Have you ever posted an unboxing video on your YouTube channel or TikTok? Or tagged a brand when you posted a picture on Instagram? Or written a review for a restaurant you love? If you answered yes to any of those questions, congratulations – you are a user-generated content creator!
Generating marketing content can be a time-consuming and expensive process for a business, which is why user-generated content is quickly becoming a crucial component of digital marketing campaigns.
Why is it so effective? It’s easy to trust – it's much more authentic compared to influencer content or agency-produced campaigns. It's a natural way to build brand awareness and solidify brand identity. It also creates a community centered around your brand, who are likely to become loyal customers.
What is User-Generated Content?
User-generated content (UGC) is original, brand-specific content produced by users of your product or service. It is most commonly created by customers, but employees are also a great resource for generating UGC. User-generated content is typically shared by users on social media – images, videos, ratings, reviews and testimonials are all examples of user-generated content.
Nielsen’s Consumer Trust Index shows that 92% of customers trust user-generated content more than traditional advertising.
Authentic user-generated content is highly personal and typically captures a candid moment in the life of the creator. By showcasing these moments, brands can blend themselves and their customers into one, and strengthen their relationships with customers in the process.
What Makes UGC Such a Powerful Tool in Digital Marketing?
The Authenticity Factor
User-generated content is produced by a real person (not a paid influencer or advertising agency) and is a powerful way to showcase authenticity.
Influencer marketing is rapidly losing its power to, well, influence the purchasing decisions of other consumers. According to a survey conducted by Entribe, 85% of recipients found influencers to be inauthentic and/or unrelatable, and just 21% reported influencer-created content positively impacting their perception of a brand.
USG demonstrates that there are real, live customers enjoying your brand. Naturally, we trust UGC because it’s authentic content created by people who have nothing to gain from providing a favorable impression of a brand. When it comes to inspiring trust in your brand, user-generated content is the next best thing to a personal recommendation from a friend.
Acts as Social Proof
Think about the last time you purchased something of value. Once you had the purchase in mind, you probably checked the online reviews to see what other people had to say about it. Why? Because consumers rely on their peers to give honest feedback about their experience with a company.
Social proof cannot be created by a company – it must be created by your customers. It’s the modern equivalent to word-of-mouth marketing – real, relatable, satisfied customers who have organically decided to spread the word about your business.
Action camera company GoPro is famous for its user-generated content. Their Instagram account features exclusively user-generated content – and has almost 20 million followers. GoPro’s main hashtag, #GoPro has 49 million posts – social proof that millions of people are excited about their product and sharing that excitement with the world.
Creates a Community Around Your Brand
Another thing UGC is especially good for is building community among your customers. Humans naturally gravitate toward people with similar interests and they love to share stories.
Every time you share user-generated content, your brand’s story is told and expanded on. In this way, user-generated content helps your community build on itself. By including your customers in the growth of your business, you’re making them a part of something bigger than themselves, something dynamic and real. You’re proving you value their input as a member of your brand’s community.
What better way to create loyal customers than including them in your ‘in group’?
Creative Strategies for Generating UGC
Once you’ve decided that leveraging user-generated content in your digital marketing strategy is a good idea, there are almost endless ways to get it.
Start with checking what’s already out there. Search for hashtags of your business's name or your most popular product. There’s a good chance that (to some extent) you’re already out there in the user-generated content world.
If you don’t have a hashtag already working for you, that’s ok – it’s easy enough to get one going. You could start with something straightforward, like the name of your company. Or get creative – find something that will resonate with your audience and adopt that as your hashtag. Outdoor gear company The North Face has almost 30 million posts on Instagram under their hashtag #neverstopexploring.
It takes time, but there are things you can do to help your hashtag gain traction. Be sure to display it prominently on your social channels. If you have a brick-and-mortar location, hang some signs encouraging your customers to create content and share it using your hashtag.
Create a contest where the participants tag their photos and the winner gets a small prize. Give a discount to the first 20 people to share your flier on their Facebook page. Contests are an area where you can get creative -- use them as an opportunity to demonstrate an understanding of what motivates your target audience!
Ask for Reviews
Help people help you – ask for a review! Make it as easy for them as possible too. You could send them an email with links they can click on to go directly to the review platform, as Eternity did in the example below. Or use your social media platforms to remind your customers how much you value their feedback.
Don’t forget to thank your customers for their reviews – showing you appreciate their input is key. Recognizing customers for taking the time to leave a review can go a long way toward increasing your total number of reviews. Customer reviews have the added benefit of boosting your visibility on Google, leading to more organic interactions down the line.
Start a Conversation
Ask a question on your social media channels to get people talking, and incentivize them to respond. Create a contest that encourages people to share their experience with your brand – think “Strongest 6-Word Story” or “Photo of the Day”. Make it easy for your customer by providing sample content, hashtags, and details about how you'd like them to participate so they don't have to start from scratch. The more creative you are in asking for user-generated content the more likely you are to get customers and social media followers engaged.
How to Leverage User-Generated Content
Once you have a good collection of user-generated content, there are almost endless ways to integrate it into your marketing campaigns.
Feature your reviews on your website. Eternity has an exciting new widget that pulls Google Reviews and Ratings and displays them on your website. There are options to filter to show only 4-5 star reviews and allows website visitors to add a review with one click to your Google Business Profile.
If you don’t have access to a widget like this, no problem – pick a couple of your favorite reviews and display them on your website. If your business sells specific products, feature product-specific reviews as part of the listing. A testimonial from a happy customer is great for highlighting the benefits of your product!
Repost your customers’ social media content on your social channels. Not only does this show your followers real-life, happy customers, but it’s also a great way to build your hashtag pool. Sharing your customers’ social media posts shows other customers that they too have a chance at having their photo or video featured on your page.
Feature your customers’ content in your email marketing campaign. Choose a high-quality image or video and pop it into your email. Incorporating user-generated content into your email campaigns is a great way to make them stand out. It’s also a great way to build brand loyalty – a thoughtfully designed campaign rooted in UGC will leave customers feeling engaged and appreciated by a business that truly values their opinions.
Use it in your Google Ads. With UGC, ads become more authentic and natural because the visuals are familiar and relatable. Watch how the ads perform to gain insights into customer preferences and see what resonates with your target audience. As users become increasingly skeptical of traditional, polished advertisements, user-generated content adds a bit of authenticity to PPC ads. This helps attract users, increasing ad relevance and conversion rates, and ups your ads' creative appeal.
However you decide to use it, always ask for permission (and get it!) before sharing user-generated content!
Ready to Develop a UGC Strategy for Your Business?
User-generated content is undoubtedly the next big thing in digital marketing and is already revolutionizing marketing campaigns across every industry. It’s cost-effective, authentic, and engaging, and can be easily incorporated into your marketing strategy. There are many great ways to acquire it and endless ways to maximize its potential. Are you ready to see what user-generated content can do for you? Let's connect!