Every company operating online will know how powerful word of mouth is to attract new customers. User-generated content (UGC) and storytelling with data visualisation are great ways to reach new audiences, get people talking about your product or service, and have more people engage with your brand. Yet, all too often, online businesses disregard the potential of UGC when setting up their communication strategy.
In recent years, content voluntarily produced by internet users has far surpassed content produced in-house by brands in terms of reach. According to Embed Social, consumers spend on average over five hours per day viewing user generated content; and the demand for transparent, authentic content has never been higher.
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With the expanding presence of social media in our lives, marketers are finding creative ways to get people to interact with their brands. Blogs, photographs, videos, stories, reels, podcasts – with an endless number of channels competing for users’ attention, user-generated content is only expected to grow in the coming years. In this article, we will explain how you can also take advantage of it to promote your products or services.
What is user-generated content exactly?
When we talk about user-generated content we refer to all those pieces of content found online that people have posted voluntarily on their profiles or pages. These include:
- Blog posts
- Photographs and videos posted on social media
- Online reviews on platforms such as Trustpilot
- Questions and answers posted on forums such as Quora
- Live streaming events
- Comments under public posts
- Instagram filters
Blog posts were one of the earlier forms of UGC, but with the emergence of social media, images and videos have become the dominant form of UGC circulating online. Thanks to platforms that allow for the production and sharing of content produced instantly, the internet has been flooded with UGC.
With nearly 60% of the world’s population using social media, it’s easy to see why companies are competing to carve a space on these platforms. Creating content from scratch and getting people to see it, however, is a massive effort and brands often lack the tools to create and distribute the type of content users demand.
This is where user-generated content comes in. UGC allows for brands to engage directly with their audiences, without having to produce their content themselves. For UGC to be considered useful in a marketing strategy, three characteristics are essential:
1. It needs to be publicly available
While private communications – such as chats or emails – can be great tools to spread the word about a product, it is on public platforms that user-generated content is most effective. A video posted on Instagram, for instance, has the potential to reach thousands of people and allows brands to track their mentions and perform sentiment analysis.
2. It should be produced voluntarily
While effective, influencer campaigns are not considered forms of UGC, as those who produce the content do so in exchange of compensation. Outsourcing content creation is not the point: user-generated content should emerge spontaneously from people who use and share opinions on your product or service. The strength of this form of content lies in the fact that it is not made for profit and can be trusted as an unbiased source.
Let’s take someone who enjoys playing tennis on weekends and regularly posts about their hobby on social media: when they post about the new racket they have acquired, this is not meant to be promotional content, but proof of a thought-through choice they are proud of.
3. It has to be unique
While Instagram and TikTok trends tend to follow the same patterns, each piece of content is never exactly the same – this is what makes them fun to watch. Uniqueness is important and content that has been simply copied and pasted tends to have a short life span. Original photos, videos or reviews will be a lot more believable than a replica of the same post that continues to circulate endlessly, improving engagement rates and inspiring other people to come up with better content ideas.
Why a user-generated content strategy is more effective than branded content
Creating an editorial strategy is essential for many brands that promote their work online, but the consistent production of high-quality content can take up a lot of resources, both in terms of staff and costs.
This is the main reason why many brands have integrated user-generated content in their marketing strategy, especially on social media. Customers are either asked directly to produce content – for example by taking a selfie with a product or showing the unpackaging process online – or have done so spontaneously as a result of their attachment to the brand.
But cutting costs is not the only reason why brands are increasingly turning toward user-generated content. With social media feeds filled with advertising and sponsored posts, there is high demand for authentic, honest content. Transparency is valued more than ever, while trust in traditional media is at an all-time low.
User-generated content is better received by online audiences because it is seen as genuine. Research done by Accenture, shows that “consumers in the United States are no longer making decisions based solely on product selection or price” and seek brands that are aligned with their own values and beliefs. User-generated content allows consumers to see people they can relate to interacting with the brand they might be interested in. It is not by chance that 93% of marketers have noticed UGC performing better than branded content in the past year.
So, how to get people to produce content for you?
We’ve seen how powerful user-generated content can be beneficial in a marketing context, but how can you inspire people to produce it? There are many ways to do so, let’s take a look at some of the key strategies.
Create a contest
One of the simplest ways to get people to publish content about your brand is to offer a reward. By inviting your audience to share a piece of content through a photography or video contest, you will be sure to stimulate creativity and a buzz around your product with minimal effort.
Both the brand and the user have something to gain: companies get their content for free and increase their brand awareness, while people can win a prize by publishing content with the relevant hashtag, which will attract like-minded people to their profile.
Consider the “shareability” of your brand
It is not always necessary to create a contest to get people to produce content where your product is the protagonist. If your brand is highly shareable, content will likely be created automatically by people who perceive it will add value to their feed. The likelihood of a brand being shared on social media depends on many factors, from the hype surrounding the release of a new product to the exclusive nature of the brand itself.
One of the most effective strategies to increase shareability seen in recent years was implemented by Coca Cola, which printed thousands of names on the labels of its bottles under the message “Share a Coke with”. The campaign created a massive wave of user-generated content, which resulted in an estimated increase in consumption of Coca Cola of 7%.
Ask for reviews
The simplest way to get people speaking about your brand is to ask them. Most people who browse the web read one or more reviews before making a purchase. Reviews are definitely the content that, more than any other, increases the level of trust toward your brand. Incentivize users to leave feedback and collect the ones that strike you the most to share on social networks or on your landing pages.
Do you need help with your content strategy?
Whether you are producing content yourself or expecting users to generate it, making your brand known to the world is an essential aspect of marketing your products or services. Managing the many channels available and making sure your communication strategy is working effectively can be difficult and extremely time consuming – that’s what Mowgli is here for. Get in touch today to discuss your project with us and find out how we can improve your growth strategy.