The best ad for your business may not be an ad at all. It’s something better that costs you almost next to nothing. User generated content (UGC) is not a new concept, but it could do wonders for your business growth.
“UGC” was coined to refer to reviews, images, videos, testimonials and social media posts published online by users of a brand or product. While negative reviews definitely exist, they mainly concentrate on the positive experiences customers have.
They are usually unsolicited and created by customers who do not expect any form of compensation. You may encourage user-generated content, but you have little or no control over what your customers will say … which is a good thing! I will explain why in a moment.
Have you been monitoring and collecting user generated content about your brand or business? Great job! You’re sitting on a gold mine. Your next step then is to leverage these to grow your business.
If you haven’t been keeping track, fear not. We’ll talk about tools to use on how to find and collect these.
Word-of-mouth mentions of your business has always been the best form of marketing. The internet has spawned “electronic” word-of mouth (eWOM), which is basically feedback and reviews from real customers published online.
It’s not quite the same of user-generated content, but the basic principles remain. If you’re interested in the differences between the two, here’s an excellent article that gets deep into it.
Businesses encouraging user generated content takes these principles of real customer feedback and reviews to amplify their marketing message and content.
Why You Should Leverage UGC?
There’s no denying that UGC has an influential and positive impact on online marketing, leading to increased conversions, improved search rankings and brand loyalty.
Even big brands like Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Calvin Klein are among the many that have included UGC in their strategies. Here’s why:
1. People trust user generated content.
I’m sure you’ve bought a product or used a service because of the advice and recommendations of friends or family. You value their opinion and know it to be honest.
Ninety-two per cent of people in a Nielsen survey trust word-of-mouth recommendations by family and friends. Less than 50% trust traditional ads.
First-time customers of a product or a brand rely heavily on the word and experiences of fellow consumers. When unfamiliar with a product or a brand, people usually search for user reviews and feedback.
User generated content often acts as word-of-mouth advice, as visitors researching a product see the recommendations from real people and customers.
2. A customer’s voice rings true.
When a consensus of customers all give high marks on a product, you can generally believe that they are honest. Product judgments can be subjective, and this adds to their authenticity.
For example, when I look for some new or replacement gadget in the kitchen, I will often read the comments and watch some YouTube reviews before deciding.
While inauthentic reviews definitely plague the web (such as Amazon reviews), real customers praise but aren’t shy to point out product features that need improvement. Often, they will post images or videos when they express their satisfaction with a brand.
Authenticity is why people trust user generated content. It can be the deciding factor before customers support a brand.
3. User generated content builds product awareness.
When brands value their customers’ content, more engagement is encouraged. Think of Team Red and Team Blue, for instance. I’m referring to AMD and Intel. Their respective customers have taken over the discussion on the internet on who’s the better company.
Every time one or the other launches new lines of CPUs, their fans and customers publish tons of content complete with videos, images and stats. It’s free advertising and content for both companies. Their fans have become their willing marketing partners and brand ambassadors.
4. It builds trust and confidence in a brand.
No one wants to be taken for a fool. A product endorsement by someone who is trusted might just be enough for a hesitant customer to go ahead and buy.
When customers discover that real people support a brand, they’re more inclined to follow suit. An image or a photo of a happy person using your products on Instagram is more effective than your best sales pitch.
Seeing proof of a satisfied customer can help people achieve peace of mind when they finally purchase from the brand. If those users are happy with their purchase, so will I.
Lastly, it can be said that UGC also provides an invaluable service to the public. It’s not only a gain for brands but for consumers as well.
5. It’s a source of valuable data.
All this feedback, opinions and reviews from your customers means valuable insights for you and your business. You learn what you’re doing right and what needs improvement. You cannot determine the public’s perception of your brand from sales statistics alone.
This content also reveals what social media platform and content type your target audience prefers. This is crucial when you want to build closer ties with them and what channel to focus your marketing on.
If a majority of your customers post videos on YouTube, spend more energy on your YouTube channel. If Instagram is the main place, focus your marketing there and have an Instagram feed on your website with your customer’s content.
6. User generated content costs relatively little.
With a little motivation, your customers can speak on your behalf. Why settle for simple requests such as “Like Us on Facebook” when you can ask a customer to share how your product or service solved a problem.
Costs are much lower when you encourage UGC. For instance, you can run a contest for the best stories or photos your customers will post on social media. The winners will receive discounts or even free products. This is much cheaper than, for instance, hiring an influencer to get the word out.
Ways to Get More User Generated Content
Businesses are becoming more creative in motivating customers to publish their own reviews, feedback and videos. Here are ways your brand can elicit more content without having to resort to extravagant gimmicks or crossing the line into sounding inauthentic:
Turn Customers into Raving Fans.
Encouraging repeat business is not the only reason why your business should deliver as promised and provide excellent after-sales service. It’s one way of turning customers into your most passionate advocates. They are more likely to create UGC for you without being asked. Check out our article on how to turn your customers into raving fans.
Use tools to search for UGC.
Your customers may already be talking about you. You can find out with any of the monitoring tools below:
- Google Alerts. Do you want to know if your brand is mentioned on the web? If you already have a Google account, go to Google Alerts and type your keywords. You will be informed via e-mail of search results. It’s free.
- Hootsuite. You can learn about discussions that have an impact on your business. Search using keywords and hashtags.
- Sprout Social. This is a tool that can track brand mentions on Twitter and Instagram. You can try it out for free.
- Awario. Not only can you track online conversations about your brand, but you can also join them in real-time.
- Tagbox. Find and curate user generated content into your marketing campaigns, social channel and website.
These tools I mentioned are only a sample of the tons available out there. How do you find the best one for you – I suggest a search for “ugc tools“.
Engage your Customers.
If you’ve kept track of your user generated content, now is the time to connect with each contributor. Ask each for permission if you could use their content. Don’t forget to give them credit, and tag them in your post.
Once a customer purchases your product, you can encourage UGC by mentioning it in your insert. Ask them what they liked about your shop. Would they want to share what made them pick your brand over others? Are they willing to recommend others to buy from you?
Often, satisfied customers don’t mind giving feedback and reviews. They just don’t know where to post these. Be detailed when you request reviews, testimonials, images, and other content.
Dedicate a Webpage or Social Media Site for UGC.
Make it easy for your customers to share their experiences of your product by informing them upfront where to post.
Your Instagram account is an excellent place to start. It’s where you’ll find tons of user-generated content. Consider combining Instagram Stories with Highlights, so you have a lasting collection of user generated content.
Run a Campaign or Contest
Coca-Cola ran its ‘Share a Coke’ campaign starting in 2011 in Australia, which became hugely successful and expanded worldwide. The company replaced the labels on their cans with one of the 250 most popular names in America.
The result – about 500,000 photos were posted on social media by consumers who tweeted using the hashtag #ShareaCoke. It has expanded to over 1,000 names and remains running to this day.
A campaign or contest can connect with your customers on a more personal level. Encourage them to share their stories or photos. It doesn’t have to be about your brand, but about your customer.
Offer a prize if you run a contest. Be creative. You can ask your followers to share funny photos while in quarantine, for instance. But rewards are not always necessary. Often, customers share to get more likes or are happy because their content is posted by a company they like.
Ready to give your business and brand a boost? Search for user generated content already existing, or begin thinking of ways to encourage your customers to post content using your products or services. You could be sitting on a gold mine. Content from your users may prove to be your best form of advertising!