Would it not be great if we could (legitimately) use content that others create for us and that we don’t have to pay for? This content exists and it has enormous marketing power. This type of content is called user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated content. This content is extremely powerful as it usually represents the voice of customers without influence from the brand.
User-generated content comes in various content types and forms.
- The quick image of your new outfit on Instagram? You are the user and you generated content for the brand.
- The blog post about the new cosmetics you tried and how you like them? It is user-generated content.
- The video that explains how you can use a software tool to accomplish a certain task? It is user-generated content.
Brands can put this content to work for them. They just have to know about this content and find ways to use it.
The easiest way to use this content is to share it on your social media channels, you can mention this content in your own content and you can even send an email to your subscribers using parts of the content as a quote or a link to the complete content.
The power of user-generated content
Content about products that has NOT been created by the brand/product owner has a high trust factor.
It is much more powerful if a customer says “Hey, this is awesome” than the product owner claiming that it is awesome.
I recently talked to a friend who had a blogger stay in their hotel and there was a discussion going on about whether it is worth the effort to have this blogger stay and then write about their experience. For me this is simple: if I plan a holiday and am looking for a place to stay, the decision will not be very much influenced by the hotel website as by the guest experience stories I can find ABOUT the hotel.
Prospects perceive user-generated content as more authentic and trustworthy and thus they are more easily influenced by UGC content than brand content.
90% of shoppers claim that UGC influences their decisions to buy. This makes UGC the most powerful marketing content before search engine content(87%) and promotional emails(79%).
Shoppers are also willing to wait longer(81%) and pay more(81%) for products that are paired with UGC.
Data Source: PRNewswire
But let’s take a step back and start at the beginning.
What is user-generated content?
What exactly falls into the category of user-generated content? and what does not?
User-generated content is content around a brand that is not created by the brand but by customers, users, clients, or other people somewhat associated with this brand.
The user-generated content is not paid for by the brand or at least the user-generated content should not be influenced by the brand via payments. But there is a grey zone in this as to how much incentive a brand is allowed to provide.
This is also where not all user-generated content is honest. Some people get paid for publishing a review or link to a product in their social media post but they do not disclose this payment. This content is not exactly user-generated content – but the consumer has no way of knowing if it is or not.
In most cases, the law asks you to disclose if you get paid for your post or content or not. For instance, you have to mark your affiliate links and thus it becomes clear that the content you create around affiliate products is paid in some way. You are also asked to mark your Instagram posts as advertisements if you get paid for posting them.
But since not everybody discloses a paid partnership, often the audience assumes that almost all content that mentions a brand or product is compensated in some way – or it is explicitly marked as “unpaid advertisement.”
User-generated content can come in many forms. Here are some examples:
- A Social Media post that mentions a brand or product – can be fun, it can be a competition or a review
- A Youtube Video that shows how to use a product
- A product review on a blog
- A testimonial
- A blog post
User-generated content for marketing
User-generated content can take the place of the modern-day word of mouth. But brands can do a lot more with it. Purposefully utilized user-generated content has tremendous marketing power. One customer voice says so much more than all the paid ads in the world.
This content can be used at various stages of your marketing or sales funnel to build trust and give clients a voice. On some stages of your funnel user-generated content has the power to multiply your conversions and make you a ton of money.
But not every piece of user-generated content is about sales. Sometimes it is simply about increasing reach on social media, and inspiring other people to talk about your brand and products.
UGC and the sales funnel
At each step of the sales or marketing funnel, you can utilize user-generated content.
In the awareness phase, you can use reviews, content that mentions you or your product, content others curate, and social media shout-out posts.
In the interest phase, you can use reviews, user stories, and testimonials.
In the decision phase, the best you can do is use testimonials – no matter how well you praise your product, a testimonial or a flashing review will inspire a lot more trust.
In the action phases, again testimonials will help a great deal. But here you also want feedback and work towards recurring customers. You can think about content like customer recommendations and reviews of other products.
Benefits of UGC
The main advantage of user-generated content is that it lets other people speak about you and your product. You don’t have to do all the praise if your customers help you do it – and the voice of your customers inspires far more trust than if you as the product owner are shouting again and again: My product is great, my product is great – buy it.
- UGC provides social proof – give your audience a voice.
- UGC can increase reach and audience on social media – reach their audience through their content.
- UGC can increase brand presence in search engine results – for many brands, the first results in SERPS include a couple of content pieces about them not created by them
- UGC can provide a new perspective, data, and new use cases – your users or customers talk about you and your brand from a different angle, listen to them!
- UGC can fill the need for more content in your content marketing with a new perspective and new types of content. Many brands struggle to create enough quality content. User-generated content is an easy way to fill the gap.
- UGC can take personalization to the next level, you can learn what is important to your audience directly from your customers
- UGC can help to build community. Join the conversation when others start talking about you!
But what makes user-generated content so powerful? It is authenticity!
According to a recent study by Nosto 88% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support and 59% of consumers say user-generated content is the most authentic type of content.
How do you find user-generated content?
If you did it right, people are already talking about you online – but you have to notice it. Here are some places and ways you can look out for user-generated content.
Watch your notifications on your social media channels – most of the time people will tag you if they publish content about you.
Do a search for your brand or product name in important social channels even if you are not using them: for instance, search for Youtube mentions of your brand or product
Set up a google alert with your brand or product name. Whenever Google notices a new mention of your set keyword they will notify you via email.
Watch your Google Analytics. Content about you or content that mentions you will usually link to your website. You can find these referrers via your Google Analytics.
How can you initiate user-generated content?
Yes, there will eventually be user-generated content about you and your products. But you should not wait for it to come into existence or you could wait a long time. User-generated content can help you grow when you are still small, you want to have user-generated content in your marketing funnel early on.
That means you should actively pursue it. There are some ways, you can inspire your followers or customers to create content for you.
But before you jump right in and ask your audience or customers for content, make sure you know what you want to achieve with the content.
- Set goals for your user-generated content
- Brainstorm content forms and types that would help achieve this goal
- Consider who would be the best person to ask for this kind of content
- Think about an incentive you could give for the content
- reach out
Once you get the content, make sure that you have permission to use and share this content
The best time and place to ask for UGC will differ. The closer and more personal the contact with a person you want to reach out to the better your chances of getting something:
If you have personal contact it is easier than from a digital customer to that you have never spoken to.
In a community, you may get many opportunities to talk to people about their experience with their product – if you already are in the middle of the conversation it could be easy to ask if you can use their story.
If you had a personal call or meeting and the customer is happy, this is often a great time to ask for a testimonial – I made the experience that many happy clients write a thank you email anyway and you can ask them if you can use excerpts from it.
On social media, you can initiate a UGC campaign byproviding an incentive and asking your audience to post some content around your brand. For instance, a brand for hiking gear could ask their audience to post a photo of their hiking gear on their next hike and one (or a couple) of the people who posted will win an item from the catalogue of the brand.
The more fun the contest for user-generated content is anyway, the less value you need to provide as an incentive. Sometimes the chance to be re-shared on your social media channels can be incentive enough!
User-generated content examples
You have probably seen some form of user-generated content in multiple places where brands, bloggers, and online creators are using it.
On Instagram, many creators use the product feedback they get in their Instagram stories. On almost any sales page you will find testimonies and even customer stories in text or video form.
You have probably heard of GoPro – or are even using one. GoPros are HD-quality, waterproof, video recording cameras.
A lot of their marketing is done with user-generated content. They have video channels on YouTube – today there are alsomany user generated channels around GoPros.
They also have real life events GoPro Creator Summit – you could only get an invite if you posted a selfie with the hashtag #GoProCreatorSummit.
Apple has been running the #ShotonIphone campaign for several years. 10 selected photos were featured on on billboards, Apple retail stores and online.
This is not a post about UGC examples, but I don’t want to leave you with the feeling only huge brands like Apple or GoPro can initiate a UGC campaign.
So here is a simple but effective evergreen hashtag campaign by a German hiking account (yes, I am German.)
Each year in the spring when winter snow melts but it is not yet summer in the mountains people have to face bits of snow on their hiking trails. The Instagram account @youareanadventurestory calls their followers to post their images of them conquering snow in spring with the hashtag #übergangszeit which means something like transition period. They repost these images on their Instagram stories. The hashtag now has over 1000+ posts.
There is no incentive for these posts – facing snow when you are already in summer mode is just so funny and annoying that people love to share their images with this hashtag.
Creativitiy can take you far!
Final Words on User-Generated Content
If you are actively building your community and providing value for your audience, there will eventually be some user-generated content around you and your brand.
If you really want to make this form of content work in your favor, you should think about ways to inspire more of this content and initiate UGC content that you can utilize for your marketing funnel.
User-generated content has tremendous power it is worth to spend some thought on how to get more of this powerful type of content.
Have you ever used some user-generated content? What was your experience with it?