In today's digital landscape, user-generated content (UGC) has become more important than ever, as 64% of customers will not only value online reviews but will actively seek them out before making a purchasing decision. The process of browsing content produced by real people has reimagined traditional word-of-mouth marketing and even in-store sampling with the help of photos and videos by actual customers. In fact, ads that feature UGC generate four times higher click-through rates than those without and are considered 50% more trustworthy than other types of media.
Alo Yoga showcases Instagram posts from its customer community on-site, with shoppable tags for easy product navigation.
The best thing about it? It's effortless yet valuable content. But like any other form of marketing, it has to be executed strategically. Otherwise, you could be doing more harm than good. We've come up with a list of dos and don'ts to help guide you through creating an adaptable UGC strategy.
Even if you're just resharing a customer photo on social media, crediting the original poster is not enough. It's always important to secure proper consent, even if you were tagged by a public account. Because the rules on copyright in social media can get blurry and confusing, it's always better to be cautious. But don't lose hope, 85% of people are willing to grant permission for brands to use their content.
Pixlee's user-generated content CRM platform [Pixlee is now Emplifi] allows brand teams to ask for permission with the click of a button; by making it clear to users that a specific hashtag means they're allowing you to reuse their content, you can streamline the connection of already-permissioned UGC.
Plan before sharing
Treat UGC like any other piece of marketing content. Does it fit your overall brand message or align with a specific campaign? This is important for both social media channels and more traditional marketing endeavors, like email campaigns or on-site inspiration galleries. Make sure the content blends well with your brand aesthetic and style.
Visit Catalina Island's UGC gallery, specific to its Descanso Beach Club, features beachy posts by customers.
To help you curate your UGC, Pixlee allows you to pick and choose from existing posts by your fans to find the content that is right for your brand.
Engage and encourage interaction
Ask, and you shall receive! Use features like Polls and Question stickers on Instagram Stories to your advantage. You can also ask questions in your captions that stimulate discussion about your brand or product. This will not only get you free and awesome content but also a chance for some honest insight. Gathering quotes from your customers is an easy and no-fail content piece that can be used on your grid or timeline and even as an ad.
Use unique hashtags
Hashtags will help you streamline UGC collection from your chosen social media platform as well as keep track of your own reposted UGC. Having unique branded hashtags for specific campaigns will also help you monitor performance, engagement rate, and mentions.
ALLMAX Nutrition features a site page dedicated to training and workout inspiration, encouraging fans to share their content with the product, tagging #ALLMAXTraining.
Before posting on any official company channel, don't forget to ask the poster to verify the source. Ensuring that each piece of content is original and authorized can be tricky to scale without a platform like Pixlee that can be configured to ensure users are authorized to share the content. Reposting an image can seem pretty harmless, but in the age of social media, where catfishing and trolling are rampant, there's no harm in playing it safe. A user with no profile picture or very few followers can be a sign of a fake account, for example.
Limit yourself to large-scale influencers
Influencer marketing is the fastest-growing channel for customer acquisition, and businesses make $6.50 for every dollar invested in influencer marketing. But while content posted by influencers may result in more engagement than your average customer, don't overlook your everyday fans. Focusing on "real people" — rather than just famous models or celebrities — will make your brand more relatable. Using real people and their stories can also encourage more engagement and build a stronger connection with your customers. One successful way to utilize influencer marketing without shooting for the accounts with millions of followers is through partnering with micro-influencers. These individuals typically have 1,000-100,000 followers, may already be fans of your brand, and tend to see much higher levels of sustained engagement because of their niche, targeted, and loyal followings.
Revel Nail's micro-influencers share their favorite manicures with a dedicated community of nail polish enthusiasts.
Keep content confined to one channel
Most UGC comes from social media, but that doesn't mean it has to stay there. Don't be afraid to pop UGC into your other marketing channels, such as email, ads, in-store displays, and, for eCommerce brands, everywhere on your site. The versatility of UGC is one of the many benefits that make it such a valuable marketing tool; there's no end to where this type of content can be utilized.
HYLETE uses UGC depicting "worn out" athletes in brand gear on its unsubscribe page to convey how many of us feel about emails; this is a creative place to share community photos while drawing the shopper back into your brand.
Forego seasonally irrelevant content
The truth about UGC is you'll often find a lot of content that is older, or more relevant to previous campaigns. Even if that content isn't relevant to your current product line or the season, requesting permission to use it can still be beneficial for your brand. Chances are, you'll need content for that season or product line again – and having more UGC saved can benefit you in the long run, saving time and scaling resources. Plus, by engaging with that customer who shared the post, you'll create a new and personal engagement with someone who is likely to share more UGC with your brand in the future. Beyond collecting that content, it's a great way to build customer engagement with already highly engaged customers.
Utilizing UGC is a win-win for everyone and a hot trend among consumers –– that's why 87% of all brands already use it for free, authentic content. It means less work for you content-wise and recognition for your customers. If you're just starting out and don't have many tags or reviews just yet, it's perfectly acceptable to incentivize your customers through a social media contest to get the ball rolling; this means encouraging your followers to share pictures involving your brand or product in exchange for a discount or giveaway. Your preferred social platform is waiting to become a goldmine of user-generated content waiting to be shared by your brand.
Denise Langenegger is part of the team at Instasize – a content creating tool kit for anyone editing photos and online content on mobile.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on pixlee.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.