC? A lot of businesses have seen success by hosting a contest or giveaway. Tell customers that if they create content and include your hashtag, they’ll be entered to win a prize or they’ll get DMed a discount code.
At first, you might have to incentivize to get users to create their own content, but it can have a snowball effect.
The more people who share about you, and the more you repost it, the wider your reach and effect - and you’ll start to see even more UGC come rushing in.
Used well, UGC can be a great way to boost your promotion efforts, reducing time, cost and effort in order to build your brand. It's worth tapping into the search streams, and keeping tabs on what people are saying, and using that to best effect where possible.