Engaging with your customers is easier than ever, thanks to the way we communicate over the internet, but challenges still exist. We don’t always know what appeals to our target audience, and because of that, it’s easy to miss the mark.
This is where user-generated content (UGC) comes in. It can help you to create a more meaningful connection with your customer base.
Before we get started, we’ll need to go over some basics. We’ll define UGC, discuss why it matters, and explain how to get it. Then, following a discussion about how to curate content specifically for your target customer, we’ll look at some popular UGC platforms.
Hopefully, this article will give you the head start you need to get your UGC plan in action fast.
Like most things, when it comes to UGC, it helps to start with the fundamentals. In this section, we’ll define UGC and get into why it’s important, wrapping up with a look at how you can get your hands on great content.
What Is It?
User-generated content is exactly what it sounds like. It is media, like photos, videos, text, and artwork that people generate every day on the internet.
There’s a lot of generalized content out there, covering a wide range of topics; much of it has nothing to do with your business. But, some of it is important because of the overlapping areas of interest that the content generates.
For instance, if you run a travel agency that helps people book fantastic holidays and getaways, you would probably appreciate some user-generated content from happy customers that have been to one of your featured locations. Perhaps they have a story to tell about the excellent customer service they received while on holiday, and it all happened at one of the hotels you recommended. Or maybe they just want to tell people about how great the nightlife is in the city they visited.
It’s those kinds of shareable experiences that work as effective UGC for your business.
User-generated content also spills over into social media, where word of mouth recommendations and media sharing take place on an unimaginably large scale. The result is a huge amount of content that can drive people to your business.
Why Is It Good?
UGC can be very beneficial to your brand, your business, and your customers. You may be asking, “How?”
The most obvious benefit of sharing UGC on your social media platforms is improved customer engagement. There’s no easier way to get your customers involved than to have them share pictures and other media with your site visitors via social media.
UGC that’s relatable is far more likely to be shared than a standard piece of social media advertising. Your customers want to get involved, be engaged, and share real experiences with their own social networks, and that’s how you can also attract new customers.
A study completed in 2017 showed that 97% of online shoppers between the ages of 18 and 30 say that UGC has a massive influence on their purchasing decisions, and that 63% of shoppers agreed that UGC creates an authentic shopping experience.
It’s the relatability of other people’s experiences that will encourage prospects to buy your products or services, so it makes sense to showcase positive ratings and product reviews on your website.
The report referenced above also found that UGC is far more influential than search engines, promotional emails, display ads, social media, and mobile messages. That means that, if your core marketing strategy relies on those methods, then, without any UGC, you’re missing out on a massive opportunity to attract customers.
How Do You Get It?
How do you get UGS? It’s simple. You find it, and then ask for permission to use it.
While the UGC that you see on the internet is free for anyone to view, you don’t necessarily have the right to use it. You have to ask for permission from the owner of the material. If a user takes a great picture and uses your hashtag, you don’t own the rights to the picture, and you can’t go out and start printing merchandise using that intellectual property.
What you can do is share the UGC with your community while crediting the original poster. That’s how you can start to gain a following of online users, through interacting via your social media platforms. If you’re not sure if it’s OK to use a person’s content, always ask them first.
The unique thing about UGC is that people are generally happy to share content with their favorite brands and businesses. In most cases, you’ll use this content as part of a campaign, and users who are trying to expand their own reach will be happy to have their content promoted. If they feel a connection to you and your brand, customers can become your biggest fans, especially when you use their content with their permission.
The easiest way to proceed is to encourage the use of your specific hashtags, perhaps through a promotional campaign or any initiative that will inspire and motivate your customers to engage with you. Include a clear Call to Action (CTA) on your site and make sure that you keep an eye on how many of your visitors respond to it.
When customers use your hashtag, it’s a win-win. They get their post in front of a large audience, and the post shows up on your timeline as well. That’s a great example of how UGC works as a way to ensure that your customers interact with your business on a regular basis.
With all the concerns about permission, we should point out that, if a user sends you a photo with your hashtag in the message, you can be fairly certain they have just given you permission to like and share the photo on your social media platforms. They will want you to share it, because that will increase their exposure. The benefit that you get will be in showing your customers that you’re reaching out and engaging with them.
How to Choose the Right Content
Even if you don’t have a campaign manager or a social media department to consult with, you can still have great success by planning your own engaging UGC campaigns.
Look at past interactions with your customers by searching your social media feed for hashtags, posts, and even location tags. Determine what got the best response from people, and think of a way to replicate those campaigns. If you’re new to the social media marketing world, you can find many tutorials and articles online with tips on how to get started.
Once you have an idea for the messaging and tags you’ll be using with your UGC campaign, think about the different platforms that you use when reaching out to your customers. You could have a blog post or a video that suggests ways your customers can get involved. If you’re engaging with Instagram users, pictures and videos will be a great way to get content that your followers will find interesting.
If you and your customers use Facebook or Twitter, you can receive many different kinds of UGC, so don’t worry if you feel the need to get specific about the content that you decide to use. Remember, it has to fit in with both your brand and your campaign, which means that you need to highlight the best UGC for each instance. Ignore the content that might detract from the campaign’s overall effectiveness.
Reach Out to Your Customers
The most important thing to remember about UGC is that it’s as much about your users as it is about you and your brand. When people are happy about an experience with your business, they are likely to use your company name as a hashtag to let their friends and family know how great your business is.
It’s even better to create a specific hashtag for your followers. It will make it easier to measure how well your campaign is doing, while giving your users a more personalized hashtag to call out your brand.
If you’re launching a new product, hosting an event can really get the online community sharing content. People get excited when there is a build-up to a new store opening, a new product being made available, or a sale. If you can keep your customers informed about all the latest happenings while using specific hashtags, then you’ll have a much easier time sorting through the content that gets generated around your event.
Other ways to encourage massive participation in your online presence is by holding a competition, such as a draw, or even a random prize giveaway or mystery gift. Just posting the list of prizes is sometimes enough to get a buzz going about your event or promotion.
Have an Objective
Before you can decide what kinds of UGC to use, or how much of it you might need, you’ll need a plan. Think about what you’re trying to achieve by engaging with your customers, and how UGC can help you to further that goal. You should find out who these customers are and how they are currently sharing their content as it relates to your brand, website, or products.
Categorize them once you have identified a trend in the activity, then start looking at how you can target these groups individually with customized interactions and advertising that interests them.
Also, think about what products and services your customers are especially happy about so you can maintain a consistent level of quality and service that they will notice.
Once you have all of this information, you can start to build campaigns and advertisements that not only promote your brand but also encourage your site visitors to share and comment on your posts. This creates a personal connection between you and your followers because you’ve helped them share their stories with the rest of the community.
Eventually, your core fans will be happy to promote and share your content online. That will begin happening organically, without you having to do much work at all. With that kind of engagement, you are far more likely to attract new customers because of your expanded reach. In turn, that lets you interact with people that might not have discovered your business yet.
Popular UGC Platforms
Gathering UGC for your website should never be a chore, and there are a lot of tools to make it easier. In this section, we’ve listed some of the most popular solutions.
We have highlighted three of the most used and best-rated UGC tools available, but you should shop around and find the product that best suits your needs.
Yotpo is a solution that’s designed to help you accelerate the growth of your online footprint by giving you access to customer reviews, marketing information, and loyalty programs. Yotpo has been in the game since 2011, and that means it has refined processes that work really well. Some of its main features are:
- Visual Marketing
- Reviews and Ratings
- Loyalty Referrals
That feature set will help you gain as many onsite conversions as possible because it gives customers social media proof that your products are good and your service is legit.
Yotpo can help you to display reviews, Q&A information, and photos. All that UGC will be strategically placed around your website so that the chance of converting a visitor into a customer is maximized.
Your site will also stand out in searches, because UGC is ranked favorably by search engines. Yotpo’s partnerships with Google, Facebook, and Instagram mean that you will get high-intent traffic streaming to your website, with each visitor itching to make a purchase.
Curalate is another great UGC platform that lets you connect with your customers and followers through the use of social media. Curalate takes your social media images and turns them into shoppable assets, all from a single location.
From there, you can distribute your UGC via all channels, such as your website, social media, and email campaigns. It tracks all those different avenues and, using an analytics dashboard, visually displays how each method is performing. This makes it very easy for you to keep track of how well your campaigns are doing, and which ones need to be reworked or repeated. This tool’s main marketing points are:
- Save Time and Money
- Inspire Customers
- Sell More Everywhere
If your customers are into the social media aspect of shopping, using this platform makes a lot of sense. It effectively turns your followers into shoppers and can help to redirect them to your online stores in a seamless and organic way. It uses social media driven content to help inspire, engage, and activate your customers.
Curalate even enlists the help of influencers to market your brand. This platform can help turn customers into your very own brand ambassadors just by spreading positive feedback and reviews.
This platform is aimed at the traveler segment of the market, and the way it helps you leverage UGC is very cool. Through the use of self-optimizing website galleries, newsletters, live photo displays, and mobile-optimized experiences, CrowdRiff encourages travelers to share their stories and adventures.
If your business is near a popular travel destination, this platform will help you to get people interested by sharing the experiences of your past customers. It creates a visually exciting and engaging avenue for new customers to learn more about your business.
CrowdRiff uses AI to help power image discovery that relates to your brand and destination. It even sorts through the content you already have, indexing it so it’s easier to search. Product features include:
- Regular updates
- Travel specific strategies for your business
- Fast support
If your business relies on travelers, you know how valuable word of mouth recommendations can be. That’s why using CrowdRiff is a great idea for anyone that needs to collect this kind of UGC without having to create search queries online.
Let Social Media Help
There are a few key metrics to track when you start a UGC campaign, but the easiest is probably the hashtag that you associate with it. You could use a third-party service to do it for you. That makes life a lot easier, because you don’t have to manually sort through the timelines of multiple accounts when you’re tallying the numbers.
Analysing the effectiveness of your UGC campaign aside, it’s good to have a thorough understanding of how social media platforms operate. Let’s take a look at how two of the most popular platforms can fit into your campaign.
- Twitter: Being one of the first social media platforms to recognize the need for direct communication between followers and businesses, Twitter changed the way that people connect with their favorite brands.
It should come as no surprise that it’s incredibly easy to discover UGC on Twitter. For example, creating a contest is as simple as sending a tweet with the competition criteria and creating a hashtag that users will need to include. All tweets that contain the hashtag will automatically appear in your filter, making it one of the simplest ways to gather UGC.
Think about contests that challenge users to submit a photo, a funny poem, or a video. It could be anything that lets people share their fun and creative side. You get awesome UGC, and your followers get a chance to win a prize.
- Facebook: Everyone knows about Facebook, which is why you should definitely be maintaining a presence on the platform.
When you regularly engage with your Facebook followers, you can rely on them to leave reviews, post comments, and share pictures. That will help keep the flow of UGC on your site. Facebook also uses hashtags for promotions and competitions, so be sure to make the most of that strategy.
Don’t Delay, Start Using UGC Today!
User-generated content is not going away any time soon, so it’s smart to know how you can leverage it to improve your business. The sooner you do, the faster you’ll see results from increased interaction with customers.
People want to feel a genuine connection with brands and businesses. When you share information about your business, it needs to be done in a way that resonates with your audience. By establishing open lines of communication with your customers, you’ll encourage honest feedback from them.
That will help you to secure a following that is not only large but is also connected to your business in a way that creates a long-lasting relationship.