Consumers these days have become blind to ads and marketing efforts. It is said that for every 8 seconds a consumer is blasted with an ad. These ads come in the form of tv and radio ads, digital marketing ads and billboards.
It has become ever harder for businesses or brands to get the premium attention of clients. This leads to them coming up with even more expensive and crazy ad ideas.
Although there has been a change in the way of getting people’s attention. And this has nothing to do with the great brand ideas, but it has everything to do with the users. Users these days are the ones pushing out products and service without the affiliated brands intention. They do this through user-generated content.
This form of advertising has become a powerful tool in that it increases sales, engagement, and brand loyalty. Nielsen advertising report says that 93% of users have been influenced by user-generated content. In their busing decisions.
If you are to ask yourself, who will you believe or who would influence you more, a big-name brand or your friend. The obvious answer is from friends. Personally, many of the products and services I have bought or used are because of someone’s recommendation.
I normally do research on any item I need to buy, l look at the technicalities and the specs to ensure it fits my bill but before I purchase the item I look for reviews. I always check what people have said about the product or service. I buy faster if it is a friend who recommends. When I notice that the review is sponsored, I skip it.
As a business, I would highly recommend reducing your budget on glossy ads and start looking for user-generated content.
Let’s define user-generated content.
User-generated content, or UGC in short, is any form of unpaid or unsponsored content that is posted by users across different networks about a specific brand. These forms of content are:
The content is produced by users for users without any involvement with the business associated with it.
1. Benefits of User-Generated content
It is now well known that the consumers are the biggest content creators, and many businesses could use that content to their benefit. Many companies were at first skeptical to using UGC because they are afraid the consumer doesn’t properly address the selling points of the products or services.
Another issue that came about is that some consumers didn’t have the right equipment in terms of cameras to be able to properly share their feelings towards a company.
These challenges are easily overcome by properly guiding consumers on what type of content they should post and through technology. The advances in phone technology means consumers can make better quality videos.
Here are the main benefits of using UGC:
There has been a big push for authenticity in the recent months. Gone are the days of perfect photos and videos of women who don’t have stretch marks. People have realized that this causes social anxiety and depression amongst teens.
As such many digital marketers are moving away from high end studios to look for content that is more appealing. What is more authentic that photos or videos taken by an amateur who is only doing it to educate his or her friends.
It is said that clients believe UGC 2.4 more times than the materials produced by companies. And if the companies use UGC, 63% of consumers would rather buy from them. The consumers want to relate to the person who is talking about the products. An everyday mom, dad or friend who is advocating a product in a way that isn’t perfect or paid.
After authenticity comes trust. The internet has proven to be a place where trust has been completely eroded. Even if you are to think of the simplest example an image of food. The food images are doctored in such a way that they aren’t the real thing being shown.
There are many cringe worthy stories of people who have bought the wrong thing on eBay or Amazon because they thought it was something else. As such very few people trust what they see.
Many companies all over the world try to build trust with their potential clients. But it has proven to be a toll order. Especially in low trust societies like in Kenya. So, anything a business can do to increase its trustworthiness it does.
UGC makes a big difference in building trust and confidence. People know that a UGC post is from someone outside the company and has absolutely nothing to gain by posting either favorable or unfavorable comments. With that many people tend to believe them.
Secondly people who positively respond to UGC is because they know the person personally and they trust their opinion. So, the brand is extended trust.
People these days don’t trust business they trust the people who run the business. Or the people who use the businesses.
The best customers are not only the repeat buyers but the ones who also talk about what they have bought to their friends. These are brand advocates, and they are highly prized to each business.
When they talk about a business on social media, they are either telling people who already know or don’t know the company. This offers tremendous brand value as they are marketing for the brand without being asked to.
Through UGC, companies can take advantage of the positive electronic word of mouth to present its products and service in a genuine way.
If UGC is used in the company’s content strategy, the consumer who spoke about the product will be flattered because of being featured. This will encourage him or her to make more content to talk about the business. This increases brand level enthusiasm and customer loyalty.
Brand desire is often created through UGC, making people to experience the products or services for the first time.
All marketing efforts are driven by one thing – to make conversions. The conversions could be sales, downloads or providing your information but the main purpose of marketing is to get you to do something.
UGC helps in improving sales and providing a higher ROI by showing people who are considering to buy the products or services that is ok. For example, people who aren’t sure how a certain piece of clothing won’t fit well can be easily convinced by seeing someone else with the same body size sporting the same clothing.
UGC normally addresses most of the concerns and objections that prospects normally have. With this unbiased advice, prospects are encouraged to buy. For example, if an item may seem expensive and there is UGC saying that it is worth the penny then it will be seen as value for money.
UGC increase sales by 80% after providing social proof that people like the product and service. Someone who is on the fence will eventually be motivated to hit the “add to cart” button.
Builds a community
UGC helps builds a community. By nature, human beings are social creatures and want to belong in one group or the other. When a person sees that there are people talking about things, he or she likes aka “Their tribe” they quickly join.
If in this case UGC talks about stuff that the person is interested they are predisposed to join that community and finds ways to add on to it. UGC increases the chances of people coming together and sharing tips and tricks about a certain product or service.
Companies know the value of belonging to a community and they would love to create “their community” with their clients. This way communication will be more of one on one rather than broadcasting to a group of people. Also, the members get to talk to each other and help one another buy more from the business.
Naturally this humanizes a brand and makes it easier for other people to buy from them.
Social media managers know how difficult it is to get engaging content. There are even instances of burning out because of lack of creativity. UGC helps to solve this problem in a unique way. As there are already people talking about the business. The social media manager can repurpose that content for their posts.
There is an endless source of visuals, and texts on social media to fill a content calendar.
It is very expensive to come up with content on a consistent basis. This involves hiring production crews, actors, content creators and all that jazz. Even in digital marketing, stock images must be bought every so often for the glossy ads.
UGC saves a lot of money on this because it is unpaid or unsponsored content. This means the business needs to ask the original creators for a chance to use the material for free. More often than most the content creator will agree.
The best part is this can be done repeatedly because users are always creating content for their followers for free.
UGC posted by your clients open doors to new clients. UGC is social proof that what you are selling is working for them and will convince other people who have never known your brand to buy from you. UGC is posted to their followers who may have not heard of you and you might not know ways of targeting the same users.
This is a huge benefit as it expands a brand’s digital footprint. Reaching places, it wouldn’t have been possible without the users.
2. Collecting User-Generated Content
Here are a couple of tips to get your clients or potential client so provide you with UGC and how to get them:
One of the easiest ways to collect User-generated content is by using hashtags. All social media networks have a provision for hashtags, and they know that when used they can bunch up content for the hashtags.
The trick comes in encouraging users to use a specific hashtag for the business to easily find them. This can be done by using a particular hashtag on the bios, campaigns, or channels. For example, Mukuba Consultancy would use #digitalmarketing. When someone wants to talk about the business, they can simply use the hashtag.
Secondly the name of the business can be used as the hashtag. Going back to my previous example – Mukuba Consultancy would use #mukubaconsultancy. Users who see this hashtag knows that the business is being talked about
Thirdly business can use signages to encourage users to use a particular hashtag. For example, when in the physical store there can be signs that tell clients to use a certain hashtag for example #shopedatgalleria. This also works well for events in that participants are told to use a certain hashtag to tell others that they are attending the event.
All these make it easier for the social media manager to collect and curate the best hashtags and to repurpose them for their own social media content.
Contests are the best way to grow an online presence, boost user engagement, increase web traffic and getting User-generated content. The competition could tell the users to take a photo or a video of any product or service that is being used and post them on their social media. This would also involve them tagging the brand or using a particular hashtag. It should be noted that this works with visual based products or services.
It has been found that many online users are into competitions, and they are not in it to win the proclaimed prize but to have fun with their friends.
This provides the company with free UGC to use in their social media campaigns.
You should note that Facebook and other social media channels are clamping down on contests and you should follow the rules for you to be eligible to run them.
This involves look for user-generated content by browsing what people have posted on social media. This would involve searching for the business name, hashtag, and location. There are times when people post items on their socials and the network decides to tag them.
When you are social listening, you should note:
- Who is sharing the content – parents, teens etc
- What is being shared – products or a certain product
- Where is the sharing done – in store, at home
- When is it being shared – time, season?
- Why the content is being created
- How are they sharing content – videos, articles, posts
Reviews and testimonials
Out of all the user-generated content out there, reviews are the most important. The reviews are an honest unbiased opinion about a product or a service by users. These help other prospective clients who are undecided to see whether the item or service is good for them.
It is said 80% of people use customer reviews to see whether the product is a god fit for them.
Reviews can be done on:
- Brand website
- Third party sites like yelp, trip advisor etc.
- Google my business
- Facebook reviews
Reviews reassure customers of product quality, reliability and increases conversion rates.
Testimonials are similar to reviews but go a step further. In testimonials the user states a problem he or she had and how the product or service was used as a solution. They mention the pros and cons of the solution and why it is much better than any other option that is out there.
If a picture can say things in one thousand words, then videos must speak in volumes. There has been a great shift from articles or posts to video content. People are more visual these days and social media companies are encouraging users to create videos.
Platforms like TikTok and YouTube are big because of the videos that are produced over there. More and more companies are moving to encourage videos in their platforms. Instagram introduced IG reels and twitter has its own versions.
As most users prefer videos, then user-generated content in terms of videos are highly welcomed. People will get to see authentic content from real people and would help boost engagement.
Videos can be in the form of
3. How to encourage audience UGC strategy
Since you know how to collect User-generated content, the next step is how to get your clients to post about their content on social media.
The simple most direct way to get user-generated content is through asking. Although this isn’t as simple as it sounds because from my experience people seem to forget easily. As such you have to find a way of asking a lot of times while at the same time not becoming annoying.
Social media is more robust now and many people are sharing content all over. They are already doing it with your brand, but you don’t know if they are doing it. By asking them, you can get them to tag your business or use a specific hashtag for it to be easily gotten.
You should inform your users that you are looking forward to seeing how they use your products or services online and would love to hear their experiences.
Like I mentioned earlier that many people are already posting about your products without you knowing. In this case when you are browsing social media sites for the mention of your business and you find someone has inadvertently done so, you can acknowledge the post. This can be done by saying thank you for buying our product or service.
You can publicly thank them by reposting the same post and tagging the users by saying thank you. Or we value you.
When the user notices that you have thanked them for their post, it will encourage them to post more about your business and even buy more from you. There is a feeling of reciprocity, in that when you do a nice thing to someone the person feels obliged to do one back.
User-generated content strictly refers to unpaid or unsponsored posts. But at the same time when you want to encourage more people to create UGC, you can reward people who have already created it. The rewards can be small things like gift vouchers, amazon cards nothing that would break the bank.
The recipient of the unforeseen gifts are highly treasured by the original content poster and would make him or her post more items about your business. Even third parties when they see someone has been randomly rewarded for creating UGC will make them to do the same thing.
One of the best aspects of user-generated content is the ability to create communities. When a person sees a post about something he or she would like to have or use they from a mini community. Human beings like to form social grouping with like minded people.
When you encourage UGC through reposting, you inadvertently form a community of users. It will be your job to manage this community to make sure they are properly being served. By creating this community, you are amplifying the consumers voice and by doing so you make each member to feel valued.
When they feel valued, they tend to speak more about your business and are comfortable sharing your business to their tribe.
4. Best practices
People who create their own content have legal rights to it. When you would like to use user-generated content for your content marketing you are required to ask for permission from the original creator. This has two added benefits:
- It prevents potential legal problems in the future
- It enhances good faith, in that the user realize that you are acknowledging his or her work. This makes them post more about your business.
There are some influencers who are hoping to get paid for the content they produce. If you are to use their content without their consent this could lead to potential problems.
Credit original creator
Everyone wants to be acknowledged for the work that they do. Even users who come up with user-generated content. If you are to use the UGC on your various social media channels they would like to be credited for their hard work.
Crediting could involve tagging their username on the post and claiming that this was created by so and so. You can mention that the visuals or texts were all done by a certain individual.
There are times when you find great content on Instagram that would also like to share on Facebook. In such instances you should ask the original creator to give you their Facebook handle so that you can properly credit them.
In the end this leads to the original creator to feel appreciated and listened to. Also when other people see that the UGC is from an actual person it tends to increase its authenticity.
If you are going to use user-generated content you should have a plan for it. Once you have come up with a strategy to use the UGC you can go ahead and inform your users what kind of content you are looking for.
For example, you can use UGC for different stages in the buying cycle. You can use content for top of the funnel stage like general awareness of the product and bottom of the funnel stage when you talk about technical specifications.
The irony is half of the consumers who create UGC would like to be provided guidelines of what they should produce. Only 16% of businesses tell them what to do. You should tell your content creators what you would like and how it would be used.
This means that you have to know what you want and how you will use the content in your marketing strategy.
Without being clear with your audience how will they know what they should produce. Without a clear direction, you might get UGC that cant be repurposed or worse yet internet trolls take control of the narrative.
Its important to consider which platform to repurpose the user-generated content. You should post the content where most of your clients are. For example, if your data tells you that you have a bigger following on Instagram than on Facebook. Most of the content should be posted on IG.
Not all platforms are created equally and have different kinds of audiences. You should post your content where you will feel you will get the best results according to your goals. After getting the results that you want, you can add another channel to your marketing mix.
The type of UGC also matters. In that visually based UGC would do well on IG, Twitter, and Facebook. While on the other hand testimonials and reviews work well on emails, websites and LinkedIn.
If you find great UGC on a certain platform, it is sometimes best just to repost it over there. For example, seeing a great IG post would be better placed by keeping it on IG.
5. Challenges to UGC
User-generated content like everything else comes with potential challenges. Here are a couple of problems that you could possible face:
Rights or permission
Sometimes it is a challenge getting permission to repost UGC. The original owner of the content might not be available or may say no. Also, you might think he or she is the person who came up with the idea until you find out the person copied from someone else.
If you are to find the original creator, when asked to reuse the content, the person might ask for payment. This is not feasible as your business doesn’t have funds to pay all the UGC.
UGC is meant to be authentic. Smaller brands might not be able to get enough users to post about the business. The brands might try to convince users to create UGC but if they don’t feel like doing it, they won’t do it. Hence, in the end you might end up with too few posts to make an impact.
On the other hand, major brands might have too much UGC, and it might be a challenge for the social media department to collect good quality UGC. This involves message each user, downloading and then uploading the content. This ends to be very time consuming.
Not all users have great phones to capture the products properly. Also, they might now know how to take great pictures. Its normally a challenge sifting through numerous posts just to find one or two maybe good ones.
The main problem or opportunity for UGC is that is very unpredictable. When a user posts UGC it could go viral or at the same time fail miserably. The response to UGC is completely out of the marketers’ control.
Another thing to think about is the people on the internet. Not everyone on there is a nice person and behind the keyboard they tend to be very cruel and mean. These people are called trolls. These trolls can take over UGC and turn it against the business and not giving it desirable results.
User-generated content is a powerful marketing tool that can make a big difference in a businesses’ bottom line. UGC show that a company is authentic, trustworthy, and thus increases sales.
UGC lets followers express their honest views about a brand and in turn the brand can see what the customers like and what they don’t. This will at the end of the day increase business as the brand will do more of what the consumers like and less what they don’t like.
UGC is free content that can be reused that will get more engagement, followers, and exposure.