Marketing is constantly evolving. Where customers used to be passive listeners, they’re now starting to actively contribute to the marketing landscape as more brands start to rely on mobile and digital channels. This is largely thanks to social media, which has made it easy for customers to communicate with brands and each other in real-time.

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User-generated content (UGC) is anything a user creates and makes public online. It can be images, videos, reviews, or anything created by a person rather than a brand.

What this means for you is that often times your customers are making marketing content for you — without even realizing it. It’s estimated there are 34 million videos posted each day on TikTok. Instagram alone has over 2 billion people active users on a monthly basis and over 500 million daily active users interact with various media on the app. All this user-generated content has the potential to positively impact your brand.

Why you should care about UGC

Social media is so prevalent that it’s almost impossible to avoid. As a result, UGC is coming up in more and more marketing conversations — and for good reason. UGC helps potential customers see your product in action.

Customers trust each other’s content more than yours

Nobody wants to be sold to. With all of the advertising “noise” out there, customers trust each other’s opinions more than they trust information coming directly from your brand. It's estimated that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

This concept is referred to as social proof and can make or break the credibility of your business. When customers can see the positive experiences others have had with you, they will come to a conclusion about the quality of your products that will naturally extend to the rest of your brand. This will not only make your brand feel more authentic but will also ultimately influence whether they decide to make a purchase or not.

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UGC promotes engagement with your brand

Since most online conversations are public, customers can freely share both their positive and negative experiences with a huge audience. That’s a lot of power in their hands!

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Engaged customers are your best brand advocates.

Social media makes it just as easy for you to join these conversations. Through comments, videos, retweets, and other share actions, you have the ability to impact the story your customers are telling and how it connects to your brand.

When you join these types of conversations, you make yourself and your brand more personable. This creates an emotional connection with them that bridges the gap between your store simply being somewhere they shop and a brand that resonates with and understands them on a deeper level.

UGC is the answer to the advertising dilemma

Online marketing is becoming more and more expensive, while the amount of time users spend on websites is decreasing. Considering your customers don’t really want to see your ads anyway, it’s getting harder to justify the cost of paying for impressions that aren’t turning into conversions. The concept of “brand awareness” is useless when your goal is to build a sustainably growing business.

Engaging with the content your customers create gives you free access to this valuable trusted marketing content. Once engaged with your brand, customers will continuously generate content, giving you a marketing strategy that’s much more sustainable than traditional paid advertising. If you’re a brand that isn’t seeing much UGC from your customers, here is where you can engage a content creator to create UGC for your business.

Rewards are the best way to generate user-generated content

Even though your customers are constantly producing UGC, it’s not necessarily intended for your brand. In order to experience all of the benefits of user-generated content, you have to know how to motivate your customers to start generating it with your brand in mind.

That’s where rewards come in. While it might seem obvious, rewards are still the ultimate motivator for a number of valuable customer actions, which means building a rewards program is the best way to get the UGC engine going.

screenshot of woof and wonder rewards "how to earn" page
Woof and Wonder encourages UGC through its reviews 

UGC brings your customers into a community

The content your customers create is valuable for a number of reasons—it’s social, it's visual, and most importantly it allows them to align themselves with the values and messaging that make your brand unique. These qualities are what make UGC one of the best and easiest ways to build a brand community.

In a world where we’re constantly separated by screens, the best way to make it more inclusive is by inviting others to be a part of your community. Humans have a deep desire to be part of something, and by sharing and interacting with your customers you not only benefit your business but also create a valuable space that delivers more than a great product. These emotional connections are what truly set your brand apart.

screenshot of woof and wonder instagram page
Woof and Wonder incorporates UGC into its social strategy

Pet brand Woof and Wonder, has built a solid community on social media that incorporates UGC into its strategy. With over 70,000 followers across TikTok and Instagram, Woof and Wonder showcases its products in the hands of customers and their pets IRL. Woof and Wonder reward customers through its loyalty program and encourages customers to submit photos to earn points. “Take a pic of your recent purchase & upload it along with your Review. (Find the page of your purchased Product, scroll down, and click "Write Review")

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Take advantage of existing social actions

Since your customers are already online and engaged on social media, it makes sense to include platforms like Instagram and TikTok as part of your rewards strategy.  A rewards program that incorporates your ongoing social media efforts is a great way to make your brand echo across each of its marketing avenues and reward customers. where you already have a presence will put you ahead of the curve.

Offering customers a reward for following you or sharing your content on Twitter, TikTok, or Instagram includes you in their day-to-day activities and firmly cements their content as part of your brand community. However, while rewards like free products and discount codes are awesome incentives to include in your program, sometimes the simpler option is best for motivating specific actions.

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Give customers the recognition they want

One of the best parts of rewarding for social actions is how simple the rewards can be. Think about it — if your customers find value in sharing their lives with other members of their community online, why wouldn’t they like to be featured as a part of your community? Highlighting the content your members make creates a positive community around their content that gets them excited to continue creating new content.

Few brands do this as well as Hollerworld Sunglasses, a Guatemalan brand offering high-quality sunglasses at an affordable price for its Latin American customers. By creating two branded  hashtags Hollerworld Sunglasses made their products and their community public and searchable, creating more opportunities to be found by anyone who’s interested in joining their brand community.

screenshot of Hollerworld sunglasses instagram page
Hollerworld created two branded hashtags for its customers

The hashtag was also a powerful vehicle for getting customers to show off their sunglasses on their personal profiles, while also creating content for the brand. As more and more customers started tagging their own posts with it, Hollerworld Sunglasses was able to encourage customers to join their community conversation and start engaging with others buying similar products.

UGC is essential for the long-term growth of your brand

User-generated content is constantly being created, whether you take advantage of it or not. By taking that content and intentionally engaging with your customers, you can overcome the downfalls of traditional advertising while establishing an emotional connection with your customers in the form of an online community.

Combining your brand’s existing social channels and a rewards program is the best way to encourage the creation and sharing of user-generated content. With this strategy as part of your marketing campaigns, you will be able to continually engage with your customers and build a community they can’t wait to share.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 9, 2018, and was updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness on July 3, 2023.

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