There is a seismic shift happening in marketing and customer relationships. Customers are no longer relying only on branded content for decision-making. They are tuning into content created by fellow customers to evaluate a product/service to make a decision. User Generated Content or consumer-generated content plays a huge role in persuading customers to make a buying decision.
Let’s take a closer look at why it is high time for marketers to take it seriously.
User-generated content (also known as UGC or consumer-generated content) is brand-specific content of diverse formats that are created, published, and moderated by consumers. They could take the form of blogs, videos, images, text reviews, star ratings, audio, etc. UGC is voluntarily published, implying businesses do not incentivize consumers monetarily or non-monetarily for publishing the content.
UGC is usually published on social media, wikis, or product forums where consumers have the facility to express their opinions without any restraint or bias. This trait is what gives UGC more credibility and authenticity. In fact, 85% of consumers are more likely to trust user reviews than brand-sponsored marketing content.
User Generated Content and Content Marketing: A Winning Combination
User-generated content can give a significant boost to your content marketing efforts. In a 2014 study conducted by Cohn & Wolfe, it was found that 63% of consumers would rather buy from a company they consider to be authentic over a competitor.
Even in 2022, authenticity remains the top priorities for customers. UGC can create an authentic image of the brand in customer eyes across social media and on review websites.
UGC helping marketers achieve their goals would be an understatement. UGC can have a huge influence on the mindset of the customer and win over any fear, uncertainties, or doubts (FUD) that could be stopping them from making a purchase.
Here are a handful of numbers that showcase the true power of UGC in marketing: Demographically, more Gen Z YouTube viewers prefer UGC to professional videos than older generations. (Think with Google, 2020)
Also Read – Benefits Of User-Generated Content
3 Reasons Why Marketers Must Use UGC In Their Marketing Strategy
1. Organic content free of plagiarism
UGC is created by customers who could be amateur content creators. Their content is original and is free of plagiarism. It also doubles up as organic content that can enrich the online presence of a brand. For example, text reviews carrying the product name and search phrase can help improve the discoverability of the brand through search results.
2. Content of various formats
Creating branded visuals that resonate with the brand is a huge challenge for any brand, especially for those with shoestring budgets. With UGC, that challenge is solved. From images to text reviews, it creates a huge repository of the content of diverse formats that can serve all marketing purposes.
3. Delivers high RoI
User-generated content can deliver RoI even if the business is not spending anything to drive UGC creation. Let’s take the example of Starbucks. The images of Starbucks coffee cups on Instagram alone boost the social identity of the brand. It also increases brand recall significantly. In fact, Comscore estimates that the value of RoI created for a brand to increase by 28% when a combination of professional marketing content and user-generated content is used.
The Most Common Types Of User-Generated Content
In today’s content-driven world, where customers can create and publish content without any restraints, UGC is too common to find. However, UGC in the right format is what helps a business to maximize its brand awareness and also win the confidence of prospective customers.
For example, a camera company will have to tell stories with images while a book publishing company or an online company will have to take the route of online blogs or newsletters.
Depending on your business type and the customers it serves, here are some common types of UGC you can explore:
Here is an Instagram post from Airbnb that is a repost of an image from one of their customers.
The image tells a lot about the service that Airbnb is offering visually than text can communicate.
Visual UGC like these can work in two ways. First, it gives an actual view of the product or service being offered. Second, it portrays a positive side which can persuade the prospect to consider making a purchase.
Source: Airbnb – Instagram
Unboxing videos or images
The best example on the internet is the Unboxing Therapy host Lewis Hilsenteger who has close to 18 Million subscribers. Product unboxing has almost come to be regarded as a satisfying experience. Unboxing videos like these often accompany a thorough review of the product.
It is also accompanied by candid comments from the video creator which heightens its engagement. As a result, there is more interest generated for the product.
Also Read – Ultimate Guide To User-Generated Video Content
Customer testimonials or reviews
HubSpot the B2B software giant uses customer testimonials to put the spotlight on happy customers. Customer testimonials often use the right keywords that prospects might be looking for. For example, does the product/service solve the specific problem that it promises to solve? Are the customers who are using it experienced positive results? Does it justify spending the money, etc.
Product Hunt, the most popular community on products, has a review section where customers can upvote and also write a line or two as a review about the product. The power of community has been under-rated in marketing so far. Today, even B2B leaders are relying on community reviews for product purchase decisions. Further, the same platform is being used for product launches.
The drastic change has been fueled by the visibility and the unbiased opinions that communities can collect from large masses belonging to specific segments.
How To Get Your Customers To Create And Publish Consumer-Generated Content
There are four main ways to get customers to create and public user-generated content.
- Nudge customers to create and publish UGC at strategic junctures of the buying journey.
- Create opportunities for UGC creation
- Incentivize UGC publication with experiences
- Use post-sales follow-ups
- Create a Hashtag campaign to collect UGC
Let’s see these pointers in detail.
1. Nudge users to create UGC
Be it giving a product review or responding to a NPS survey, customers won’t take action unless prompted. The same applies to UGC as well. To make customers create UGC, it is necessary to nudge them to create at strategic junctures of the buying journey.
What constitutes strategic juncture? Any instance where the customer’s engagement with the brand and its product is at its highest can be regarded as a strategic juncture. It may not be the actual product delivery, but could also be a preceding event that gives a moment of delight. For example, Starbucks noting customer names before delivery.
Typical examples of UGC include, a pic published upon product delivery, a video of the unboxing or the first-time use.
You can also use seasons and specific days like Friendship day to drive hashtag based social campaigns. Most of the UGC gains momentum and remains alive on the internet due to hashtags.
2. Create opportunities for UGC creation
This can be done by including a surprise factor during the product delivery, or a personalization token that makes the customer feel special.
Here is how the world’s biggest brand Apple used UGC in a smart way to showcase the camera capabilities of the iPhone. Apple launched the “shotoniPhone” campaign at a time when users were complaining about the inferior quality of Apple phones. The campaign saw pro users and even amateur users showcasing stunning pictures that were shot using the iPhone.
The hashtag went viral on social media. Apple also used the same visuals in billboards which again worked well in offline marketing.
What can we learn from the campaign? By creating a hashtag, Apple created an opportunity for almost anyone with an iPhone to get their share of publicity and attention. In the process, they also accumulated millions of images that show how capable the iPhone’s camera is.
3. Incentivize UGC publication
User-generated content is consumer created and managed. However, brands can take some actions to persuade customers to create more UGC. They can also run campaigns to persuade new customers who are not actively creating UGC to create UGC..
Gamification is one tactic that can help with that. Gamification is the use of scoring, leaderboards, and competition to nudge progress in an activity. Gamification is consumer psychology where consumers are motivated to do something just to experience the thrill and excitement of doing it.
Let’s take the example of contests and polls. Running a photo contest, a hashtag-centered campaign or a quiz can nudge customers to churn out content. GoPro’s ‘Photo of the day’ is a similar attempt. Other brands like National Geographic and camera manufacturers use the same tactic to show how their customers are using their products.
What makes this tactic is that consumers get a thrill from being featured in the official social handles of the brand. It gives them large-scale exposure and also a certain amount of popularity which drives more UGC creation.
4. Post-sale follow-ups
Most users are not active UGC creators. They need a nudge to create a post and publish it. The most opportune comment for the same is after the sale transaction has concluded. It would be perfect to ask a customer to create UGC after giving them enough time to use the product and experience its pros and cons. Depending on the product, the interval could stretch from a few hours to a few weeks.
For example, a Sushi restaurant could ask customers for reviews and feedback right after the meal. A business selling customer sneakers might have to give customers a week or so after delivery to get the right feedback from the customer. Timing the post-sales follow-ups in the right manner can nudge consumers into creating UGC consistently.
5. Create a Hashtag campaign to collect UGC
If you want to increase your brand name recall, brand awareness, and also social media presence within a short span of time, hashtag campaigns are the best tools for that purpose.
Hashtag campaigns work by leveraging a short phrase of term which is appended with the pound or hashtag symbol. Social media algorithms pick up posts that carry the hashtags and showcase them in the newsfeed of users who have shown interest in the hashtag or similar hashtags. Hashtags work really well in social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Everytime a user creates and publishes content with your brand’s hashtag, it improves your brand’s visibility.
Here are some steps that can help you kickstart your hashtag campaign:
- Decide what the campaign should do for you – brand awareness, increase sales, increase store footfalls, boost online traffic.
- Choose your hashtag. Shorter and easy to remember hashtags tend to work better for campaigns.
- Publish quality content relevant to the hashtag. Images, videos, sliders, infographics, etc. around the hashtag theme can make its adoption easier.
- Promote the hashtag through contests and giveaways.
In a nutshell
To sum it up, UGC can be a powerful tool in a marketer’s toolkit. Giving customers the opportunity and the platform to voice their opinions and also content can help the business maximize brand awareness and also achieve its marketing goals.
The good news is, UGC doesn’t always require earmarked resources. It does demand some effort and a focused approach, which if done right, can reap huge dividends for the business.