User-Generated Content: Why You Need to Take Advantage of It
Marketing today is more than finding your ideal audience. It’s also about the user experience, and one of the best ways to create buzz around your brand is by utilizing user-generated content. User-generated content (UGC) is also commonly referred to as user-created content and is just what it sounds like—content that was created by your users.
The content can come in several different forms, including:
While UGC may seem like another marketing fad making its rounds, that couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Remember, marketing is about the user experience.
Consumers absolutely do not want to be sold to anymore. In fact, more people are turning to the internet to research products and services than ever before, and their number one place to turn to—fellow consumer reviews.
Recent studies have reported that around 91 percent of consumers searching online for new products or services are reading other people’s reviews. Furthermore, of those consumers between the ages of 18-34, 91 percent of them state that they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from their friends or family members.
Therefore, small business owners need to take the time to invest in user-generated content. Here are five reasons why your company should add user-generated content to your marketing strategy.
1. It’s Cost-Effective
There is much debate on just how cost-effective UGC can genuinely be, and that’s because businesses don’t always have 100% control over what users post about their products and services. It is the internet, after all, so trying to stamp out every negative review is impossible.
However, that shouldn’t deter brands from making user-generated content a regular part of their marketing strategy. It is cheaper to collect UGC than it is to create a unique piece of content in-house; there is no doubt about that.
It is especially true for those small businesses who believe that more traditional marketing methods are the way to go, including direct mail and printed materials.
Let’s look at direct mail advertising, for example. The method of marketing has been around for a long time, and many small businesses choose to go this route, especially when building their local credibility. While it’s not a bad method by any means, a small business needs to be careful with how they use their limited marketing budget.
Now, the costs associated with direct mail advertising can and will vary depending on your design process, cost of materials, and on how long you plan to run your promotion. On average, this marketing method can cost anywhere between $1 to more than $10 per contact or piece of mail.
With user-generated content, the work is done for you. You simply have to ask for permission to use the content, and in most cases, users are more than happy to submit their content to be viewed by everyone else. It can typically be done at little to no cost to the brand.
2. Increase your ROI
Along the same lines, when you make cost-conscious decisions that have a positive impact on your brand, you’re also increasing your overall Return on Investment (ROI).
Let’s be honest; even more substantial businesses can find themselves with a low marketing budget. That means making every dollar work for you, and user-generated content is one way to make the most of what budget you have.
Since most brands don’t pay for UGC, it can honestly give brands the most bang for their buck. Take the multimillion-dollar makeup empire, Glossier. What started as a beauty blog soon became a makeup empire and the owner, Emily Weiss, attributes her growth to her “hyper-engaged fanbase,” and estimates that her brand owes 90 percent of its revenue to them.
User-generated content helps drive engagement, which then helps to increase a brand’s visibility and authority in the market.
3. Creates a Sense of Community
User-generated content is a great way to build a community around your brand’s product or services. Think about it: while scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, how many times do you come across someone boasting about their favorite product? It happens daily, and brands would be silly not to take notice of it. It’s why many big-name brands make use of social media to promote their products.
Take the brand Calia by Carrie Underwood. The country music star already has a massive social media following, and when she launched her activewear line, she asked her users to share photos of them wearing the product while using the hashtag “StaythePath.”
Now, when users search the hashtag, they can see photos of not only Carrie Underwood, but all her fans that use the Calia activewear line, many of which fall under the “real people,” category. This is how a digital community is created and how internet users find like-minded individuals and interact with each other.
4. Builds Brand Awareness
Along with forming a sense of community amongst your audience members, user-generated content also goes a long way in building overall brand awareness. Word of mouth has long-since been an essential part of a brand’s marketing strategy. Thanks to the internet and social media, that word of mouth can go so much farther than ever before.
5. Builds Your Overall Credibility & Authority
Remember, consumers trust online reviews, and testimonials just as much, if not more than personal recommendations. User-generated content helps by utilizing this habit for the benefit of your brand.
The more user-generated content you’ve got, the more social proof there is to offer your audience. The social proof also helps you prove that your brand’s promises aren’t empty phrases being thrown around for the sake of a sale. The reason for this is that most of your customers are considered unbiased opinions. Consumers want those opinions because they are more genuine than claims from the brand, and the more backup you have from your clientele, the more credible your brand will become.
How to Encourage User-Generated Content
Now that you know why your business should be utilizing user-generated content, it’s time to talk about the “how.”
Asking for user reviews is a common challenge for any size business, so going about asking for user-generated content can be just as challenging. The first thing small business owners should do is get out of their head. Yes, the anxiety can be genuine, but remember, this is to help grow your business, so it needs to be done. More so, your customers want to have a voice! So, asking them will benefit both of your needs.
With that being said, here are a few ways to gather user-generated content for your brand.
Everyone loves a good deal or freebies, so utilize different incentives to help you gather user-generated content. Now, incentivizing doesn’t always have to be giving out free products, money, or discount codes. Many individuals on social media share their opinion simply because they want to build their reach, so offering to share their content on social media can be a massive incentive.
Contests are another great way to encourage engagement, especially when they come with a fun incentive.
Be Honest & Transparent
Honesty goes a long way in business, and being open to your audience around the concept of reviews and testimonials is essential.
It means telling your following why you are looking for user-generated content and what purpose their information will serve. If consumers know you’re asking them for reviews and commentary to help honestly spread brand awareness, they will respect you that much more and watch the social proof begin to flow.
Allow Your Users to Be Independent
A massive part of being honest and transparent is allowing your customers to be independent in creating their UGC. While giving them guidelines is okay, it doesn’t always turn out the way brands hoped.
An unfortunately famous example is that of Scott Disick, who simply copied and pasted an influencer marketing post to his millions of Instagram followers. Instead of having a post that read, “Keeping up with the summer workout routine with my morning booteauk protein shake!” it read, “Here you go, at 4 pm est, write the below…” followed by the caption.
This type of mistake can be entirely avoided if you allow customers the independence to post their honest opinions and thoughts.
Prompt Conversation on Social Media by Asking Questions
Remember when your elementary school teacher said to never stop asking questions? Well, it applies here as well. If you are looking for quality customer engagement, one of the best ways to go about it is by asking questions on social media.
Take this example from Wax and Wick, a candle store out of Chicago that was looking to gear their marketing efforts towards men. The company decided to turn to the social media giant, Reddit, to ask for some helpful tips and tricks from the community.
Since they were honest about their struggles marketing to men and sought the help of a broader community, they not only received valuable feedback but gained some potential new leads in the process.
Always Ask Before Taking Someone’s Content
Ask, and you shall receive—don’t ask, and you’re likely to receive some not so happy feedback. While many of your customers will be more than happy to allow you to use their content, there are a few that may feel as if you’re violating their privacy if you share without their consent. So please, make sure you always ask for permission before sharing anyone’s posts.
Real-World Examples of User-Generated Content in Action
User-generated content is more prevalent than you may think, especially amongst some of the biggest brand names out there. Here are a handful of real-world examples of user-generated content in action.
Coca-Cola: Share a Coke
Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign is probably one of the most successful examples of user-generated content around. Not only did this campaign take off because of the brand’s use of personalization by adding names and popular phrases to their cans and bottles, but they encouraged their following to share the love by posting photos of themselves once they found their name on a bottle or their favorite saying.
On Instagram alone, they have over 663,960 posts that make use of their #shareacoke hashtag, and that doesn’t even include the many variations of the hashtag that have been personalized further by followers.
Lays is another excellent example of getting users excited about creating online content in the name of their brand. Their #dousaflavor may not have the sheer number of posts that Coca-Cola’s campaign does, but the user-generated content is still excellent.
This campaign lets the voice of the masses be heard when it comes time to create a new Lays potato chip flavor, and fans seem to have a lot of fun creating their social media posts for the campaign.
The Apple iPhone is one of the top competitors in the mobile world, and they know it. To show off just how much their phones have evolved, especially in the photography world, they encourage users to use their #shotoniphone hashtag. Again, on Instagram alone, this hashtag currently has 8,315,735 posts from the Apple iPhone community, giving the brand a plethora of social proof that their phones are top-notch.
Calvin Klein: #mycalvins
Calvin Klein goes by many different slogans. The “In my Calvin’s” slogan is a popular one among social media users but has since evolved to #mycalvins. Since updating the hashtag, the number of social media posts on Instagram alone went from 44,833 posts to 728,190. A jump like that is nothing to overlook.
The Bottom Line
Marketing methods are changing every day, thanks to the need to stand out among the masses of competitors in every industry. With more consumers heading to the internet and to online reviews to make their purchasing decision, brands would be silly not to consider user-generated content when beefing up their marketing strategy moving forward.