User Generated Content (UGC) is defined as any type of content that has been created and put out into the world by fans or people who are not being paid to do so. UGC can take many forms, it can be testimonials, photos, blog posts, tweets, videos - anything that involves a user promoting a brand that's not been directly published by the brand in question.
A great example of UGC was Coca Cola's the "Share a Coke" campaign, in which Coke bottles were produced with peoples' names on the labels and put into sales rotation in various cities. Customers were then able to engage with the campaign by sharing the pictures of their personalized Coke bottles on social media platforms - you can even create your own personalized Coke bottles via the website.
This helped Coca Cola drive more audience engagement, and boost their brand through user created material.
But aside from generating engagement with your campaigns, UGC can also serve an important 'social proof' purpose. The fact is that people trust other people more than they trust brands. A brand will tell you "This is the best product ever made to _______," but every brand says that about their product, however, if I tell a friend, "I used ____ and it was the best product that I've ever used", that friend will be more likely to trust my saying it, because they trust me, and I'm speaking from personal experience.
Inherently, people are more drawn to products and brands that they know other people that they know, like and trust recommend. Hence, UGC can be a key differentiator in your campaigns.
The benefits of UGC are almost endless - by watching what your users are sharing, you're able to get a better understanding of your target market, and perhaps even expand your target audience. What are people sharing? What questions do they have about your brand? How are people using your brand, and where are they using it? You can learn the answers to all of that by paying attention to what UGC is being created. The more content that's being created and shared, the better it is for your business.
If you're a small business, taking out ads that'll most likely be bypassed is expensive. UGC, when done effectively, is relatively low to no cost, and because real people are sharing their own experiences with your brand on their social channels, you're able to build and deepen relationships within your user communities.
To get started with UGC, make sure your brand has an easy to remember hashtag associated with it. You can guide people towards your hashtag by using it in your social posts and marketing materials. Hashtags help people come together around your brand and both are searchable and trackable.
Brands often make the mistake of finding UGC and just sharing it to their own channels. Make sure that once you've found something that a user has posted, you reach out to that person and ask if you can share it (their photo, blog post, video, etc) on your brands pages. You can do this via direct message, or even by simply commenting on their original post.
As noted, UGC can deliver significant benefits to brands because it's content produced directly by people who already love your business. It expands your content reach, and helps create new fans, deepens relationships with current consumers and provides you with brand advocates.
Have you used UGC in your content marketing? What are some of the best examples of UGC that you've seen?