Table of contents
The future of the internet is — and always will be — content.
But what will that content look like?
People are consuming content in different ways: video, text, and even through virtual reality systems.
No matter what format the content comes in, the one quality it will all have is the ability to feel personable. Humans want to connect with other humans, and that base desire will always govern what type of content a business should produce.
Unfortunately, finding that type of material is easier said than done. Creating great content on a consistent basis that resonates with your users is a challenge for any agency. That’s why many businesses have taken their hands off the wheel and relied on their own customers to create the content for them.
The best part? Content that users create for your brand is usually way more effective than anything you can create for yourselves. Research shows that 45% of consumers hate when brands use too much self-promotion, so whenever you can allow others to brag on your business for you, it achieves the same result without the negative connotations and accomplishes the same purpose. Additionally, user-generated content creates a steady stream of valuable, evergreen material to draw from. It’s a win-win.
Table of Contents
- What is User-Generated Content
- How Does UGC Impact Customer Engagement?
- How Will You Utilize User-Generated Content?
What is User-Generated Content
Any form of shareable material that is generated outside the influence of a company’s content marketing team is technically referred to as “user-generated content.” Obviously, the bulk of this content will be created by everyday users of that brand, but on occasion, it can also be produced by in-house employees or influencers.
Even if you’ve never recognized a piece of content as UGC, you’ve most likely seen it several times a day. Customer testimonials, contest entries, hosting giveaways, “caption contests” — all of these count as user-generated content. These are extremely cost-effective and can be highly profitable if utilized correctly.
One of the most popular forms of UGC was Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign. In 2014, Coke printed 150 of the most popular names, slapped them on bottles, and asked users to find one with their name attached. The result was an eye-popping 11% increase in year-end revenue over the previous year.
It was the perfect ploy to get hordes of consumers to create UGC — people would pose and post pictures on social media with the Coke bottle that had their name.
How Does UGC Impact Customer Engagement?
Despite the fact that customers put an enormous amount of value on product reviews from other users, most marketers fail to implement them as a key part of their content strategy. Only half of the marketers have used UGC strategies in their email marketing, despite the fact that 41% of marketers ranked engagement as their top key performance indicator, according to a study by Tint.
The lesson is clear: If you want your sales to increase, you need to increase engagement, and one of the best ways to do that is with user-generated engagement.
In an era of “fake news,” it can be difficult for customers to trust what they hear and see online. Fears of paid information campaigns and search engine manipulation are at an all-time high. Marketers, in turn, have to respond with a marketing strategy in a way that acknowledges this danger and instills a genuine sense of trust in the brands they’re working with.
Greenlight is one example of a company that had a product made for children — in this case, debit cards for kids — and used UGC to catapult awareness. Their brand hashtag #mygreenlight encouraged users to share how they used their Greenlight cards, and 500+ users responded.
But it’s not the only company to succeed in driving trust using UGC. When a prospect feels like they can trust a brand, it directly influences their purchasing decision and their chances of converting to a customer go up exponentially. Personal Capital has hundreds of customer reviews for their personal finance software that they display prominently all throughout their website, and also on consumer review portals.
These reviews act as social proof and help put the customer’s mind at ease when deciding who to rely on when making important financial decisions about their future.
Alongside trust comes authenticity. People feel a strong connection to anything that is authentic, and it’s hard for a brand to get more authentic than by letting their customers steer the marketing message.
A contest, for instance, allows the submission of content that will resonate with their brand’s values. An outdoors brand may ask their audience to submit pictures of their gear in the wild (in exchange for a chance to be featured on their social channels like Instagram stories, Facebook pages etc). The UGC that you curate as a result reinforces what your brand wants to be known for, thereby increasing brand awareness. Posting user-generated content is an effective marketing campaign to show the world that you’re true to your values and are successfully carrying out your brand’s mission and purpose.
To take the load off your content creators and exponentially increase your authenticity at the same time, rely on user-generated content campaigns where real people can recommend and use your product to drive home your brand’s core message and improve conversion rates eventually.
Decades ago, it was rare for a company to care much about what its user base wanted. Market research aggregated audience input to create a universal product and message that they believed their customers wanted to hear.
Now, because of social media platforms, brands can ask their customers directly what they want. Such kinds of conversations enable companies to continually learn from their users and improve customer experience. In encouraging customer feedback, customers also feel like they’re contributing to a brand they truly care about.
For instance, Southwest Airlines does it really well. They have a social media listening center that is specifically meant to address customer concerns over social media. Their social media team scouts social media posts from their customers to narrow down any issues and help resolve them in real-time.
Increased dialogue almost always leads to some kind of a community developing around your brand. Fan pages, forums, and even social media groups will crop up where people discuss the latest products and use cases for your goods and services. Instead of regulating these groups, brands can succeed by mining them for valuable feedback and featuring positive posts.
The brand EarlyBird launched a challenge on their social media platforms where they encouraged users to gift money to children, then share pictures of it online.
Even with a small follower base, this attracted the attention of parents who were interested in a better financial future for their kids.
Not only can UGC campaigns be a gold mine for creating consistently relevant content, but they can also chart a path forward to create even more non-UGC content in the future. You can find out which platforms your audience is most responsive on, uncover important demographic information, and pinpoint key problems and needs. All of this together helps you find out more about who your target audience truly is, not who you wish they were.
Even though only 40% of baby boomers see social media as essential, 66% of Generation Z feel that it’s a crucial part of their day-to-day life. As for millennials, 75% say that social media enables them to interact with brands and companies, as per a survey conducted by Sprout Social. One can only imagine what the numbers will be for the following generation.
Most marketers understand the importance of deriving information about their audience from social media usage, but distilling that information and integrating it into their campaigns is another matter. You can find out a wealth of information about things like customer service and your competition by monitoring these numbers.
Other parts of your customer base will appreciate this data as well. MOS, a banking and financial guidance platform aimed at helping college students improve their financial future, provides information on student loans. At the bottom of their homepage, they list some of their users and how much they’ve received in financial aid.
How Will You Utilize User-Generated Content?
Despite the fact that most marketers don’t have a clear plan for creating UGC, that type of material is being created every single day on social media platforms all over the world. While some brands may try to control it — or even stifle it — your best bet is to become a part of it.
Encourage your users to create content by way of contests, hashtag campaigns, and promising to feature and repost the best user generated content on your main social networking platforms. While it may seem scary to let at least part of the content creation process fall out of your hands, what you’ll gain back in engagement, real-time feedback, brand advocates, brand identity, and efficiency will convince you of its value.