By Hannah Vicarage
The online world is a flurry of cat videos, #hashtag challenges, and influencer blather. It’s a difficult place to stand out. That’s why so many companies are turning to user-generated content (UGC) to cut through the noise.
What exactly is UGC, how can you get the most out of it, and why should you even bother? Read on to find out more.
What is UGC?
For the uninitiated, UGC is any form of content created by users and consumers about your brand or product. It might be a spontaneous photo of a product uploaded to a personal Twitter account and accompanied by a branded hashtag.
— Madmax Maximus (@sanoj85) August 22, 2020
Or a response to a competition asking consumers to submit content.
What all UGC has in common is that the content (image, video, review, blog, article, etc.) is created by a consumer and not the brand.
Why encourage UGC? Because UGC is created by unpaid consumers, it’s more authentic than anything a business could create in a content campaign. Research shows that consumers trust other consumers more than they do any company or brand.
So how can you capitalize on this growing trend? Here are five simple ways to maximize the value of UGC:
1. Develop a UGC management plan
This may sound obvious, but just because UGC itself is informal doesn’t mean you should take an informal approach to managing it.
While 86% of companies have tried UGC, according to SEMrush, only 27% had a strategy in place. While a good campaign can benefit your brand, a bad one can damage it just as much.
So, before you jump in, gather as much information as you can about your audience. You need to know how they want to interact with your brand, what platforms they use, how they find you, and what type of content they enjoy best.
Then, you need to decide what it is you want to gain from UGC. Do you want to:
- Build brand trust and awareness? UGC establishes credibility with consumers more quickly and more reliably than an in-house content strategy.
- Launch a new product? Some 48% of customers think UGC is a great way to discover new products. Reaching out to an influencer to market your product can fire up a launch.
- Increase conversion rates? Placing user-generated content directly onto a product page can improve conversions by up to 64%.
- Save time on content creation? If you need more social content but don’t have the time to create it yourself or the budget to bring in the professionals, UGC can be a rewarding strategy.
Your goal will drive all of your other choices. So it’s important to wrap your head around what you want to gain from UGC at the start.
2. Choose the right platform for your UGC campaign
With so many social media platforms out there, how do you pick the right one for your campaign? One way is to pick the right platform for the type of content your customers enjoy.
Facebook is perfect for sharing videos. BuzzSumo looked at 777 million Facebook posts and concluded that video content generated 59% more than other forms.
Instagrammers believe that users share products they find useful. Getting influencers to post about wearing, using, or promoting your product or service is more valuable than almost anything else you can do in your marketing.
Below is a great example of how to do this right. Here, Topshop has collaborated with influencer Jessica Chelsea to promote one of their dresses. Her casual tone is what really makes it work.
The don of hashtag trends is all about being short but sweet. Though Twitter is light on characters, it’s strong on visual images, which makes it perfect for UGC because users can contribute easily.
Twitter is a great place to start your own hashtag trend or associate your brand to existing ones. For example, Ben & Jerry’s celebrated National Ice Cream Day with a UGC spin, getting their audience and others to use the hashtag to Tweet about flavors that make them celebrate.
Happy National Ice Cream Day! What flavor are you celebrating with? #NationalIceCreamDay pic.twitter.com/eqDqu3EeCg
— Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) July 21, 2019
3. Be clear about how people should engage
It’s no good spending time and money on a UGC campaign if it isn’t clear to your audience how they should engage. If the concept is too complicated or just doesn’t make a lot of sense, users will be turned off.
Some 50% of consumers want brands to give them direction about how to engage, but only 16% actually provide any. That’s a pretty poor show!
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If you want to know how to do it well, look no further than Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke campaign. It’s still one of the best examples of simple and effective UGC.
Coke’s hook was to replace its usual branding with popular names and ask consumers to either tag themselves or their friends with their bottle. The campaign was rolled out in more than 70 countries and its success was staggering. It gained 998 million impressions on Twitter, inspired almost a quarter of a million Tweets, and ultimately, sold 150 million bottles of the fizzy stuff.
Of course, Coke is a huge company with a lot of money and clout, but it wasn’t just reach that made “Share a Coke” what it was. It was the simplicity of their message.
Smaller brands like Benefit Cosmetics show how to do it well on a smaller scale. The brand is synonymous with high-end eyebrow makeup. To capitalize on this image, Benefit’s Instagram bio features a simple #benefitbrows hashtag asking customers to share their experience of using the brand’s experience. The hashtag has generated over 747,000 posts to date.
4. Create a reason to engage
Consumers who have had a good experience with your brand will want to share that experience with others, but you can always ramp up engagement. Here are a few ways to do just that:
- Competitions and giveaways. If prizes are involved, it’s almost guaranteed to be popular. Just remember to stick to the golden rule and ask for simple interactions from users.
- Showcase their own creativity. Consumers love to express their creativity, so give them a simple way to do it and you’ll reap the UGC rewards.
- Inspire to join a cause. Associating your brand with a cause makes consumers feel more positive about your company.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into that last one. One of the best known social justice warriors in the consumer space is Lush. The brand is known for having a stance of “protecting people, animals, and the planet,” and because it knows its audience share these values, Lush heavily supported the #climatestrike hashtag and encouraged customers to get involved.
Inspired by the great work of @GretaThunberg and all the youth preparing for the Global #ClimateStrike, we’ll be shutting down our entire operation to take to the streets and demand immediate action (09/20/19 – U.S.A and 09/27/19 – Canada).
March w/ us: https://t.co/2hKRKpqSy8 pic.twitter.com/sviWoST9rr
— Lush North America (@lushcosmetics) September 17, 2019
5. Stay in control of UGC content
When your UGC campaign is a success, you’ll be inundated with a glut of UGC and you’ll probably feel pretty good about it. But what now?
A large, sudden volume of UGC can be difficult to manage. Luckily, Facebook and Instagram’s Embed tool allows you to create feeds of the photos, links, and videos your audience tag you in. And if you need a little more help, many third-party providers offer management platforms to keep you on the straight and narrow.
Even when you’re not running a specific UGC campaign, your should be monitoring and managing every mention of your brand online. Everything from reviews, tags, images, and videos are considered to be user-generated content, and all of it is valuable in some way.
If you can get a handle on your approach to UGC, you can maximize the benefit of this free and abundant content, and put it to work for your business today.
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