First things first, what exactly is User Generated Content? UGC is any content created and published by an consumer, and with 76% of consumers finding content posted by other consumers to be more honest than branded content*, it’s definitely worth considering factoring UGC into your marketing strategy.
What’s the difference between UGC and influencer marketing? UGC has no official connection with the brand – they aren’t being paid and there is no communication with the brand regarding what content the user publishes. Sometimes the UGC may come in all its typo’d, text-speak glory… but hey, they’ve taken time out of their day to talk about your business, so it’s all good!
Time to step out of your marketing shoes for a moment and ask yourself which of the following options you find more authentic:
- “We think our product/service is great – why don’t you buy it?”
- “I bought this and I think it’s really great. Maybe you might like it too?”
We’re going to go ahead and assume, like 92% of consumers, you’d trust a recommendation from another consumer over branded content. That’s a pretty undeniable reason to encourage UGC to take centre stage.
Why UGC is on the rise
Jose de Cabo, co-founder of Olapic, puts it perfectly: “Brand advertising is facing an inflection point. Consumer trust is at an all-time low. Adblocking is fast on the rise during a time when we are being conditioned to not trust what we see – fake news is proliferating and people are skeptical of advertising messages. Gone are the days of brands imposing an ideal on to the consumer. Millennials want to buy from brands that are in-line with their own values and stand for something or have a strong purpose. They want to see themselves reflected in the brand and do not want to feel like they are being mass marketed to. Brands must find ways to communicate with relevant, relatable and personalized content. The adoption of consumer photos in marketing efforts is an ideal way for brands to reflect the customer and communicate a more genuine message that resonates with them. Companies that embrace the voice of the customer are the ones that will thrive in this new digital landscape.”
How UGC increases brand awareness
Charlotte Sheridan, of The Small Biz Expert, agrees that UGC can result in increased brand exposure: “The benefits of using your audience to generate content are numerous. Take reach, for example: every time someone mentions your brand on social media, you are reaching their entire audience too. With 4.2 billion likes on Instagram every day and the average Facebook user having around 338 friends – that’s a huge potential audience that you are tapping into who may otherwise not come into contact with your brand.
Even on a small scale, this will mean increased exposure. If you have 10 people who use three social media channels with around 100 friends, followers or connections on each and they post on each of these platforms – you’ve now potentially been seen by an additional 3000 people! Realistically, it doesn’t always quite work like that. However, even if just 10% of that audience sees the posts – that’s an extra 300 potential customers from just ten individuals adopting your campaign.”
Why it’s not all about Instagram
Curating reviews and allowing potential customers to see them in a clearly visible place on your brand’s website is also a form of UGC, and one that’s been around for a while.
Zack Neary-Hayes, SEO Consultant, says: “UGC is a an extremely flexible and efficient marketing tactic when used correctly. It helps to add social validation to a web page, which is great for conversions.
This section has over 202 pages of reviews, most of them positive, but some negative. This is actually a good thing, as only having positive reviews can make people suspicious of fake reviews, which is an issue that Amazon has struggled with recently. To combat this, Eve have used a ‘verified buyer’ badge to signal that the purchase came directly from their website. Again, this is another big trust signal for potential buyers.
UGC, and reviews in particular, makes products and services feel more genuine and human, which increases buyer confidence. If an audience feels more secure and confident in the product, conversions will increase. This is really important for a product like Eve’s, which traditionally, would be tested and bought in person.”
How to successfully use UGC in your next campaign
Making a Difference Locally (disclaimer: one of our lovely clients) is a non-profit organisation. As well as creating owned content for MADL’s social media channels, a big part of our marketing strategy is sharing inspirational UGC with MADL’s followers. This allows us to demonstrate how charities, and donations, make a huge difference to local communities through our followers voices – not just our own. The response from followers shows how much brand loyalty has been solidified through the use of UGC, with MADL engagement increasing by 148% on Twitter and 22% on Facebook since 2016.
Other top brands have also had incredible success from UGC. Hands up if you’ve heard of Burberry’s the Art of the Trench campaign? It’s a simple concept: users could share photographs of themselves wearing a Burberry trench coat on a website, and potential customers could browse the gallery. Both inspirational and aspirational, the campaign appealed to both existing customers and potential new ones. E-commerce sales grew 50% year-on-year, and the site reached 7.5 million views in just one year – fantastic results for a fantastic campaign. Other industry-leading UGC marketing campaigns include Starbucks’ White Cup Contest, Tourism Queenland’s “The Best Job in The World” campaign and Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign.
For smaller brands, UGC can also be incredibly powerful. Shaherazad Umbreen, of www.shaherazad.com, says: “We believe that UGC is the most empowering and impactful kind of content. This is why all of my “models” are not models at all but “real women”. Profits from our shoes go to fund the education of women and girls living in poverty and those girls themselves provide UGC to complete the authentic marketing circle and inspire more future customers.”
Jeremy Stern, Managing Director at PromoVeritas, says: “Many of our clients’ campaigns involve inventive forms of UGC such as selfies, photos, designs, tie-breakers and even inventions. UGC promotions tend to create a bigger buzz and are more likely to go viral – particularly when there is voting involved.”
In terms of results, UGC can achieve 6.9 times higher engagement than brand content on Facebook, according to Mavrck. There’s no denying that, in today’s fast-moving social media world, UGC may be the way forward for your brand.
The (potential) risks of UGC
Okay, Walkers, we’re looking at you. The #WalkersWave campaign encouraged users to tweet a photograph along with the hashtag, resulting in an automated video on the Walkers Twitter feed showing Gary Lineker holding up their photo with a great big smile. It did not go well, thanks to some very bad taste submissions, which caused the campaign to be pulled.
To mitigate risks such as these, invisage the problems that could occur. Have a brainstorm with the team and, if someone pipes up with “hey, wouldn’t someone just post a pic of [insert name]?” it would be wise to listen to them. Never assume consumers “just won’t go there”. They have, and they will.
Jeremy Stern continues: “This brings us to the pitfalls – voting competitions must be carefully planned and verified by independent experts otherwise they can encourage with cheating and manipulation. If the public get a whiff of a dishonesty or scandal, like when the winner of a competition to design Doncaster Rovers’ new team kit just happened to be Louis from One Direction, it could affect their confidence in the brand and their loyalty. Another big risk from UGC is moderation – many brands have seen their reputations damaged overnight by inappropriate entries posted on social media sites that haven’t been monitored properly causing enormous embarrassment – Boaty McBoatface is a very tame example! You could also be at risk from an ASA ruling if you don’t have an independent judge involved in your judging panel – something many brands tend to overlook at their peril.
To ensure that your UGC promotion is a winner, you must plan ahead and have a solid set of Terms and Conditions that cover-off any impending disasters. Building checks and time for moderation and adjudication in to your campaign plan is also essential.”
Top tips for creating successful UGC campaigns
- Ask users to share photographs / stories with you – give a clear CTA to encourage fans to post
- Create a brand hashtag and use this on social media, particularly Instagram, to monitor engagement from your “brand ambassadors”
- Monitor indirect mentions of your products, brand or service
- Develop a “wall” of UGC so users can see the community they’re part of
- Consider where you can repurpose UGC to build trust both online and offline
- Be mindful of what can go wrong when you encourage users to engage with your brand, and be prepared to put out fires quickly
Executed well, a UGC campaign can work wonders for your brand’s engagement and, ultimately, loyalty longevity. Take simple steps such as sharing and engaging with posts users have tagged your brand in to test the waters, before building up to create brand hashtags and wider UGC campaigns.
Planning your next UGC campaign
With a wealth of expertise in making the most of UGC, we’re confident we can help you grow your brand awareness and trust, too. Get in touch to tell us more about your next campaign.