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User Generated Content or UGC has gone from an unknown acronym to one of the most efficient marketing strategies in the past years. From startups to enterprise companies, UGC is used every day to engage audiences and drive new revenue.
But what exactly is UGC, and how can you incorporate it into your next marketing campaign?
Read along as we break down different strategies, tools, examples, and incentives. After reading this guide, you’ll have a pretty good idea of where to start and what to follow for a successful UGC marketing campaign.
UGC in marketing stands for user-generated content. It defines the many types of content that users create regarding your brand, company, products, or employees.
UGC is usually one of the key component of micro-influencer marketing strategies. Learn more about how to build a successful strategy with our ultimate guide to micro-influencer marketing.
While the U in UGC stands for users, you can't expect them to produce stellar content that drives results without any input from your end.
Your main aim is to give clear indications and guidelines to your customers.
Many companies are hesitant to do this.
True enough, real people have become increasingly resistant to traditional advertising. It’s understandable why so many marketers hesitate to consider “pushing” customers to create a specific type of content.
That’s where UGC can surprise you.
More than half of your customers expect those clear guidelines, so don’t be afraid to create a content strategy that includes user-generated content too. And if you're creating an influencer contract, you're definitely going to need guidelines.
Things can get complicated at this point.
You can create a strategy for your content marketing campaigns and, if you have the right experience, you can predict its results with fair accuracy. The problem is you’ll have to share the reins of your UGC campaign with thousands of customers from all walks of life.
That brings us to the next point.
Your extremely diverse audience will create a lot of content and post it all over the internet. You need to find it and curate it.
Chances are, you’ll get a lot of valuable things that you can keep in your content library and reuse at the right time. You’ll also discover some unique insights about your brand.
Let’s say you’re selling scarves and you organize a UGC campaign. Your aim is to incentivize people to post pictures on Instagram wearing those scarves. To your surprise, you discover that quite a few young moms use your products as emergency slings for their restless newborns.
For example, many new parents will plan their errands during their babies’ nap times - but those little bundles of joy often wake up when you least expect them to. That’s when your scarves become essential to comfort and quiet the newborns.
Those unexpected uses flatter your brand, as they prove the scarves’ resistance, versatility, and stylish designs.
UGC does come with a risk, though.
Sometimes, your actual customers can post less than flattering content, even though you are completely careful about your guidelines.
That’s where the UGC platforms come in.
A UGC platform is software that allows you to:
So it’s essential to find the best UGC platform according to your needs.
For instance, you might need more than the content posted by run-of-the-mill social media users or customers. That content is excellent because it’s honest, unique, and intuitive. On the downside, many customers can post grainy or redundant images.
If you need more control over the creation process, choose a UGC platform that lets you:
inBeat is an excellent tool for finding the proper influencers from Instagram and TikTok. It helps you find the right people according to your brand’s personality and values, no matter your audience.
In return, you’ll get:
However, UGC created by influencers and brand ambassadors isn’t 100% user-generated.
Some UGC platforms allow you to focus just on content created by your happy customers so that you can use these tools to:
These software tools will help you organize and use your UGC content according to your campaign goals. And we all know that having a plan is essential in marketing—you can leave little off to chance if you ultimately want to drive purchasing decisions and increase your sales.
Now that you know you can use these platforms to organize an effective UGC campaign, you also know you can ask for specific UGC from your influencers, customers, or employees. Remember that this content will be published on the channels where your audience is most active, so the posts you’re getting have to fit that channel.
So what are the types of UGC to consider, and where is it best to publish them?
You can classify UGC content by its form into text, user-generated video, or images. You can also organize UGC by its content into customer reviews, testimonials, or product featuring.
At this stage, things are becoming more evident. For instance, you can’t publish lengthy product reviews on Instagram. If that’s your plan, you can use blog posts, YouTube video reviews, or e-mail marketing.
Customer reviews and testimonials are text-based, so they include specific arguments. Whether in video or written form, these reviews:
Product featuring is image-based, similar to traditional product placement in TV shows. For example, loyal customers/influencers post pictures or videos using your brand with no other arguments.
Here are two examples of products featuring from one of inBeat’s campaigns for self-tanning products.
1. One way is to use influencers that test your products and compose their texts. For instance, inBeat worked with YouTube influencer Carter Sullivan to promote Mogo.ca. Mogo is a mobile app targeting mainly Gen-Z-ers that allows people to budget their expenses, get out of debt, and win rewards in the process.
As you can see from the YouTube videos she created about Mogo, Carter is very passionate about this app. You can sense that she used it, so she knows all the app’s features and intricacies. As a result, she may recommend this app to her viewers.
Psst: you can read more about MOGO and other brand ambassador examples here.
Of course, you can write your influencers’ script for them, whether they’re posting on YouTube or other platforms, but that wouldn’t be 100% UGC.
Here’s an industry secret.
Reviews that contain some genuine disadvantages are more credible—the heavy emphasis is on “genuine.” You can’t say things like, “oh, this product is too beautiful or too well-crafted for me.” You have to accept that your brand ambassadors will showcase your brand/products in all their raw glory.
2. Another way to get reviews/product featuring is by soliciting them from your customers. Use the channels where those customers are most likely to see your request, from Instagram to TikTok or personal e-mails.
You can promise your customers something in return:
For example, the incentive for a review can be a gift card.
We already discussed some UGC examples in this article, but the list is virtually endless.
Just look at this contest organized by Trivago back in 2017. The brand asked everyday people to post an original photo with their favourite hotel for the chance to win $500.
Sure enough, the post got 37,663 views and thousands of posts from social media users promoting hotels from the Trivago offer.
So with just $500, Trivago got:
The contest first started in 2012 to celebrate Lays 75th anniversary, but it has been revived over the years. For example, the 2021 competition addresses college students over 18 years old who will take part in creating a new Lays flavour for the chance to win a five-figure prize.
The participants have to pitch a new flavour for these chips and design the bag. The judges choose three flavours that become available in stores. Then, customers can vote for the winner.
The massive prize of this campaign is part of its success.
But that’s not all of it.
You may not have this kind of budget, but you can still arrange a similar contest. The secret is to involve customers in your creation process, thus showing them how much you value their input.
Of course, you should also give them the recognition they deserve. People who create UGC are often more interested in that recognition than in monetary prizes.
This campaign had people post their original photos wearing swimming costumes or lingerie. Aerie promised to donate $1 for each of these photos to the National Eating Disorders Association.
The initiative worked: 251,801 people posted their photos. The brand got a lot of recognition and strengthened its association with the concepts of natural beauty and body positivity.
However, keep in mind that Aerie ran a UGC awareness campaign, not one to increase sales. Its purpose was to position itself as top of mind in people’s mental hierarchy regarding lingerie brands that promote body positivity.
Since people feel connected to brands that share their values, this ultimately leads to more sales.
As you can see from the examples above, UGC is influential because it allows you to:
This broad list of benefits ultimately leads to more sales.
As you can see from the examples above, UGC is a cost-effective way to reach multiple marketing goals. You can get user-generated content through:
In the end, you’ll need to employ specific incentives to get more people interested in doing these things for you.
As seen in the examples above, many brands offer their customers monetary rewards to participate in their UGC campaigns.
Here are some incentives you can use:
So what will you do with your UGC?
The UGC library you’ve created will help you for years to come. You can repurpose that content however you like, within your website or social media channels.
You can also curate it to create infographics, e-mails, PowerPoint templates for your potential customers, ads, well-designed flyers, Instagram stories, jingles, and so forth.
Remember: don’t leave user-generated content to chance. Make sure you have a thorough strategy and that you’re very precise about your goals. You need to start with specific variables and follow clear performance indicators to evaluate the final results as you’d do for any marketing campaign.
By contrast, a poorly thought UGC campaign can bring you the other type of recognition—aka bad publicity.
To get the results you want, choose the best platforms and tools for the job. You can try the inBeat influencer database for free and see for yourself.