What is user-generated content and how to get the most out of it
User-generated content (UGC) is essentially content (videos, blogs, images, Wikis, podcasts etc) created and published organically online by individuals rather than brands or influencers. Since the explosion of social media in 2005, marketers have recognized the power of engaging with audiences on a social and cultural level. It’s predicted that our viewing time for online videos will reach 100 minutes per day in 2021. In addition to regular in-house content creation, marketers have noticed that building brand identity is key to creating a lasting online presence.
UGC social media advertising adds to your digital marketing strategy in ways that ads typically don’t. In Nielsen’s advertising report they cite that 92% of people trust customer reviews above all other types of marketing. As you can see, user-generated content can be a very powerful tool in any marketer’s arsenal as it’s one of the more trusted methods. With a staggering 71% of consumers being likely to buy an item based on a referral from social media - UGC should be at the forefront of your social media strategy.
The value of user-generated content
UGC is seen as the future of marketing for many different verticals, in a MIDiA Research report, they highlight that UGC for music could be worth $6 billion within the next 2 years. With UGC platforms like TikTok only growing in popularity, more and more brands are shifting their attention to this rising marketing trend. In addition to conversions, UGC can provide a boost to impressions and has the potential of shifting your users’ perspective of your product. With a wide variety of content from multiple points of view, you might find an entirely new audience to interact with and market to.
UGC is extremely important to advertisers because it provides them with endless opportunities to involve and interact with their community and get a sense of who is using your product and how they’re using it. These users then provide an authentic feel to your marketing - personalized recommendations can increase conversation rates by up to 5.5 times. Below are just a handful of the benefits of UGC and why it can be a great asset for any brand or product:
This is the aim of any marketing strategy - the wider your exposure the greater the opportunity to connect with your audience. Campaigns such as those that encourage user-generated content accompanied by a hashtag are excellent ways to achieve engagements and conversions. With social incentive to post user-generated content, you can get global exposure with results across many different demographics. A good example of this is Coca-Cola’s #Shareacoke campaign that got users posting over half a million creative images of their product with a name on it. This simple but effective campaign allowed users to personalize the product which in turn led to a 2% increase in U.S sales alone.
The second benefit of user-generated content is simple - people just trust UGC more. If people are posting content surrounding your product or brand it’s a good indication of its quality by showing off your brand in a genuine way. Over 72% of shoppers are influenced by Instagram posts of a product. An example of this is Twitch, where users watch video streams of either professional gamers or personalities. A paper by Laura Herrewijn and Karolien Poels cites that social environments have an impact on the user’s awareness of in-game advertising and that watching others play games positively influences recall and recognition of advertising. When a user shows off your brand, it’s a review in and of itself.
Since March last year, social media consumption and user-generated content has skyrocketed throughout the pandemic. With people spending more time at home, UGC got increasingly creative leading to more trends, challenges and cultural moments. Because there’s less brand control and marketing, UGC can be whatever it wants to be - earnest, informative, hilarious or just showcasing, but more importantly it’s engaging. UGC has the opportunity to provide outside-the-box content that can be the viral marketing campaign that you dreamed of. Last year Gorilla Glue trended due to a misuse of their product, despite the company not making any official statement or endorsement, it saw search volume rise by 4,38% and its Best Seller rank rose 129% on Amazon.
It’s a marketers dream to have an engaged community that posts, shares and creates content promoting your band. Finding a passionate group of individuals with common interests is beneficial for us as social beings. By merging these two worlds, user-generated content is an excellent strategy for growth. Adding some humanity to your marketing strategy allows your audience to converse and share ideas with each other which in turn boosts your online profile and consumer trust. This also gives users a platform to showcase your product, encouraging other users to do the same. GoPro has taken this to the next level by developing their GoPro Creator Summit. This is a yearly event that invites filmmakers and photographers to share their stories captured on their GoPro. This encourages the community to view, share and create videos they enjoy, strengthening the GoPro community and providing an excellent opportunity to show off their brand’s values.
How to create captivating UGC social media advertising
Similar to any new marketing strategy, UGC requires a lot of planning and testing. UGC marketing can be challenging because it mostly requires input from your users and finding ways to cultivate it in a hands-off approach - this is not the same as influencer marketing, UGC needs to be organic and come off as sincere. A successful UGC campaign goes hand in hand with fostering a brand advocacy strategy - loyal users are the most powerful form of marketing with word of mouth generating twice as many sales than paid ads, however only 33% of businesses actively look for users’ reviews. Listed below are a few ways in which you can get started with your UGC marketing strategy:
1. Using hashtag and campaigns
Firstly, this will ensure that you can subtly call out for content that you want to see - by creating a hashtag you get the opportunity to direct the conversation. Although this ties into social media branding, attaching a hashtag to a campaign is an excellent start to boosting your UGC marketing. Gymshark’s #gymshark66 on TikTok (based entirely on UGC) garnered 45.5 million views alone, adding to the company’s already impressive digital marketing strategy. You can get creative with this - reinvent your campaigns and hashtags for each season, holidays or sporting/cultural events.
2. Create contests
A great way to drive web traffic, grow your online presence and boost user engagement. In addition to this, contests are an excellent method for getting value UGC. In a Business Wire survey they found that 32% of respondents would create and share UGC to win prizes, whereas 60% were motivated purely to have their content liked or featured. Although this is primarily effective with visual-based brands, there are ways to make it work with almost any product. National Geographic’s #WanderlustContest asked users to submit their best nature shots with the winner getting a 7-day expedition to Yosemite National Park in California. The contest was open to U.S users with a public instagram account ensuring users could seamlessly partake in the contest. The result was thousands of submissions from all across the U.S that perfectly encapsulated National Geographic as a brand and its values.
3. Highlight the best submissions
The benefit of prompting a hashtag with your UGC strategy is that it makes life much easier when browsing through submissions for the best content. When sharing or reposting UGC, it’s important to understand that this is a platform to express your brand’s values and what audience you wish to target your product to. More importantly, going back to one of the most important facets of UGC, your submissions should be authentic - a consumer study by Cohn & Wolfe cited that over 70% of consumers rank authenticity above innovation and product uniqueness. Fitness brands understand this and go the extra mile to connect with not only users that showcase their product but also promote their health and fitness stories/background. This motivates users to do the same.
4. Sharing reviews
79% of consumers trust reviews online like personal recommendations. For consumers, the ability to find a review or demonstration of a product almost immediately is a fantastic way to get a first impression. This reassures customers of the quality of your product and is an excellent way to drive purchasing decisions, achieving higher conversion rates. By collecting user testimonies, you’re getting an unbiased verdict from your audience. Not only can this be a learning experience for your brand but you can leverage this as a cost effective way to promote your product and build trust.
Expect the unexpected
One of the most exciting things about user-generated content marketing is its unpredictability - it’s difficult to know what will be the next popular trend or what type of UGC will go viral. While having influencers onboard with your UGC campaign can help its spread, it can quickly decrease the authenticity of your campaign - you want your everyday users to interact with your brand and share it online organically. Similarly, with the internet being the internet there are many examples of users that take this as an opportunity to “troll”. Although you may get UGC that criticizes your brand with genuine feedback, silencing these voices may get the complete opposite reaction that you expect. Monitoring feedback and UGC submissions can help alleviate these concerns.
UGC is an invaluable asset for your social media campaigns and really lets you build an emotional and social connection between your users. Should you repost UGC to your social media accounts you can attach your ads to these personalized posts, creating very cost-effective advertisements. With user-generated ads you’re paying less and receiving a higher CTR. This is a welcome development as social media users who have become increasingly aware of targeted ads have also learnt to avoid direct marketing. By merging content and marketing with UGC you’re entertaining the user as well as showing off your brand.
Millennials are reported to find UGC 35% more memorable than other sources. Even if users don’t buy your product, they’re engaging with your campaign which is also a big boon. Get creative - encourage UGC through prizes and incentives, set a standard or template for your users to follow and actively promote your community. Give your users the freedom to keep their unique voice and style. By harnessing peer influence you are returning to the most effective form of advertising - word of mouth. Remember, you want your UGC to add value to your brand - let your users shape the stories you want your product to tell.