Every brand page on Instagram calls for tons and tons of content, which requires constant work and posting several times a week, if not daily.
But how can you cut down on content production? You could post content created by other people!
This is called user generated content, or UGC. Apart from giving you great visuals created free of charge, UGC can be a great asset for brand marketing.
By showcasing UGC you are showing your subscribers that other people are interested in your brand and will promote it and mention it on social media. That alone can be good for branding.
You can also leverage UGC to increase brand awareness.
Want to learn how to do this? Hop in, and let’s dive deeper into UGC.
Understanding User-Generated Content
Let’s start with exploring what UGC is and looking at some examples.
User generated content is any content that is created by somebody other than the marketing department for your brand.
So a photo of your product that a customer shares in a story, or a review on a small blog are examples of user generated content. Even content that is encouraged by your marketing department can be UGC, provided other people create it — influencers or people participating in a challenge.
Examples of UGC
UGC can exist in multiple forms. But wouldn’t it be easier to understand if you could see some examples? Exactly! So let’s take a look at what UGC looks like in practice.
Reviews. Your existing customers can post a video or a photo of them using your product and review it. This is far more convincing than a review on some platform, whether it be your website, Google, or Yelp because posting on your own social media is as authentic as it gets.
One interesting way reviews are made online is by recording unpacking videos. Here’s an unpacking video by a person who isn’t an influencer. The odds are, customers will trust this type of video much more than one from a well-known influencer or one created by the brand itself.
Testimonials are comments your clients leave about working with you. Most likely, a testimonial is going to be solicited by the brand, but it’s still pretty authentic because other customers get to hear the person talk. Testimonials can be written (a quote given over email or a screenshot of your chat on social media) or recorded on video.
It can also be quite short but concise. For instance, this testimonial is just a customer commenting on the aesthetics of the gym they’re attending.
Posts with your product. Some customers may take photos of your products and post them online because they think they look good or they want to give you props. These kinds of posts generate conversations online and introduce other users to your brand. They can also be reposted onto your page to act as social proof.
Stories. With many social platforms embracing the short-lived post format, some customers will post your products and tag your account in one of their stories. Reposting these on time before they disappear can be a challenge, but it can serve as a constant stream of engaging content, making the authors of the stories feel good, and entertaining the other customers.
Behind the scenes by employees. Not all UGC is created by your brand advocates and loyal customers. Your employees can create content as well. If an employee of yours likes taking pics of behind the scenes processes like packing orders or making the products, encourage them to tag the store account and share the photos. It can build a more intimate connection with your audience.
Here’s an example of a brand sharing behind the scenes content from their suppliers.
Sponsored content. Some content about your brand can be paid — you can reimburse an influencer with a payment, free products, or a partnership of sorts. As long as it clearly shows it’s sponsored and the influencer creates quality content, it’s a great deal.
Online mentions. A part of user generated content comes from outside social media. It can be mentions of your brand in conversations on public forums like Reddit, links to your brand from blogs and articles, or brand reviews by independent reviewers. All of these also boost your brand image.
The Benefits of UGC in Brand Marketing
Reposting user generated content sure looks good, but does it add anything of value to your brand? There are three main areas of brand marketing that benefit from UGC.
Let’s explore them one by one.
Building Trust and Authenticity
The most important element of branding that UGC can bring to your business is authenticity. Forrester research shows that 71% of consumers want to back brands they perceive as authentic and feel more confident about purchasing from said brands.
While you can make your brand look authentic online with your brand voice and positioning, nothing says authenticity like friendly interactions with customers. Encouraging your customers to produce UGC and reposting it shows others that people trust you and like your brand and your products enough to boast about them on social media.
This creates a positive brand image of a trusted and authentic brand. In fact, 85% would prefer to see content from customers rather than influencers.
Basically, UGC is a win-win all around where you give people who create content around your brand the recognition they want, show your subscribers your human side, and benefit from a better perception of your brand.
UGC also helps brands with engagement and reach. Naturally, user generated content is more interesting to consumers because it’s authentic, so engagement is going to be much higher than with something brands create on their own.
The research data backs it up. For instance, micro-influencers receive 7 times more engagement compared to influencers with a larger subscriber base. When brands use UGC in their general messaging and advertising campaigns, the results are promising as well.
Toyota increased ad engagement rate by 440% when the company started using UGC in their ad campaigns. It’s obvious that content created by genuine customers is more convincing to consumers.
Increasing Online Reach
Apart from engagement rates going up, UGC can also increase your organic reach both on social media and in organic search. Users creating posts and stories that feature your brand’s products and tag its account introduce new users to your brand.
It’s far more authentic and engaging than when influencers do it because people tend to trust their friends more than people with a financial motive behind their posts.
When people talk about your brand on their blogs and link back to you, you get double the benefits. First, you’re profiting from organic conversations around your brand as users are being introduced to your brand. On top of that, you may get a backlink, which boosts your SEO and helps your website rank higher for all the keywords it targets.
You can monitor which websites feature your brand and website with a specialized tool like SE Ranking’s backlink monitoring tool. This tool tracks which websites link back to you, assesses the quality of those websites, and monitors the number of backlinks you gain or lose. It allows you to identify influential UGC contributors and assess the impact of UGC on your website’s search engine rankings and overall online visibility.
Source: SE Ranking
You can use the lost links metric to reach out to the websites that deleted your link and ask them if there’s a chance you could get it back.
Enhancing Brand Storytelling
Brand storytelling is a narrative about your brand. You can tell it on your own, but consumers don’t tend to believe a one-sided perspective. What can really sell your brand is when other people are talking about it — sharing photos and situations from their life on social media.
This shows the human side of your brand, how your clients are interacting with it. If you’re sharing photos and videos that your employees make, you’re also showing what your business looks like from the inside.
A recent study shows that 61% of consumers prefer to shop with brands that treat their employees fairly. So sharing UGC from your employees will let everybody know your employees feel great.
Strategies for Utilizing UGC in Brand Marketing
You already know what UGC stands for and why you should use it. Now let’s explore how you can get more user generated content to work with.
Encouraging UGC Creation
The very first problem you might run into when dealing with UGC is actually having it in the first place. Few people are so active and outgoing online that they would take a photo or a video of a brand’s product and tag the brand in it. So our first task is to encourage customers to create more content about you.
Here’s how you can do it
- Provide stellar customer service: Your brand advocates are the smallest category of people in the sales funnel, and the way customers become advocates is by receiving great service. So make sure your products and support are so good that customers want to share their feelings, review, and talk about you.
- Explicitly tell customers to share: It’s kind of obvious, but some brands forget about this! Tell your customers either on your social media page or as a part of your email marketing efforts that you appreciate them sharing their experiences with your brand.
- Repost or comment on UGC: This is the most important thing you can do to encourage sharing. People love being given credit and simply being noticed, so once users start seeing reposts on your account, more and more UGC will be created.
- Give a monetary incentive: This is a more direct way to encourage UGC. Offer customers a small discount or a free product for giving you a shoutout. It’s best if you incentivize honest opinions about you, whether they’re positive or negative.
- Run a branded hashtag: Creating a hashtag that can become popular is hard, and often may cost you more than simply giving discounts for shoutouts. But it’s sure to produce more of a buzz.
Here’s an example of a hashtag that a relatively new brand created and is getting traction with. This hashtag has users post a silly picture with the brand’s product and the brand will donate $10 to a charity program.
Curating and Showcasing UGC
This brand also does interactions with users — they comment on almost all photos with the hashtag, even those of regular folks with very few subscribers.
Giving credit to the creators, acknowledging them, and interacting with them is a sure way to encourage them to create more UGC and get more benefits from it.
So make sure you’re reposting or liking their stories, commenting on their posts, and sharing the most interesting ones.
However, you shouldn’t do so blindly. As you probably already know, some people love to say mean things online. So if you repost every picture that tags you automatically, you’re guaranteed to post something incendiary, offensive, or inappropriate.
Share UGC generously, but curate the content that you post to avoid making your brand look bad.
Leveraging UGC for Social Proof
Many mentions of your brand online can be transformed into social proof that can be featured on your website or added to a folder on social media for reference by potential customers.
Some posts will be a lengthy review or an unpacking video, others may be just a brief comment about something the customer liked about your brand. Sometimes, customers will send you a private message with words of gratitude.
All of these can be used as social proof instead of regular testimonials. Arguably, they can be even better as social media posts are much harder to fabricate, and in the age of dishonesty online, it gives consumers more confidence in your brand.
Sometimes, even negative social media reviews can be turned into a marketing asset. Here’s how this apparel brand does it.
This brand used negative reviews and suggestions about them not carrying a specific kind of product to announce it.
Collaborating with Influencers
User generated content that is created by people who genuinely love your brand is priceless. But getting publicity from working with an influencer isn’t something you should shy away from.
A collaboration like that can expose your brand to anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of views and potentially a new influx of customers. Especially if the influencer is launching a branded hashtag with you.
A good idea is not to curate the content they produce too much and let them create something that can truly be called UGC. Give them your product, explain it, and let them do their thing.
It’s tempting to put words into influencers’ mouths, but it may not be that effective. As consumers crave authenticity from the brands they trust, having a micro influencer put out an overly corporate message won’t work.
However, if they give their honest opinion in their unique style, it will come off as authentic and not forced — even if the influencer ends up criticizing your product a bit.
Best Practices for UGC Usage
Let’s finish up with some general advice on how to use UGC effectively.
The first rule of using somebody else’s content on the internet is explicitly asking for permission. Sure, in most cases, people who post content centered around your brand want to be recognized and given a shoutout. But it’s still a good idea to ask for permission just in case.
Asking for permission really has no downsides and ensures you’re not breaking copyright law and makes the content creator feel good for talking with their favorite brand.
Monitoring and Moderation
Monitoring and moderating the content that has your account tagged or has your branded content on it is also a great practice. As some people just want to be online trolls, you may end up having a few haters that you don’t want to engage with.
What do you do with this sort of content?
- First of all, review the content before reposting it, otherwise, you may end up embarrassing yourself by reposting something inappropriate.
- If the content you see is against the rules of the website you’re on or is extremely hateful, go ahead and report it. You don’t want to see anything like that associated with your brand.
- If the content isn’t breaking any rules but is generally negative, you can simply ignore it. You can’t really do anything about it, but you don’t have to engage.
- If your brand voice is more on the informal side and you think that the content is aimed at poking fun at your brand and not to offend, you can engage in silly banter with the creator. Just make sure nobody’s feelings get hurt in the process.
Tracking and Measuring Results
And lastly, as in any marketing activity, you have to track and measure the performance of UGC content. Create custom reports to monitor how well user generated content performs as compared to other forms of content across these metrics:
- Engagement such as likes, comments, or shares
- Conversion rate
- Brand sentiment
If one of those metrics is lagging behind, you should go to the platform where the content is posted and try to analyze what’s wrong. For instance, you may find that sharing a regular-looking UGC post as a story works better than reposting it, or vice versa.
Track UGC across the internet as well — the number of backlinks to your website, the websites that link to you, and whether there’s a conversation about your brand. Doing this not only shows you the amount of buzz you’re generating but may also let you build relationships with the websites that create content about you.
When a brand produces beautiful and well-put-together content it shows a sense of taste and entertains subscribers. User generated content that may not look as polished shows that customers trust you.
That’s something no marketing department can fake. And that is exactly what consumers want in this digital era.
This makes UGC a powerful tool for brand marketing. When the story you tell about yourself, the way your brand interacts with the customers, and the stories the customers tell about it match perfectly, you will gain a level of consumer trust no other brand can compete with.
Encourage your customers to share moments they have with your products, tell stories, and post something they deem funny or aesthetic. Give credit where credit is due, and measure the raw data that comes out of these human interactions.
This will make your business stand out in the crowded online space and build a small but powerful community of brand advocates.
Amaiya Rathi is a Senior Content Writer at RecurPost. She helps RecurPost communicate with their readers in their own language. Whether it is the web copy, social media posts or blogs, Amaiya has worked on all aspects of copywriting. You can reach out to her at [email protected].