Step Up Your Social Media Game With User-Generated Content

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Getting potential customers to pay attention to your products has never been more difficult. Consumers are overstimulated because of social media and all the ads and brand messages they see on there on a daily basis. User-generated content is the way for you to give a new face and a new voice to your brand to stand out among the clutter. Here we talk about UGC and why it's so important for your brand.

Getting potential customers to pay attention to your products has never been more difficult. Exposed to up to 3,000 brand messages PER DAY, it’s no wonder that people are fed up — ignoring billboards and banners and installing ad-blockers on their devices.

That’s simply the harsh reality of doing business in a society that’s constantly hyperstimulated. You either learn how to cut through the noise, or you get eaten by the sharks.

With the rise of social media, marketers were presented with a unique opportunity to solve this problem without spending a truckload of money in the process. I’m talking about user-generated content here. An opportunity for both large international companies, but also companies that have local offices / stores and that want to conduct hyperlocal social media marketing.

What is user-generated content?

UGC is defined as content that was created and published by unpaid contributors, or, more succinctly, your brand’s fan base. We’re talking everything here, from images, videos, and posts to reviews, testimonials, etc. — whatever appears as some kind of online endorsement of your brand (and you didn’t pay for it), is considered user-generated content.

Scrolling through your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds, you see dozens of UGC pieces every single day. Most of the time, you’re not even aware of what they really are.

Of course, there are those that are just too huge to ignore and be oblivious about — for example, Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign. That’s a deliberate and orchestrated (but not paid for in any way) UGC campaign that the company has been running for quite some time now and to great success.

Its 2015 iteration was deemed the most successful marketing campaign that Coca-Cola ran since its founding. It really pushed all the buttons and encouraged people to interact with it by posting photos on social media and even sharing physical bottles of Coke. Judging from this particular string of Coca-Cola campaigns, it’s pretty obvious that UGC works. It works so well that I firmly believe that all marketers should take advantage of it. So why don’t they?

UGC and social media marketing stats

Some brands are missing the social media marketing and UGC train because they are afraid to let go — it’s a question of control over the material that’s being released that’s associated with your brand. If you’re one of those sceptics, allow me to share a couple of ironclad facts that might just turn you into a UGC marketing evangelist.

  • According to research done by AdWeek, 85% of surveyed users said that they find user-generated visuals more convincing than anything that brands put out. 
    Unfortunately, according to the same AdWeek survey, only 65% of brands actually agree with this assessment — again, it boils down to not trusting fans.

  • The same AdWeek research found that users are 2X more likely to share something that’s been created by other users, compared to images, videos, and posts that have a clear brand stamp on them.

  • Even Facebook ads featuring a UGC visual  are hands down better than anything the brands can come up with. They have a 50% lower cost per click and cost per acquisition rates. The same is probably true for every other social media platform out there.

Benefits of utilizing user-generated content

In addition to being almost free of charge (minus the cost of management and the occasional contest), UGC has other benefits as well.

And, before you dismiss your target community as one that’s not likely to participate or would be unwilling to share content —  on average, 75% of people are likely to share their positive brand interaction via social media sites. All you need to do is ask and you will get the opportunity to reap the benefits.

UGC benefits include:

  • A ton of shareable content on the cheap. However, let’s assume that people want a bit of tit for tat — if you want to drive UGC creation through your brand advocates, you will need to set up a reward system. Still, the total cost of running that is pretty much peanuts when compared to the benefits (and you can opt to reward advocates in other ways, which are not monetary).
  • Increase in engagement. GoPro has seen a massive uptake in social media engagement when they started with their UGC #GoProFamily campaigns. It’s pretty rare to see a GoPro Instagram post that doesn’t have at least a quarter of a million likes.
  • Increase in sales. It’s not too much of a leap to assume that well-executed UGC campaigns can positively impact your sales. They did that for Coca-Cola and GoPro, and for a lot of other companies.
  • Better SEO results. If you have a problem with your SEO, turn to UGC. According to Neil Platel, the 20 largest brands in the world owe up to 25% of their backlinks to user-generated content.
  • Boost in trust and credibility. I’ve mentioned numerous times that people are doubtful of brands, but they don’t seem to have a problem trusting their peers, even if we’re talking about perceived peers on social media sites. It follows that UGC content is more trustworthy, and you can use it to boost the overall sense of credibility of your brand.

Creating your UGC strategy

Although user-generated content isn’t difficult to get, you still need the plan to make sure you’re making the most out of it. Without a blueprint, you won’t be able to run coherent campaigns and there’s a chance that you won’t be able to plug UGC into your overall marketing strategy.

Creating a simple guideline for UGC campaigns will give you a head start over the brands that approach it haphazardly. Here are a couple of suggestions that worked for me:

  • Choose a management tool. If you’re already building an advocacy community, it takes just a few keyboard strokes to send out a call to all your participating fans. Also, a dedicated platform makes it easier to track and measure success, which is critical with UGC (as with every other type of marketing campaign).

  • Set UGC goals. Are you looking to boost engagement on social media? Or maybe you would want to reach new people who’ve never heard of your brand before? The point is that you need to know what you want to accomplish with UGC before you launch a campaign, and the best way to do that is to set clear and measurable goals. 

  • Select your platform and content type focus. Be selective about your preferred social media platform. Not every type of content works everywhere, so use the UGC goals that you’ve established to inform your decision-making process — Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or something else.

  • Provide instructions. When running a UGC campaign, it doesn’t really cost you anything to set up clear guidelines. If you do that, you will end up with more usable content. In fact, 50% of fans want clear instructions, but, unfortunately, only 15% of brands actually provide them.

  • Build a community. If you can even approach what GoPro accomplished with their #GoProFamily tag, you will hit pure gold. Once you establish a loyal community of fans willing to create content for you on a daily basis, there’s not much else that you need to do other than maintain the momentum.

UGC is affordable and effective

User-generated content profiled itself as one of the social media marketing strategies with the highest return rates. Combining UGC with your brand advocacy efforts is only natural (fans being organic advocates) and can really put you on the social media map in terms of interactions and engagement. Also, given that you will also see a marked improvement in sales, brand trustworthiness, and a lot of other metrics, I would say that UGC is pretty much indispensable these days.

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