User-generated content (UGC) is near the top of everybody’s “best contenting marketing tactics” list. And for good reason: When done correctly, you engage your target market and collect content at little cost to your organization.
Image credit: Used with permission: 7 Digital Marketing Trends That Will Rule 2019 [Infographic]
For businesses, nothing is more authentic than a customer taking time out of their day to share a thought or feeling. Positive user reviews, in whatever form they take, are much more effective at shaping public opinion than anything you could say about your business.
That’s why 64% of customers actively seek out online reviews before going ahead with a big purchase. And a whopping 93% of consumers find UGC helpful when making that purchase decision.
User-generated content is a relatively nebulous concept in the world of marketing. However, it’s fairly common for brands to make easy-to-avoid mistakes when soliciting content.
From reposting without permission, to sharing sensitive material that is off-brand (and off-putting), businesses should know some best practices before they start a campaign centered around UGC.
Here are seven things to keep in mind when using user-generated content to promote your business:
Create a campaign concept for your user-generated content
As is the case so often when running a business, the first step when deciding to use user-generated content is to come up with a plan.
What are your goals for using this content? What social media platforms are best suited for soliciting the content you need? Saying you want to use UGC is one thing, but only 27% of brands say they have a system in place for finding, managing, and using UGC.
What are your UGC goals?
Decide what your goals are for this campaign up front. This will help guide other important considerations, such as what you’re looking for and where to look for it. Possible goals include:
- Build brand trust: If you’re new in your industry, social proof that your products or services are what they say they are is crucial.
- Increase social engagement: Having a hard time getting likes and comments on your social media posts? UGC might be a good way to get the ball rolling. By sharing user-generated content, you’re pretty much guaranteed to garner likes from the user and their circle of social media friends and family.
- Find better leads and make more conversions: Your current social media feeds may have followers, but are they in your target market and likely to convert as customers? If not, attracting the attention of those in your market is the next step—and content created by their peers can help.
- Have more robust content production: Even if you have a team in place that creates your business-related content, leveraging images, posts and more created by users means your well of content never runs dry.
Once you settle on a strategy for your user-generated content, make sure everyone on your team is on board, from marketing to legal.
You’ll want to make sure you’re covering your bases—understanding where this fits into your greater social media marketing plan, and/or avoiding legally compromised positions by potentially reposting content.
Be open to every kind of user-generated content
Many people think of user-generated content as re-posted Instagram photos. This is probably because Instagram is the hottest social media platform out there right now, especially for brands.
But don’t overlook the power of every kind of UGC, from customer reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor to posts that tag topics important to your industry on LinkedIn.
UGC is any form of content—photos, videos, audio, text—posted online.
Consider investing in social listening tools to capture every instance of UGC that pertains to your business, so you can capitalize on positive customer feedback whenever and wherever the opportunity arises.
When soliciting user-generated content, be thematic
When you put out the call for user-generated content, you’ll get better results that are easier to find and share if you create a thematic framework for users to follow.
For example, don’t just ask users to post photos of themselves using your product. Get creative and ask them to create posts of themselves using your product when they’re on the road, during their commute, or at brunch.
Create unique hashtags so you can scroll through submissions and find your favorites with ease.
Not only will users appreciate and feel motivated by the creative challenge of thematic constraints, but you’re more likely to find new, interesting ways that people use your product or service that you never considered.
Plus, you’ll be able to set the tone of the campaign, which can help you use that UGC to promote your new product or service in a way that’s on-brand.
Make submitting user-generated content competitive
One way to make sure you receive submissions when soliciting user-generated content is to incentivize users to do so.
Make your submission process a competitive one: Promise prizes and awards to users who submit the best content based on the themes and hashtags you present them.
Your incentive can be simple—promising to repost them on your feed. Or giving them additional accolades and exposure. They can also be more substantial, such as a gift card or future discount.
Once people know there’s something in it for them, they’ll be more likely to create high-quality UGC that your business will be excited to share.
When using employee-generated content, be selective
Another category of user-generated content is employee-generated content, which is particularly popular among B2B businesses that feel they lack the visual pop of consumer-facing companies.
Sharing UGC from your employees—photos and videos from around the office, of company-sponsored events, or even from their vacations—is an accepted and common practice, but be selective in how you use it.
Posts that are over-the-top in praising the business, or too many of one style of “EGC,” can come off as inauthentic. Your employees’ content can put a face to your organization. Make sure that face is seen as honest, rather than calculated.
When reposting, always ask for permission
Regardless of how you find content you want to repost, the number one rule is always to ask the user for their permission to do so.
It doesn’t matter what the content is: Whether you solicit it via your custom hashtag, or you find a post you like by another content creator, it’s imperative that you get their express permission before reusing that content on your own feeds.
The bad press that comes along with using someone’s intellectual property without their consent isn’t worth it.
Authenticity beats every other factor
Some user-generated content presented by big brands looks like it was made by professionals in a studio. While you probably want all of your UGC to have the high-gloss sheen of a commercial (without shelling out for a commercial-level budget), the truth is that authenticity beats quality every day of the week.
The vast majority of UGC is going to come from amateur photographers, videographers, writers, and content creators. Paid influencers who try to ride your hashtag wave are only looking to promote themselves.
Find the posts that come from real customers, and you’ll be more likely to influence the decision of other potential customers than you would with any other type of content.
*** Using Use-Generated Content ***
User-generated content is a not-so-secret weapon for marketers looking to make an impact online. While it’s an easy tactic to use, it’s also an easy tactic to misuse.
Using UGC should create bonds between you and your customers, not raise suspicions. Keep to the above practices to ensure you don’t end up on the wrong side of a viral exchange.
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