The Power of User-Generated Content

Word of mouth has long been a powerful sales tool for businesses. User-generated content is really just a digital-age version of a trusted review or referral. 

The evidence shows this type of content is just as important for growth as it is for sales. Audiences are 2.4 times more likely to view content created by individuals over brands and 76% of customers brought a product based on someone’s recommendation. 

Yet if your brand is engaging audiences enough for them to create their own content, knowing how best to take advantage can be a challenge. This article will outline the different types of user-generated content and how businesses can use it. 

What is user-generated content?

User-generated content (UGC) is any media that’s created by an individual about a brand without being paid or sponsored for it. These individuals are usually fans or customers of the brand they’re creating content about. UGC may also be created by people who are engaged with topics and trends relevant to a brand.

UGC can include a large range of media from images to text and videos. It is often actively shared online by the individual on their account or profile. 

Types of UGC

Though there’s no comprehensive list of the types of UGC, here are some of the main platforms and mediums that individuals use:

  • Social media: this can vary from tweets to posts, stories and reels that are shared on digital channels
  • Online forums: these are digital question-and-answer style sites where individuals ask the community for help or advice, such as Quora and Reddit
  • Reviews and ratings: whether it’s on Google Business Profiles or industry-specific directories, star or number ratings and written comments all count
  • Case studies and testimonials: when current customers share feedback and information about their experience of buying from a brand via written or video content

What are the benefits of UGC? 

For brands, finding and using UGC can bring lots of advantages to their marketing.

It’s trusted

When a positive review of a brand is delivered by a real person via UGC, it’s considered to be much more trustworthy than any messaging delivered directly by a business. Often, this is because the person viewing the content has already built a connection with the individual sharing it. 

This means viewers automatically trust the UGC and believe it to be a genuine review of the brand and its products or services. In a world full of marketing messages, fake news and disinformation, a recommendation from a human face breaks through the noise and helps brands stand out. Individual reviews and feedback on a brand that prospects trust is a powerful form of social proof. 

It helps customers

The nature of UGC means it will answer customer questions about your products, services or brand. As well as offering testimonials that will reassure potential prospects that you can deliver what they need, UGC will answer frequently asked questions without your service team needing to be contacted. 

This will help customers get the information they need more quickly from a trusted source. It will also save your service team the time and money they would have spent addressing these common queries. 

It’s authentic

Having an authentic brand is the pinnacle of modern marketing. When asked if a brand’s authenticity was important in their decision to like or support it, 88% of consumers said it was. Creating marketing messaging that genuinely chimes with potential customers and their needs is the starting point for this. UGC can make these messages more visible. 

For example, social media campaigns that encourage UGC are more likely to go viral. The ice bucket challenge was driven forward by individuals’ participation across different platforms. As a result, awareness and engagement with the campaign’s message about ALS rapidly increased. 

Without any branding polish, UGC talks about the benefits of a business’s products or services in an individual’s own voice. This will reinforce your marketing messaging in a way that’s more natural, understandable and authentic to your potential prospects. 

It boosts SEO 

UGC can help to improve a business’s SEO performance in a variety of ways: 

  • Giving Google more high-quality content to crawl, e.g. backlinks from product review sites and industry blogs
  • Providing third-party endorsements that reassure Google of your business being real and trustworthy
  • Helping brands to rank for long-tail keywords that customers are using naturally in their UGC to describe the business
  • Adding reviews to a business’s directory profile which Google uses as an indicator of SEO performance
  • Generating more engagement with real customers on social media platforms, which is a Google ranking factor for trustworthiness 

It’s free and plentiful

By its very nature, UGC is produced organically by individuals with no input from a brand or investment from its marketing budget. With UGC’s unique ability to encourage and convert customers, even brands that spend some money repurposing this content will get good returns.

Plus, if a brand is actively engaging with its audience, there’s likely to be lots of UGC out there for businesses to use. By providing a wealth of valuable content to work into their strategy, UGC makes it easier for brands to scale up their marketing.

What are the challenges with UGC? 

Though UGC offers a fantastic opportunity for brands to engage with their prospects, there are some difficulties for businesses looking to use it. 

Getting usage rights

As UGC is created by an individual, the copyright is owned by them. So even if a brand is mentioned in the video, image or written piece, they don’t have the right to use it without the creator’s permission. To avoid coming into conflict with copyright laws, brands should get in touch with a creator to ask permission to use their content before they reshare or repurpose it. 

Meeting brand rules

Again, because a creator has made their content independently, it’s unlikely to follow a brand’s marketing guidelines. For businesses with particularly strict visual styles or messaging rules, this can add an extra challenge when reusing or repurposing content. 

Leveraging it fully

Individuals may already be sharing content about your brand that you’re not spotting. Alternatively, if you’ve got more UGC than you know what to do with, it’s unlikely that you’re using it as effectively as you could be. To get the best return from UGC, understanding how you can best leverage it is key. 

A starter’s guide to UGC marketing

So whether you’ve never had UGC as part of your strategy or you’re looking to take full advantage of this tactic, here are some quick and easy steps you can implement. 

Encourage content creation

If you want your UGC to fit into a particular theme, topic or brand style, then incentivising your audience to create that particular type of content is one way to boost UGC generation. This could be done through a competition, a campaign or a professional creator partnership. 

Encouraging your audience to express their views on your brand within certain parameters will generate lots of on-brand and easy-to-use content. Using a hashtag or getting your followers to tag you in their videos, posts or comments will also make it easy for you to find later. 

Put best practices in place

To make sure you don’t fall foul of any copyright laws and are using your audience’s content ethically, it’s important to have a few best practice guidelines in place. These may include:

  • Reaching out directly to creators to ask for usage permission
  • Crediting creators when you reshare or repurpose their content
  • Choosing your content consciously with a thorough review-before-resharing process

Putting these rules in place will mean your whole team is on the same page and won’t get caught out by rights infringement rules. 

Repurpose over retweeting

In some cases, resharing an individual’s content may be the most appropriate and effective tactic. However, repurposing the best-quality media will help you benefit most from its authenticity. Plus, it will show your audience you actively care about people who interact with your brand and make them more likely to generate their own UGC. 

Having strategies in place for identifying and repurposing the best-quality content means your team is ready to take advantage of it while it’s fresh and trending. 

Track its effectiveness

Whether you’re generating UGC on social media, via your website or elsewhere, keeping track of your activities will help you measure their effectiveness. Setting KPIs for your UGC from the beginning (e.g. engagement or follower growth) will help to focus your strategy and keep track of its performance. 

This can then be compared to the metrics of your other content. This will help you to see how effective UGC is for your brand, identify any areas for improvements and help you secure more budget to put back into your strategy. 

Whether you’re just getting started or are looking for help to boost your UGC strategy, our expert team can help. Get in touch to find out how. 

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