Learn what prompts users to engage with user-generated content (UGC)

What prompts users to engage with UGC

User-generated content (UGC) is a powerful marketing tool that can help you reach a wider audience, build relationships with your customers, and save time and money. From catchy social media posts to insightful product reviews, UGC is a great way to engage your audience and boost your brand awareness.

But what is it that makes UGC compelling? Let’s explore what makes UGC effective, how you should evaluate and source it, and take inspiration from brands sharing UGC in unique ways.

What makes UGC so effective?

Consumers are constantly bombarded with advertisements and marketing messages, with Statista projecting that the social media advertising market will reach $219.8B in 2024 alone. That’s why it's becoming increasingly difficult for brands to stand out and capture attention. Modern consumers crave authenticity — not standard marketing tactics.

This is where UGC comes into play.

UGC is any content that consumers create and share about a brand or its offerings. This can include social media posts, customer ratings and reviews, and even blog articles. At its core, UGC is a form of social proof, and research shows that it's what today’s consumers are looking for from brands.

Based on a survey commissioned by Emplifi and conducted by Harris Interactive, 87% of consumers cited real-life customer ratings and reviews — like UGC — as having a greater impact on purchase decisions than influencer or celebrity reviews (50%).

This type of content captures your audience’s attention because it comes from real people, and it's one of five reasons why UGC is so effective as part of your marketing mix:

1. UGC is more trustworthy and authentic than brand content

People are more likely to trust recommendations from friends, family, and other consumers than they are to trust advertising from brands. Our survey shows that 87% consider it the most authentic interaction they can have with a brand. UGC is seen as more genuine and authentic, as it comes from real people who have actually used your product or service. This authenticity can help you build trust with potential customers and increase sales.

2. UGC can help your brand reach a wider audience

When consumers share UGC on their own social media channels, it exposes your brand to a whole new audience of potential customers. This can help you reach people who may not have otherwise come across your brand.

3. UGC can help you build relationships with your customers

UGC is a great way to interact with your customers and build relationships with them. When you respond to comments and messages on social media, you're showing your customers that you value their opinions and that you're interested in what they have to say — helping you build customer loyalty and trust in the process.

4. UGC can help you save time and money

Leveraging UGC can be a lot less time-consuming and expensive than creating traditional marketing content — not to mention other ways UGC can impact your bottom line. You don't have to pay for models, photographers, or videographers; you can simply repurpose content that your customers have already created.

5. UGC can help you create a more engaging and interactive brand experience

When customers see real people using and enjoying your products, they're more likely to be interested in your brand. UGC can also encourage customers to share their own experiences with your brand — whether organically or via initiatives like social media contests — which can help you generate even more UGC.

What are the must-have traits for successful UGC?

Evaluating your UGC is crucial for ensuring its effectiveness and alignment with your brand's goals. Here are some key factors to consider when evaluating your UGC:

  • Authenticity is crucial for UGC to resonate with your audience, but what qualifies as authentic? Ensure that the content created by your users reflects their genuine experiences, thoughts, and opinions. Avoid scripting or heavily editing UGC, as this can diminish its authenticity. You want human reactions to your brand, product, or service.

  • Relevance is another important trait of effective UGC. When users find your UGC relevant to their needs and interests, they are more likely to engage with it. Make sure that the content you leverage not only aligns with your brand's values, messaging, and overall marketing strategy but that the person sharing the content really fits your customer type. Can you imagine them having a conversation with another customer? Is the information they’re sharing important to a wider audience? Consider this before you share a piece of UGC.

  • High quality is essential for effective UGC. Visual storytelling on social media is a successful driver of social media engagement, so ideally, your UGC includes video or visual aspects when possible. Also, ensure that the content is well-produced, visually appealing, and free of grammatical or factual errors.

  • Uniqueness is another key trait of effective UGC. Your UGC should stand out from the crowd and capture the attention of your audience. Encourage your users to be creative and original in their content creation. Offer incentives or rewards for unique and engaging UGC.

  • Engagement, including social media engagement, is the ultimate goal of effective UGC. Your UGC should encourage users to interact with it, share it, and comment on it. Ask your users to share their thoughts, opinions, and experiences in their content. Respond to comments and messages, and encourage users to engage with each other.

  • Alignment with brand and values is key. Evaluate whether the UGC aligns with your brand's identity, values, and tone. Does it reflect your brand's personality and messaging? Ensure that the content complements and reinforces your brand's overall image.

  • Legal and ethical considerations are maybe the most important consideration. Before publishing UGC, ensure that you have the necessary rights and permissions to use the content. Respect copyright laws and obtain consent from the content creators if needed. Additionally, be mindful of any legal or ethical implications associated with the content, such as privacy concerns or offensive language.

By thoroughly evaluating your UGC based on these criteria, you can ensure that you're publishing high-quality, engaging, and brand-aligned content that resonates with your audience and supports your marketing objectives.

5 examples of how UGC has worked for brands

Some of the most successful UGC campaigns have managed to tap into the creativity and passion of their audience, resulting in truly remarkable and impactful campaigns that have left a lasting impression on consumers. Here are a few examples to help inspire how your brand might approach UGC:

Coca-Cola reaches a new generation with #ShareaCoke

UGC’s impact isn’t a new trend. One of the most visible historical examples was Coca-Cola's #ShareaCoke campaign, which was a stroke of genius that turned the iconic Coca-Cola bottle into a personalized and shareable experience. The campaign involved printing popular first names on Coca-Cola bottles, encouraging users to find and share their personalized bottles with friends and family. This simple yet effective idea sparked a global movement and, according to The Coca-Cola company, resulted in the sale of more than 250 million named bottles the summer of the campaign's launch in Australia, where the campaign kicked off. Overall, the campaign saw 18,300,000-plus media impressions and saw traffic increase for the Coca-Cola Facebook site by 870% and a 39% increase in page likes.

Wool and the Gang inspires new shoppers with community content

Wool and the Gang solved a content problem by turning to its community. The brand exists in a space typically driven by in-store experiences, with customers wanting a hands-on approach to the shopping experience for yarns and crafts. Wool and the Gang overcame this challenge by pairing UGC with their product pages. This helped online shoppers understand the tactile nature of the products, which led to a 362% increase in repeat-visit rate and consumers two times more likely to purchase after interacting with the UGC.

GoPro taps visual storytelling with an awards program

Certainly, it helps to be a brand that inspires photography and video. GoPro, the action camera company, launched the #GoProAwards campaign to encourage users to share their most epic and awe-inspiring footage captured using GoPro cameras. The campaign has spawned sub-contests like the brand’s Million Dollar Challenge, which generated 42,466 clip submissions. GoPro effectively leveraged its user base to create a powerful showcase of the incredible experiences and adventures that its products enabled.

Center Parcs shares social proof of its holiday destinations

UGC helps drive conversions due to its ability to help shoppers see proof of what your product offers. For Center Parcs, that means helping its customers see authentic experiences of potential vacation destinations. The brand has 27 locations and uses robust geographic tools to geo-fence UGC collection down to 500 square feet from any address, meaning images of each location are true and accurate to any visitor’s expectations. The authenticity has worked to the tune of 600 nights booked per month based on interaction with UGC on their website.

Emplifi Customer Success Story: Center Parcs (UGC Example 2)

Jones Soda Co. uses augmented reality and UGC

Premium soda brand Jones Soda Co. merged augmented reality and UGC to reach its passionate fan base. The brand collected over 10,000 pieces of UGC from customers, hoping for a chance to be featured on bottle labels. Paired with digital touchpoints, the campaign saw a 48% increase in average order value (AOV) and a 55% increase in time on the brand’s website.

These campaigns demonstrate UGC's effectiveness in engaging audiences, fostering brand loyalty, and generating organic reach. By tapping into the creativity and authenticity of their user base, these brands achieved remarkable success and created lasting memories in consumers' minds.

How to add UGC to your marketing mix

UGC is a foundational element for brands that want to engage modern consumers. There are many steps to source, curate, approve, and deploy this type of content across your social and digital channels. If you’re interested in how a UGC platform like Emplifi can help unlock its potential, try a demo today and discover how UGC can transform your brand's online presence.

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