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If you look back at the history of advertising, there is one theory that stood the test of time: you have to put your customer first.
This holds true both when designing a product or service and when marketing it. Remember that communicating what you’ve done is equally important as doing it.
So here’s a statistic that can influence the way you communicate with your audience:
90% of consumers trust user-generated content (UGC) over traditional advertising when it comes to their purchase decisions.
Today, we'll show you what UGC marketing is and how you can use it today in your business. But first...
User-generated content is the type of content that users generate about brands - as opposed to the content that you would create yourself as a business. But that leaves more questions:
These users should be your actual customers, and they should give genuine feedback about your brand. For example, whether the workout routine you have helped them get in shape, or computer hardware improved the device's performance. The content they generate should be anything but fake.
Your target should be to get branded content that’s clear, informative, funny, but also insightful and inspiring. This can include photos, videos, social media posts, and customer reviews.
Once this form of content gets to the original users’ audience, they’ll see your brand in a new light and hopefully, drive them to purchase.
Here’s how that happens:
Consumers have hierarchies of products in their heads – their go-to products for showering, traveling, dining out, etc.
Traditionally, brands had to work very hard to change this hierarchy. Marketers wrote entire books on strategies like challenging the winner vs. challenging the brand above you. Brands invested lots of time and resources to figure out this hierarchy in their customers’ minds and then figure out ways to advance.
But user-generated content is a way to bridge the gap. It builds consumer trust and makes hierarchies vanish.
And it’s only natural: of course, you’d trust someone you know or word-of-mouth over a clever slogan. And of course, any potential customer out there knows deep down that brands’ communication is driven by the goal to sell more products.
When people feel the tiniest whiff of lack of authenticity, they’ll back away from your products. This is why UGC is considered to be the future of marketing.
At this point, you can stop and protest if you feel you have a genuine connection to your audience. But here’s another interesting stat:
While 92% of marketers believe they’re making authentic content, only 51 percent of consumers say they feel this authenticity. This is why your actual customers are your best salespeople.
So, let's see how you can build this trustful, authentic connection with your audience to get social proof and boost engagement by becoming number one in their mental hierarchy of brands.
Here are some things you can consider for your content marketing strategy for user generated content.
Bluehouse Salmon – one of the inBeat’s clients – is the best example of powering your content calendar with UGC. If you look at their Instagram page, you’ll see that they use UGC to create almost all their social media content calendar.
Here’s why UGC works for businesses such as this one in the hospitality industry:
Conversely, happy customers will find new ways of deconstructing and representing your brand.
These posts under the #bluehousesalmon hashtag show incredible recipes that you can use with salmon. There are almost 700 distinct ideas of meals using one essential ingredient: organic salmon.
So basically, loyal customers can work their magic and fill your content calendar with unique, inspiring, and authentic posts.
One of the most significant problems for brands is attracting an audience of non-customers that aren’t by nature interested in their products. So when you build a user persona based on your brand’s values and personality, you notice that the pool of potential customers is pretty limited.
But here’s the thing: user-generated content will widen that pool of customers quickly, taking your brand to new markets you didn’t envision at first. Along with this, you can use virtual phone systems or email to provide great customer support.
Let’s take it this way: when your friends are going to the same sushi bar all the time, you’re going to go to that sushi bar too. And even more weirdly, you’re going to start loving sushi.
You can create brand desire on social media with UGC by using tactics such as: repetition, eliciting envy, FOMO (fear of missing out) and a feeling of belonging to a certain group. And lastly, give followers something they can identify with by creating UGC templates at Wepik—an online editor tool that lets you craft original images from scratch. With this tool, you can create images that are perfect for your brand and use them on social media or even print them out.
So even if other people create that user-generated content, you have to organize it and repost it on your social media accounts.
Phone Loops is an excellent example in this case. Even if the product is pretty basic – just loops you attach to your phone so that you won’t drop it – the massive visual content around it has lifted its symbolic status.
So Phone Loops has moved up from a practical accessory that makes taking selfies safer.
Now, this simple cord represents beauty, style, fashion, but also traveling and adventure.
Fitnessblender is an outstanding example of building brand loyalty. They started as a small team of two – husband and wife – posting free fitness videos. Their unique selling proposition was to cut through fitness fads like fast diets, exhausting challenges, or 5-minute miraculous workouts.
Thousands love their down-to-earth, work-smarter-not-harder approach.
People who were let down by aggressive approaches and false promises found a safe space in Fitnessblender.
This platform continues to evolve thanks to their community:
So, in the span of a few years, Fitnessblender has grown to offer paid subscriptions. They also hired specialists with culturally and professionally diverse backgrounds that appeal to more communities.
Pro tip: They call their audience “Fitnessblender Family,” which shows you the importance of naming when building a brand community. The idea of a family is compelling because you identify with the family members and subconsciously exclude those outside of the family. The way your inclusion combines with outsiders’ exclusion is a form of co-creation that brings a special status as a group member.
Here’s how to do that:
First, ask for customer reviews in your emails. Underline how important their opinion is for other people, but also don’t forget to thank them for being part of your tribe.
Second, ask for customer photos. You can use incentives, such as making those photos part of a collage or automatically enrolling people in contests.
Kickstarter’s campaign is a great example here because they’ve used this UGC request in their email marketing campaign instead of just posting it on their website.
And of course, don’t forget to add that content in your other emails. E-mail marketing becomes more potent if you feature actual recommendations from real customers.
Here’s an example from Dollar Shave Club:
The users generating the content we keep talking about are probably massive fans and loyal customers. They’ve tried your products and know all their intricacies, plus they can come up with unique ways of using those things.
That’s how you can use UGC in e-commerce:
Take advantage of their unique visions and encourage posts that highlight different uses.
Let’s say that you’re selling scarves that are both durable and stylish. So, you can encourage loyal customers to send you photos that emphasize these qualities.
For instance, parents can show how they improvised a sling from one of your scarves to carry their 5-year-old who hurt their foot on a hike. Also, a young student's bag broke because she was carrying heavy books around campus. She fixed it using your scarf without ruining her overall look.
Use people’s unique outlook and suggestions in your communication.
User-generated content is technically content generated by users. However, you can include pieces of their branded content in your messages or even construct those messages starting from their suggestions.
You’re a driving instructor and own a YouTube channel. You post regular videos about driving techniques, special maneuvers, and tips.
Theoretically, user-generated content would be people sharing your videos, posting pics at your school, or filming themselves while following your indications.
However, you can also:
Basically, these suggestions are hybrid UGC but still a powerful form of communication.
Now that you know how to use user-generated content, it’s essential to know how to collect it. Here are a few great ways to get started.
95% of people buy products based on reviews, and if a product has at least five reviews, people are 270% more likely to buy it.
Stats like these show you that honest and competent reviews are the key to any purchase.
So, incentivize your customers to give you as many reviews as possible. Then, organize and publish the most relevant comments.
For example, you can include their product reviews:
How do you get people to post these reviews?
Consider incentives like coupons, reward points, gift cards and contests.
Remember to use incentive keywords and CTAs in your review requests. Also, if you get negative reviews, be polite and lighthearted.
Pro tip: You can even include negative reviews in your UGC strategy if you have a higher risk appetite. For example, you can point out that many people have highlighted a specific problem and how you plan on fixing it. That approach generates more buzz, but it can also increase awareness of your downsides. So, make sure you fix that “bug” quickly after first mentioning it.
2. Hashtag Contests
A hashtag campaign elicits consumer engagement as it gets people hyped up about posting things about your brand. After all, the race to win a particular prize is always exciting.
For example, you can spur people on posting photos and videos with your products using a specific hashtag on social media.
The more people use this branded hashtag, the trendier it becomes.
And, as you know, repetition and building a community lead to more conversions.
Here’s what you want to remember if you’re going to build brand awareness and increase your sales:
Of course, the larger the prize, the more posts you’re going to get. For example, fashion designer Marc Jacobs ran a massive hiring campaign on Twitter and Instagram, asking people to post photos of them under the hashtag #CastMeMarc.
People felt the excitement, and so that UGC campaign saw about 15,000 social media posts within a day.
Gamification means asking people to complete some tasks so they can receive a particular reward. As a result, you’re turning user-generated content into a game that has:
As people compete for more prizes, their brains release dopamine – the reward hormone. That’s how you create easy customer engagement.
Besides, this technique can become a building block of your long-term relationship with your customers. That means they’ll be more likely to think of your brand when they make their purchase decisions.
Yes, user-generated content is technically free because other people create that fresh content for you and by their own accord.
If you’d pay for UGC, you’d probably have to use scripts or pre-planned photo shoots. And that’s not UGC anymore. That’s influencer marketing, or micro-influencer marketing, based on influencers' following count.
Here’s the thing:
That type of content isn’t 100% free because you still have to use some resources to include UGC in your marketing efforts.
For example, you have to pay someone to:
Consequently, strategizing and managing user-generated content is what will end up costing you.
But how do you do that?
User-generated content marketing starts from respecting some best practices. If done incorrectly, it can go bad, so make sure to:
Even if you’re not explicitly tagged, those posts can be gold. That’s how you can find excellent posts that you can repurpose.
Even if you don’t repost something, try to find its core unique insight or perspective. Every feedback is a lesson. Your audience’s language can teach you something about their values.
For example, fans can teach you new uses for your product. Their photos can be completely opposite to what you’ve envisioned, proving your assumptions about your brand are different from their perspectives.
Enable two-step check-out because you want them to act on them quickly once people have made those purchasing decisions. So, make sure that the check-out process runs smoothly.
Pro-tip: you can evaluate collaboration cost with influencers with our calculator.
Traditional advertising is much less convincing than a well-thought UGC campaign. User-generated content is basically online word-of-mouth; it's perceived as more authentic and increases trust in your brand. It's about sharing and building a sense of community around your product or service.
So how can you reap the benefits of UGC marketing, such as higher conversions and engagement? The whole process of including UGC in your marketing strategy can seem complicated, but it doesn't have to be. To save precious time and seamlessly manage your UGC, get started with a UGC platform such as Inbeat!