Whether you make it happen via micro-influencers, customer advocates, or celebrity endorsements, user-generated content (aka UGC) is the icing on the cake when it comes to marketing on social media.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, user-generated content is a powerful form of engagement since it’s a two-way street. Brands connect with fans who organically show off their product. In return, the brand recognizes those fans, which usually helps to grow the fan’s following. Especially in light of the recent pandemic, UGC has redefined how brands and consumers engage with one another via social media.
This is why we’re here. Our aim is to help you convert your customers into raging advocates who provide a steady stream of UGC. However, before we dive into the following step-by-step guide, let’s define what user-generated content is and the dos and don’ts of sharing it.
What is User-Generated Content?
User-generated content is any unpaid or unsponsored social content that people share when they use or rave about a product or service. When your neighbor Tweets about an awesome experience at the new movie theater in town, they’ve just produced a piece of UGC. When your favorite brand reposts an Instagram story from a customer at an event they’re hosting, that’s UGC. Whenever someone shares a video on TikTok about finding the best chapstick ever, that’s UGC.
The way in which brands employ that abundance of user-generated gold is what gives the content its power. While UGC is organic, the reach of sharing and re-sharing UGC can go far for both the brand and consumer.
UGC isn’t always content that explicitly features a product. It can also showcase lifestyles or values that overlap with a brand’s ethos and audience. Energy drink powerhouse Red Bull is all about taking things to the next level and the UGC they share most certainly showcases just that.
Don’t Do This With User-Generated Content
When it comes to using user-generated content, you always want to exercise caution and never use any UGC without explicit permission from the creator. Brands will take images shared online without giving proper credit or ironing out an agreement with the creator.
You can avoid ruffling any feathers and make it a habit to ask for permission from the user before sharing their content. It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple snapshot or a meticulously crafted piece of work. It simply isn’t fair to the people behind the content to use it in any way when you don’t have their explicit permission. After all, it’s all about building trust and forming a two-way relationship that benefits both the brand and the consumer.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll need to pay for UGC. However, there will be instances where a creator does request payment in exchange for the use of their content. If you have any doubts, connect with your legal team before you formalize any agreements. If you are unable to compensate users, remove the content ASAP if you have already published it. I don’t mean to be a hater or anything, but if a creator requests an outrageous sum of money to share their content, then you probably don’t want to do business with them. After all, isn’t the whole point of social media to share content with the world? Anyways, you can collaborate with creators who are interested in sharing their content with you without any sort of formal payment or agreement.
Next, let’s explore a simple five-step process that will help you get the most out of your user-generated content strategy.
1.) Choose Social Networks that Will Impact Your Campaign
It’s important to know where your audience hangs out on social media. It’s also important to know where potential advocates carry the most influence. Take Instagram for instance. It’s great for sharing visual content, but you need to ask yourself if that’s the social platform where your target audience lives.
You’ll want to consider your audience and your goals when selecting a social network. According to a study conducted by Sprout Social, 86% of consumers are likely going to select a brand over a competitor if they follow them on social. That being said, it pays to be thoughtful when selecting a social platform. Remember, you not only deliver your content via social media, but you also need to engage with your audience there in a meaningful way. Doing so will help you stand out from your competition and forge long-term relationships.
Marketers need to look beyond their current social presence and explore where their consumers want to engage with them more. For example, when asked which platform they use the most, a large chunk of consumers point to Facebook, YouTube & Instagram as their top three social networks. Facebook is also the social platform where the majority of consumers (78%) state they follow brands.
So What Works on Each Network?
Just as you need to determine which network is best to meet your audience, you also need to identify which types of UGC perform well on each network. You also need to figure out how to present them based on each app’s culture.
This is an ideal avenue for sharing full video content and stories about your brand. You can use Facebook to post authentic and compelling content that will likely boost engagement. Facebook’s algorithm makes it difficult to reach users via organic content, so don’t rule out posting UGC as promoted content.
While the character count may limit each post, Twitter is actually a strong option through which you can share UGC. Twitter is an ideal platform for image-sharing. Similar to Instagram, Twitter is great when you let your visuals do the talking. If you host events, you should consider using this space to share a live Twitter feed for real-time coverage. You can also easily capture UGC to retweet. If you elect to use Twitter as a means of sharing user-generated content, make sure you make use of hashtags.
As the holy grail of image-sharing, Instagram is the ideal route for UGC. It’s vital that you know how to regram, employ Instagram Explorer, and discover fresh content using hashtags. Seeing products in action makes Instagram an ideal option for brands to get creative and connect with those who support their business. Reposting Instagram Story mentions is a great low-lift way to show off customer UGC. If you play your cards right, the user may even repost your repost, which will lead more of their followers to your page.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest network for professionals, so you need to vet any UGC you share here and ensure that it’s relevant to your brand’s goals. In short, you don’t post just any UGC here. Instead, you want to use LinkedIn to promote above-average UGC that aligns with your brand on a higher level.
2.) Establish Detailed User-Generated Content Goals
As with any other element of your content strategy, your UGC plan needs specific goals and guidelines in order to succeed. Yea, UGC is often casual in nature. However, brands can make the most of it and potentially build a healthy chunk of their content strategy around it. When done correctly, younger brands can encourage user-generated content and use it to fill out their content calendar.
Here are a few common user-generated content goals marketers establish to align with their broader social media goals:
Higher Brand Engagement
Likes and such are great, but setting engagement as a goal is a smart target for UGC campaigns. Seeing a sea of comments, likes, and mentions across your channels is a sign of success. However, you need the right social media analytics tools to benchmark your efforts.
Increased Conversion Rates
The intersection where user-generated content and social commerce meet is powerful. If you’re in an industry that is even slightly competitive, you know that people run to social media when researching their options. In fact, 53% of consumers engage with brands via social media to learn more about their products or services. Given that figure, it is clear that you can increase conversions with reviews, unboxings, and social takeovers.
Building Brand Trust
93% of markers concur that consumers trust content created by customers more than content created by brands. Based on that stat, it seems safe to say that people trust people. Whether you’re dealing with a slew of bad press or you’re starting fresh, building credibility is an important goal. So…how do you measure it? User-generated content confirms credibility with consumers, so you need to track keywords or phrases you know are associated with your brand. From there, you need to measure if people are giving more positive feedback via social or consumer review sites.
Educating More Users
You can start by tracking frequently asked questions and concerns that consumers mention on social media. By listening to consumer conversations, you can measure whether the same questions have been asked before and after your campaign. If you have the resources, influencers do a great job of slicing through the rubbish and providing a clear answer.
Save Time on Content Creation
UGC is a great way to save time on creating social media content. By aggregating hashtags, comments, and photos you can do all of your creative work in one place without having multiple platforms open at once!
3.) Let Your Audience Know What You Want
Roughly 50% of consumers wish that brands would let them know what type of content they want.
If you don’t flat out tell your audience to participate via user-generated content, you’ll likely never see any.
Whether you ask for images or customer input, your advocates need adequate guidance. It is essential that you’re transparent with brand rules and regulations when it comes to user-generated content.
There are a number of ways to request UGC – campaign hashtags and social media contests are two of the more popular methods. With a single hashtag, you can develop focused interest and encourage your audience to create content inspired by your campaign.
Make sure you check your hashtags and guidelines so that there is little room for error or audience confusion. If you fail to do so, you open the door for online trolls to do some serious damage. Be smart and make your persona and mission painfully clear. Don’t hesitate to ask for specific types of UGC, so that your fans can submit content that best aligns with your brand. When done correctly, you’ll quickly build a massive library of UGC!
4.) Collaborate and Focus on Building a Community
One of the best features of user-generated content is the way in which it sparks engagement and develops a strong community.
For consumers, receiving a mention or repost can be a real treat. One report states that 51% of consumers are more likely to engage with a brand and/or purchase their product if the brand shares its social content.
Those shares not only build a bridge linking the brand with the customer, but they also reveal your audience to new people and content. This creates the potential for content to go viral!
As a community manager, you need to develop a persona for your brand. You also need to connect with customers and advocates. User-generated content is the glue that brings new people together via conversation and builds bridges from those interactions to the brand. In the end, it builds credibility. When done correctly, you’ll likely guide users down your marketing funnel!
Whatever you do, don’t underestimate how important followers are to your social strategy. You want to go out of your way to treat them like royalty. Answer their questions, give them credit when credit is due, be there for them during product launches, and above all else, show your human side. Your audience understands that there’s someone behind the screen, so give your brand a personality. You need to see your social media interactions as an opportunity, not a chore.
5.) Analyze and Measure Your User-Generated Content Efforts
Wrapping things up, in order for your UGC strategy to work, you need to measure. Regardless of your goals, benchmarking is a must.
90% of marketers agree that data from social enables them to stay ahead of the competition. However, only 55% say they’re using social data to better understand their target audience. This statistic further supports the critical role that good reporting plays in your UGC strategy.
Don’t miss an awesome opportunity to engage with your audience because you missed someone posting with your brand in a hashtag. Yes, UGC can be tricky, but if you follow the game plan above, you can use it strategically.
Above all else, use this prime opportunity to interact with your audience and build a stronger community with your followers.