In today’s world of artificial intelligence, Instagram stories and ever-changing Facebook algorithms, brands are no longer in the driver’s seat of digital marketing. Instead, consumers are producing stellar brand stories, and businesses have an opportunity to direct these audiences towards creating content and conversation around their brand.
This is where user-generated content (or UGC) comes into play.
A UGC strategy leverages content that is created by your audience that can be repurposed on your properties. This content can come in the form of blogs, social media posts, statements, videos and more, and be used to tell a story about your brand from an authentic third-party source.
UGC isn’t a new strategy, but it’s now more critical to your content marketing strategy than ever before. Crowdtap claims that millennials spend 30 percent of their media time engaging with UGC, and consumers trust UGC 50 percent more than any other form of media. Reevoo found that 70 percent of consumers trust images taken from “people like them” over brand created images, especially on Instagram.
UGC is much cheaper to implement (often times free) and much more effective than other content marketing strategies. Think of it as a low-investment, high-impact way of raising your online brand presence. It gives you the opportunity to give your loyal audience a voice, providing multiple points of view and painting a more authentic picture of your brand.
Sixty-one percent of people would be more likely to engage with an advertisement if it contained user-generated content, after all.
If done right, UGC has the power to be the cheapest and most effective way of increasing your reach, trust and ultimately sales for your brand. Remember those Starbucks white cup designs or digging through the cooler to find your friend’s name on a Coke bottle? UGC at its finest.
The most important aspects of a UGC campaign are relevance, authenticity and quality. The execution of these campaigns is versatile. (Add it to the list of reasons why UGC is so valuable.) You can incorporate contests, hashtags, reviews, and brand influencers into your campaigns to continue keeping content fresh and interesting.
Not sure where to start? Here our six of our favorite techniques for creating effective UGC campaigns:
Before diving headfirst into a full-blown UGC campaign, check what content you might already have access to from your audience. They may already be sharing about you organically, and you can find it all with a simple Instagram search. You can either search by location if you have a physical storefront, restaurant, hotel, etc. and see if anyone has been posting about you. Or you can search by your brand’s name, a popular product or a hashtag that might already be associated with your brand, just not focused on a specific campaign.
In order to get authentic and high-quality UGC submissions, you need to make sure you receive a lot of them. One way to generate hype is to pick one specific day to launch your campaign and spend a few weeks leading up to that date building anticipation. The alternative is keeping the timeframe for submissions open ended, but then you may fall victim to a disengaged audience that doesn’t feel motivated to contribute. Instead, build anticipation around submissions that are only open for one day, and the result will be a concentrated burst of brand awareness, generating content for weeks to come.
Use online tools to make it easier for your audience to participate. This can range from the use of a #hashtag to apps that allow you to overlay filters on top of photos. Some of our favorite #hashtag campaigns are REI’s #optoutside and Always’ #LikeAGirl. These tools will ensure brand cohesiveness and generate interest in your campaign.
Unless you already have a very large audience, consider using rewards and incentives for your first UGC campaign. Examples include an opportunity to be featured on your social media properties, branded swag, discounts, free samples or a firsthand experience with your brand. People want their efforts to be rewarded, even if it’s something small, and they will be more willing to participate in the future if they felt their response was valued the first time.
Launching a UGC campaign is only the first step. Next, you must pay even closer attention to your social networks (especially if your campaign includes a hashtag) and engage with folks who are submitting relevant content. Like the post, thank them for participating, and start a dialogue. This approach is one of the best strategies to grow your social media following and brand loyalty.
User-generated content is one of the most cost-effective ways to promote your brand and grow your audience. We live in a world of digitally-savvy social media users. Give your audience the opportunity to contribute amazing content and watch in awe at what they create.