Social media is one of the most powerful tools in building a brand’s trust. Though many brands have a marketing strategy to manage their social media accounts, not all of them think of adding user generated content (UGC) strategy to their plan.
So, what is UGC? User generated content refers to any type of content created by users on social media—text, images, videos, and other digital content. Why develop a strategy and go beyond simply reposting the user’s content? Having a UGC strategy helps brands to plan various UGC campaigns, monitor their performance, and minimize the risk of failure.
Content generated by users is trusted 12 times more than advertisements spread by a brand. Millions of users on each platform can provide you valuable customer engagement because it’s accessible and highly visual. Moreover, sharing your users’ content allows you to build brand authenticity and engage with your audience. And according to stats, 90% of customers believe that authenticity is important and affects their decision about which brands to support.
What are the key benefits of using UGC in your marketing strategy?
Establishing a trustworthy brand
Making your brand trustworthy is an important goal for each company. Whether you provide a service or a product, your audience wants to know what they are going to buy before they get it. So sharing your customers’ feedback or reviews allows you to show your brand from a user's point of view. It helps build trust for your brand, engage your audience, and reach new customers. For example, 30 percent of millennials would not go to a restaurant if it doesn’t have an Instagram account and customer reviews. Such consumers don’t want to spend their time and money in a place that might not be what they are looking for.
Boosting conversion rates
UGC helps customers at the initial stage of choosing a product. While deciding between similar companies, a potential customer will do their research to find out more about your brand. That’s why you should think about providing your customers with reviews, contests, stories, and other social media content to increase conversion rates. Getting more user generated content significantly affects your potential customers: over 80 percent of people say UGC has a high impact on their purchasing decisions. It works especially well on Instagram with graphic content. Various competitions, hashtag campaigns, influencer’s reviews of product giveaway are designed to drive purchases.
Getting higher brand engagement
In our age when customers value authenticity and transparency of brands, user generated content has become one of the most trusted pieces of information. Even if your company is being active on social media, that alone is not enough to raise brand awareness and reach a wider audience. But UGC campaigns help to get more users, comments, and likes that will lead to new customers and followers. Plus, when users trust the content, they tend to share it with others.
So, how to inspire your customers to create content about your brand? First of all, to run an effective UGC campaign, you should know your audience, where they spend time, and what interests them. Moreover, you have to understand what social media platform is more suitable for your content. For example, Instagram works great for images, especially, Instagram carousels, as well as hashtag campaigns, while Facebook is better for curated content. To get a better understanding, check here what Buffer suggests for each social medium.
5 ideas for getting awesome user generated content
#1 Run a hashtag contest
Since everyone uses hashtags, you just have to make your audience choose the right ones. They are extremely valuable to your brand as they help to categorize your content and reach new audiences. And a hashtag contest is a simple way to boost your account and promote the brand. For instance, on average Instagram contests get 3.5 times as many likes and 64 times more comments than regular posts.
How to run a hashtag contest? Let your users be creative. 76% of customers say they trust content shared by “average” people more than content from the brand itself. When starting a hashtag contest, think about what content your audience would prefer to like and share. Don’t forget to inform your followers of what content you expect from them. It’s important to give them a clear understanding of your idea for the hashtag contest. Then, create a hashtag for a particular campaign. By using specific hashtags and popularizing them, your followers can push your hashtag to trend. This will help to enhance engagement with your target audience, build brand awareness, and, ultimately, boost sales.
Create hashtags that are easy to remember and aren’t difficult to spell in order to ensure success. Preferably, they should consist of one–two words. Customers would rather use simple and easy to type hashtags than long and complicated words. It's also important to use your branded hashtags that set you apart from your competitors.
Let’s look at BMW. They run a hashtag campaign called #BMWrepost and let customers publish and share photos of their cars. Then, BMW reposts user generated content on their page. As a result of this campaign, BMW has reached 27.6M Instagram followers and is the most successful automotive brand on Instagram.
This company has gone successfully because car owners want to show off their beloved cars and demonstrate their loyalty to the brand. The best part is that it costs minimum efforts to the brand as all the photos and creative ideas come from users.
#2 Offer rewards
Nothing is more attractive than rewards for a simple action. Motivate your followers to write a review by offering them a reward for their efforts. It only takes a few minutes to shoot a photo or take a video so it’s quite easy to encourage your users to participate. You can also offer them to be featured on your social media accounts, website, blog, or somewhere else. Before starting a campaign, take the time to check what your users write about your brand. Make sure that you share their content even if they miss your brand hashtag. Offering rewards for the things they’re already doing ignites an organic and spontaneous response that even the most expensive marketing campaigns can’t easily accomplish. User generated content is tricky, but if you use it right, you can turn it into your brand’s advantage.
For a good user generated content example, take a look at Loews Hotels’ #TravelForReal campaign. They noticed that guests shared a lot of vacation photos and tagged the hotel. To reward them, the hotel reposted their guests’ photos and received a lot of engagement. In addition, real photos of the hotel instead of posed ones increased the brand's authenticity and promoted it.
Unlike contest prizes, rewards don’t always have to be expensive. Reposting a tweet or a photo and tagging the author is a great reward in and of itself. These simple gestures are enough to provide your most engaged fans with the social recognition that they deserve. It will make them feel like part of your brand and also entice new followers to submit their content as well.
#3 Allow users to test your latest offerings
If you already have brand advocates and loyal customers, then this method will work well for you. Invite them to test your new features, products, or services before the official launch. Then, ask for their feedback in any format you like and share the most positive reviews on your social media. This kind of user generated content will help you raise interest in your brand and in the upcoming launch of a product or service.
For example, Burt’s Bees, a cosmetics brand, shared a customer review on their new Men's collection. This helped boost followers’ trust in the products and the brand itself.
#4 Support a Cause
Another way to build trust for your brand is to support a cause that aligns with your brand’s values. This shows that your company has a greater aim than just making a profit.
Take a look at the example from the Aerie, American brand of lingerie and sleepwear. They launched an #AerieREAL campaign that changed the life of many women. The brand wanted to support women’s self-esteem and pledged $1 to the National Eating Disorders Association for every Instagram user that posted an unedited photo of themselves wearing a bathing suit. The campaign has moved even further, featuring women with vitiligo, Down’s syndrome, and more. It empowers a lot of women to feel more comfortable and confident about their bodies.
#5 Ask a question
Want to know your audience better? Then ask them a question. It’s a simple way to generate more content and boost growth. Engage with your users, listen to their answers carefully, and keep the conversation going. Think about the topic your audience wants to talk about and frame a question. Most importantly, don’t forget to keep up the engagement and thank your fans for participation. Building a long-term relationship with your followers helps to transform them into loyal customers who make repeat purchases from your brand.
For instance, Starbucks combined asking questions and gamification elements. This way, they engage with their audience and reach new customers by involving them in a game. Gamification might be a good add-on to your post as it requires minimum efforts from the user but has an element of fun.
Today’s savvy consumers prefer to know everything about the brand they choose. The more humanized your brand is, the more powerful your user generated content will be. Keep in mind that your followers are extremely important to your online presence, so build relationships with them and reward them for their efforts. Don’t search for a one-size-fits-all approach for gathering user generated content: answer users’ questions, give them recognition, be there during product launches, and show your human side.
It’s vital that your followers know there’s someone sitting behind the company’s account, so humanize your brand and give it a personality that engages. And by using your customers’ content, you can create a trustworthy and authentic company image as well as tell an engaging brand story.