If you wonder how to boost your marketing efforts and grow your business, user-generated content can be the answer.
User-generated content is an important part of content marketing. It’s been used for a long time now, it’s not something new – but it is here to stay. And its power grows stronger and stronger with time.
It is not just because it raises the quantity of content you have to provide to your audience, it has much more benefits than that. Having customers sharing their experience with your products or services strengthens people’s trust.
Adding user-generated content to your content marketing strategy leads to a greater reach, more sales, and happier customers. People have more trust in a business if they see real experiences, real human beings satisfied with the products rather than just seeing advertising from the business trying to sell.
Now let’s see what exactly user-generated content is, what types of user-generated content you can choose from, and how you can use its benefits to your advantage.
What is user-generated content?
User-generated content refers to any type of content that was created for free by users. It can be images, videos, GIFs, posts, comments, reviews, or even testimonials.
User-generated content is basically word-of-mouth recommendation.
Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth referrals. Even in the digital world, word-of-mouth referrals are extremely powerful. And it is logical if you think of it. Which one has more chances of convincing you to buy something: the advertisement of a brand or a friend’s advice regarding a product from that brand?
There are many reasons why people might engage in creating content for business.
It can be because they enjoy the community as there are link-minded people that they can have interesting conversations with. It can be because they have a lot of knowledge on the subject and enjoy helping others or they like to feel validated (who doesn’t?). They might do it just for fun or for the prizes involved.
The reason behind users engaging in content creating is dependent on the business. To find the best way to engage your audience you have to pay attention to your audience’s reactions.
What triggers their response? What makes them wanna be part of the community?
Use of user-generated content
UGC can be used differently from business to business, but it has the same thing at its core — users.
User-generated content websites
There are websites sustaining themselves through user-generated content, like Facebook and Quora. All the content these platforms carry is user-generated content.
Quora is one of the best examples when it comes to user-generated content websites. Quora is a huge community where people ask questions in different areas and other people respond to them. As a user, your answers have direct consequences over the content quality.
Why do users enjoy being active on the topics? Well, one of the main reasons for this is social validation. People like to affirm themselves and have others validate their opinions. It is a human need.
Other examples of top user-generated content sites are:
UGC as part of content marketing strategy
Even for businesses not based solely on user-generated content, adding UGC as part of the content marketing strategy is a big win.
UGC can mean stuff that is already part of a website such as comments, reviews, and testimonials. User’s opinions, thoughts, and reviews bring value because of the opportunity they give you to collect insight and data about your audience.
Another successful way to implement a user-generated marketing strategy is by engaging users to share how they interact with your product. Convince users to send images or videos of them using your product.
You can engage people into sending content by setting up campaigns, making them have fun and share something exciting, or you can organize a contest so they will have something material to win from it.
User-generated content examples
One of the best examples where user-generated content took over the world is the campaign Coca-Cola introduced. When they first started selling personalized bottles with people’s name on them, everybody started to be excited about the idea no time. And there is no wonder, having a bottle of Coca-Cola with your name on it or with a customized message is fun.
Coca-Cola asked customers to share pictures on social media with their personalized bottles through the Share-a-Coke campaign. This transformed customers into brand ambassadors which led to an extremely successful campaign. It generated more sales, expanded social reach and all the success was built through free advertising.
There wasn’t even a prize involved, people shared pictures because they had fun, they enjoyed the experience.
Great deal, isn’t it?
Another successful example of user-generated content is Starbucks’s #whitecupcontest. Starbucks initiated a contest for its customers, asking them to create art on the white reusable cups. The winning design was used to produce a limited edition Starbucks reusable cup.
In order to join the contest, all you had to do was draw on the cup, take a picture and post it on social media with the #whitecupcontest hashtag.
Simple and fun.
Another type of user-generated content is what the people at Hootsuite did. They implemented the #hootsuitelife hashtag over the company. Now, the employes all over the world share pictures that show company’s culture.
The culture Hootsuite was built on is fundamental to them. Sharing pictures about how employees live and what activities they engage in gives more transparency about the company and strengthens the relationship with their audience.
Why user-generated content works?
There are many reasons why user-generated content works and shows amazing results, increasing engagement levels and turning leads into customers.
The main reason is the trust it gains for a brand.
For a better overview, let’s take a look at some statistics.
One study showed that the majority of Millennials are influenced by UGC more than any other information on a company website, news articles or advertising. 86% of Millennials feel that UGC is a good indicator of the quality of a brand, and 65% find UGC to be more honest and genuine than other information they find online.
Statistics from Ipsos Millennial Social influence Study also shows the importance of user-generated content in users’s life.
- Millennials spend 30% of the social media time on UGC
- UGC is 35% more memorable than other media
- UGC is 50% more trusted than other media
- UGC is 20% more influential on purchase than all other media types
User-generated content benefits
It puts the customer in the spotlight
Taking care of your specific audience is a must in your marketing strategy so it can be successful. Customer-oriented businesses do best, and this is because it’s a win-win both for the business and the customer.
If the business pays attention to its customers, then it will be able to deliver quality content suited to the audience’s needs. This means higher engagement levels for the business and better content for the audience.
Moreover, user-generated content creates communities. UGC makes users feel that they have influence over the community and of course people enjoy being seen as an authority.
Pushy sales tactics are long gone
Pushy sales tactics used to go well for a while but, as any forced advertising tactic, it reached its saturation point. People got tired of continuously being punched in the face by heartless advertising, so they got used to ignoring it.
Instead, people crave for real connections. They want human interaction, they want to hear stories.
In today’s world, stories are the ones who sell.
If you didn’t think user-generated content have anything to do with SEO, think again. UGC can influence SEO marketing in more ways.
UGC can directly boost your rankings as it gives you fresh and new content. Search engines love updated and original content, and this exactly what users are giving you through UGC. Be it comments, ratings, or posts, user-generated content keeps your website alive and updated, which is a big white ball in Google’s eyes.
Furthermore, UGC is a goldmine for keywords and ideas. UGC is the best place to find long tail keywords to use in your posts. Pay attention to what people are talking about, what problems they are struggling with, what kind of language they use. You will start to see patterns, certain expressions users tend to use often. Those are the long tail keywords you should use in your articles.
If you notice users struggling with certain problems, users who ask questions regarding some piece of information you offer, include that subject on your content marketing plan.
Authenticity & Credibility
If you didn’t hear it enough until now, I’ll tell you again: in order for your business to thrive, you have to gain people’s trust and to be authentic.
With so much going on nowadays on social media, there is no place for boring and outdated content to shine.
Authenticity is fundamental.
Having user-generated content in your content marketing strategy boosts both authenticity and credibility levels.
Engaging in Social Media
Engaging with your audience is the main factor to a successful social media marketing strategy. It’s crucial for a business to keep in touch and reply to its users.
Besides strengthening the customer/brand relationship and trust levels, interacting with the audience raises the odds for users to submit and share content.
Give users a terrific experience and they will give back shares. According to Sprout Social, 75% of people are likely to share a good experience on their own profile.
The biggest challenges UGC faces
Like any activity where people are freely involved, UGC makes no exception to having its own risks.
People are free to post anything and this can be challenging as they can be mean and offensive sometimes. You have to pay attention to the content users provide as bad content can reflect poorly on your business.
If you know what to expect, you will be ready to deal with the challenges you may face.
The cold start
One of the biggest challenges that go around about UGC is the cold-start, also referred to as “chicken or egg” problem. Users want to contribute with content where the audience is decent, but what do you do when you are just starting out and the audience is not that appealing?
There is no easy way to it. The most important part is to get started no matter what. Begin with your own content until your audience is big enough to work with.
Unhealthy debates & disagreements
Debates and communicating are good. They are a great way to find out new things about a subject, to discover more perspectives and to engage with other people in a topic you are interested in.
The problem comes from the fact that you, as a business, don’t have any control over what users are contributing with for your UGC. Now and then people are not so nice to each other (big surprise) and you may find that there are users generating conflicts.
You may not be able to change people, but you can keep an eye on what users are posting and take care of the content that is disrespectful and mean.
Don’t confuse mean content with negative comments about your business. I know there is no joy in getting negative feedback. But it is not such a great idea to start deleting all the comments that say something bad about your business as it can do more harm than good. Trying to get rid of all the negative comments will make your audience trust you less as you lose the “transparency” trait.
If you get negative comments, respond to them. Try to find out what the problem is and take action to solve it. Either there is a problem with your product and you need to remediate it, or the person is just mean. Trying to respectfully respond to the comment is the best way to go.
Varying answers with a lack of statistics or data
This problem occurs more when talking about forums or informational user-generated content (like Quora). You have no insight into who the users are and what is their level of expertise in a certain subject. Users often give answers and advice without citing their resources, which makes the response questionable.
Watch over what is going on with the UGC as having spammers all over your website will bring up a bad reputation for your brand.
Types of user-generated content
Because user-generated content refers to any type of content that is not created by the brand or company, the possibilities are unnumbered.
The types of user-generated content can be divided into three categories:
This is the first type of user-generated content you should turn to. It includes comments, ratings & reviews, testimonials, interviews, questions addressed to the audience, surveys.
Getting feedback from customers is not just a great way to keep your business active online, it is also a great resource for insights. Through feedback, you learn how people see your business, what they like, and what they don’t. You can see what areas of your business need improvements, and you discover what your audience wants so you know exactly what to provide.
This may mean user-generated videos, images, and GIFs.
User-generated videos can show how customers interact with products or the experience they have. Some examples of UGC videos are product unboxing videos, product review videos, video testimonials, parody videos, podcasts, advertising videos (like “Create our next Super Bowl TV ad”).
User-generated images can show customers using the product, experiences related to your business, infographics.
You can engage users to contribute through hashtag campaigns, contests or by stimulating their creativity. If you make people have fun, they will jump right in. Keep in mind that users need to have something to gain from providing you with content, even if it just about the experience.
For some more engaging content, see if your audience is up to sharing GIFs instead of images.
Users can contribute with more than a few words about your brand through blog posts, articles, whitepapers, case studies, listicles, or even fan fiction.
One example of blog posts user-generated content is HuffPost. In addition to their specialist contributors, they have many bloggers who write for HuffPost and are not paid for it.
Add user generated content to your strategy
Now that you know what user-generated content is, how to use it, and what types of UGC you can use, it is time for you to add it to your marketing strategy.
The benefits are many, and user-generated content is here to stay and thrive.
Ignore the advantages UGC puts on the table and leave your business run into place, or take the opportunity to boost your marketing efforts.
Have you tried using user-generated content in your marketing strategy? Tell us your experience!