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.
User-generated content (UGC) is anything a user creates and makes public online.
What this means for you is that often times your customers are making marketing content for you — without even realizing it. Every minute there are 3.3 million Facebook posts, 500 hours of Youtube videos, and over 65,000 thousand Instagram photos uploaded to the internet (not to mention all of the comments on each of those pieces of content) and all of this user-generated content can have a very positive impact on 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.
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.
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.
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!
Engaged customers are your best brand advocates.
Luckily, social media makes it just as easy for you to join these conversations. Through comments, 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, causing advertisers to spend 42% more on search advertising, 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.
Digital advertising costs are increasing at a rate that’s five times faster than inflation. UGC is free.
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.
UGC brings your customers into a community
The content your customers create is valuable for a number of reasons: it’s social, its 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.
“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”
- Dorothy Day
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.
The Giving Keys is a brand that has embraced both the business and societal benefits of community, having built an Instagram community of over 300,000 by sharing customers’ photos of their key shaped jewelry.
On a more emotional level, they encourage customers to give their necklaces and bracelets to others who could be encouraged by the messages on them. With words like “love,” “strength,” and “courage” featured prominently, these gifts become an extension of The Giving Keys values and their ability to connect with other members of each customer’s individual community. Users can then submit these stories of giving to be featured by the Giving keys on their website, strengthening a deeper connection with the brand that’s based on gratitude and generosity.
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.
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 Facebook 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 rewarding 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, Facebook, 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.
Give customers the recognition they want
One of the best part 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 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 inkbox, a semi-permanent tattoo company who’s seen phenomenal success on Instagram. By creating the hashtag #inkboxlove, inkbox 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.
The hashtag was also a powerful vehicle for getting customers to show off their new ink on their personal profiles. As more and more customers started tagging their own posts with it, inkbox was able to encourage customers to join their community conversation and start engaging with others buying similar products. Much like The Giving Keys, they were able to harness all of that positive social energy by showing it off on their homepage.
By creating a social media community for their customers to directly post and share into, they build off the positive, inclusive vibes of the “inkfam”.
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.