User generated content, or UGC, refers to any kind of content created by users of a product or service. Most people think of reviews when it comes to UGC, but it encompasses everything from photos, blogs, videos, audio, tweets, forum posts, and more. You can use this content on your social media channels to promote your business.
What’s the first thing you do when you’re considering an online purchase? If you’re anything like me, and I bet you are, you search for reviews. You want to know what other people think of the product or service – regardless of whether it’s from a really big brand like Nike or Fitbit, or a small brand you’ve never heard before. I tend to do a bit more digging around if it’s a brand that’s not well known, just because I need to know more about the quality of the product and the validity of the service. If I see a lot of negative UGC, I trust it, and go looking for alternatives.
So if you’re doing that when you’re out shopping – you can bet that’s what your customers are doing. Because of that, UGC can help you, and set you apart from the competition if you use it the right way.
UGC is much like a free source of advertising for your business. Users provide this type of content for free because they want to share their experiences with others. When you ask them to use it, they appreciate the fact they were noticed by a brand they love. Because it’s not possible to share all the UGC out there from all your customers, let’s take a look at some of the other benefits.
Benefits of User Generated Content
- Increased Engagement: Customers trust each other more than they do brands, so UGC gets more engagement. One study showed brand engagement increases by 28% when UGC is part of product videos. Plus, customers are twice as likely to share UGC with friends and family, compared to a piece of brand content.
- Build Consumer Trust: UGC humanizes your brand, and more than half of customers trust UGC over the content you create for your brand website. As such, implementing UGC in your strategy helps to build better relationships with your customers and prospects.
- SEO Boost: A study of 20 of the world’s largest brands revealed that a quarter of their search results are UGC. This means you’ll get more organic traffic, and more backlinks from content that’s linked to your site.
- May Increase Conversion Rate: One report shows when customers see UGC while they’re shopping, the conversation rate increases by nearly 5%. And UGC interactions while shopping increases the conversion rate by nearly 10%.
Building Your UGC Strategy
Though a lot of businesses have tried UGC, only 27% of them have a strategy in place for its use. The content can get people talking about your business, and increase engagement while building trust, but it can only do this if its used correctly. If not, it can actually send your customers and followers in the other direction.
- Know what you want from the UGC. What are your goals? Get specific. That can help you determine more about the social media platforms you should use, and the types of content you should aim to get. Do you want to increase followers? Do you want to increase engagement? Do you want to increase brand awareness?
- Where will you be? There are a lot of social media platforms, and the reason there’s room for them in the market is because they all offer something a bit different. What works on Facebook can work on LinkedIn, if it’s adjusted accordingly. But posting the same thing verbatim across all your platforms is one of the quickest ways to fall flat. It’s important to consider the difference in demographics from platform to platform – and know that it’s okay to skip one or more of them. Focus on the ones where you know your audience is.
- It’s okay to ask for UGC. This is particularly useful if you’re running a contest – asking people to submit photos and/or videos of your product in use in exchange for a prize of some sort. But, when you’re asking for it, make sure you know your goal and can be clear about what you’re asking for. Otherwise, you’re going to confuse the audience, which will decrease participation, and may even send people away from your website. Get specific about the rules of UGC. A lot of people will send you content, but if it’s useless because it includes profanity, for instance, you’re wasting time. Choose hashtags carefully to avoid falling victim to trolls.
- Choose a type of UGC. When you’re working on a campaign, choose one type of content, and add a hashtag to make it easy to track across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. For instance, you can ask people to submit images with a hashtag, much like Starbucks did with their white cup contest. Close to 4,000 entries were submitted within three weeks.
- Focus on community. Because UGC sparks engagement, you’ll be building your community. Make sure anyone who speaks for your brand in the community follows along with the brand image you’ve created. This allows for consistency, and helps the community manager to better handle the customer and advocate connections.
- Choose the best to promote across your channels. Not everything that’s submitted will be worthy of sharing because it won’t necessarily reflect your brand. You’re not looking for average – you’re looking for fabulous. What caught your eye? If it catches yours, will it catch others’ attention, too?
- Recognize the users you promote. That awesome content came from someone, and that someone deserves recognition for their time, effort, and dedication to your brand. It’s up to you to choose the best way to do it – many brands do a social shout out, but for more labor intensive UGC, and especially the contest format, a prize should be awarded.
- Give your customers the tools to share your content. If you want your audience to share your content, or create reviews to promote your content, then you need to give them tools to make it easier. According to consumers, only 16% of brands give people the resources they need.
- Share stories. Sharing your customers’ stories, with permission, of course, is an important part of brand awareness. It’s more than a case-study. Storytelling can separate you from the competition, but it doesn’t have to be your story to make a difference in the eyes of your audience.
Successful UGC Case Studies
The “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign. What began as a campaign using famous celebrities like Joe Pesci and Don Rickles, turned into something even more amazing when ownership shifted from the brand to the users. Customers took it upon themselves t create parodies and references all across the web, which helped the campaign earn a solid place in pop culture.
Direct sales company Jamberry uses UGC to highlight each of their nail wrap products. Each has their own hashtag which users are encouraged to use when they post photos on Instagram. When customers look at the product pages, they can see a feed of Instagram photos from people who are wearing that wrap. It helps them see what looks like on real people, which can help them determine which wraps and nail polishes they want to purchase.
The Share a Coke campaign has been a hit. What began as a campaign featuring hundreds of the most common names has morphed into something much larger. The cans and bottles went on to feature generic type labels, such as “friend”, “grill master”, and “bro.” And in 2016, they took the campaign even further – Share a Coke and a Song. These bottles and cans features 70 famous song lyrics on the labels. They took this approach because music is a universal language and they wanted to bring unity to their diversified customer base.
They partnered with Shazam to bring music directly to the displays in the store. Customers can scan the lyrics on the product or signage through Shazam and record a lip synced video to share across social media using the #ShareaCoke hashtag.
Plus, customers can customize and order their own bottles at the Coca-Cola website.
UGC is Becoming Essential to ecommerce Success
When users create content for your brand, you’re ahead of the game. You get access to content that cost you little to nothing to create. You increase brand awareness, build customer trust, and customer engagement. But, not all UGC is going to be singing your praises – and that’s part of the territory. The best thing you can do is have a plan of action to address the negative. Domino’s is a prime example of using the negative comments to launch one heck of a comeback.
How is your business using UGC? How have you found UGC influences your own purchasing habits?