Producing a steady stream of content is key to a successful inbound marketing strategy. However, you don’t have to produce all that content alone. With the right strategy, not only can you compliment your existing content output with the content your audience is probably already producing, but you can build better customer relationships as well.
These days both sales and marketing are all about engagement.
Relationship-building and social presence leads to brand loyalty, which expands your company’s reach and feeds back into solidifying those relationships and presence.
Content marketing has adapted to these changes in the marketplace with the emergence of user-generated content.
What is User-Generated Content?
User-generated content (UGC) - also called consumer generated marketing - is content created in collaboration with your audience. Its primary components include posing an invitation, receiving submissions, and publishing the results.
User-generated content can take many forms. It may include written testimonials from current or past customers or photos of your product being used in real life. It could involve the use of branded hashtags, or fan-created videos or songs.
There’s no limit to the creative ways that your users can generate content for your business, and often all you have to do is simply ask for it.
The Benefits of User-Generated Content
Research shows that a staggering 90% of consumers say online reviews influence their purchasing decisions. That trend remains true offline, with 84% of consumers feeling that recommendations from their peers are the most trustworthy source of advertising. When it comes to answering the question"what is user-generated content?", the best answer is it's a tool that harnesses the power of reviews and recommendations in fun and creative ways to benefit both the users and the company.
UGC Benefits Your Company By:
Bolstering your content strategy without increasing the amount that your team has to personally write.
Receiving content submissions for free.
Providing inspiration for future content without laborious brainstorming sessions.
Harnessing the boundless creativity of many rather than relying on the ideas of a few.
Revealing valuable insight into your users’ interests, thoughts, and needs.
Sparking conversations within your target audience.
Building up your industry presence, especially on social media platforms.
Being inherently shareable, thus promoting exposure to not only your own followers but to their extended networks.
UGC Enhances Your Users’ Experiences by:
Making your users feel appreciated and heard.
Showing the real-life benefits and applications of your product or service.
Curating actual customer feedback and reviews.
Allowing them to express their creativity and opinions.
Inviting them to take part in a shared experience with their peers.
Offering them incentives such as prizes or being featured in large scale ads.
Providing visibility to artists or other professionals who submit high-quality content.
User-generated content is a collaborative experience with the potential for great results for both sides. Before launching your user-generated content marketing strategy, you need to determine what you want to ask for, how you’re going to ask for it, and why users would want to give it to you.
Types of User-Generated Content
The first step toward implementing user-generated content is to decide what you want to ask your audience for. Here are some ideas:
Photographs of your product in use, of your product in odd places, of your users without your product (to showcase the kinds of people who use your product), taken over a custom filter or banner, taken next to or inside a physical location related to your brand.
In honor of female athletes, Under Armour launched their Unlike Any user-generated campaign. They partnered with several spoken word artists to combine poetic messages over videos of professional female athletes, then invited users to submit their own content using the hashtag #UnlikeAny - which now has over 12,000 image and video posts and thousands of likes.
Videos of your users engaging with your product, of your users talking about their experiences, of your users answering a specific question (closed or open-ended), of your users completing a challenge of sorts, of your product being used to help someone.
Pampers understands that their buyer personas don’t just buy diapers - they buy into safety, comfort, and love for their children. That’s why their UGC campaign, Love, Sleep, & Play, was such a great idea. They invited customers to submit videos of their families that they edited together into an ad. The videos didn’t exclusively focus on shots of babies wearing their diapers. Instead, they showed real families playing, laughing, and loving together. No doubt, their staged ads, such as the latest one featuring John Legend with his daughter, are successful, too. But there’s something that resonates with customers on a deeper level seeing families in the commercial that is just like theirs.
Writing testimonials, poetry or prose, personal stories, funny anecdotes, comic strips, fill-in-the-blank statements.
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon does an excellent job encouraging users to share written content that is short and sweet via Twitter. Users simply use the branded hashtags with the chance to have their Tweets read on TV. Some of the hashtags that have been used include #AllIWantForChristmasIs, #IfIWonTheLottery, and #MomQuotes. The prompts are simple, direct, and on-brand, and provide literal hours of content for Jimmy’s talk show - not to mention corresponding social media posts, blogs, and image galleries - absolutely free of charge.
User Data: non-private or identifiable information that is freely given and used appropriately, such as responses to survey questions or purchasing habits.
Spotify and Netflix are two major brands that consistently implement UGC strategies based on user data. In 2018, Spotify launched a series of out-of-home advertisements featuring user data with copy such as, “Dear person who played “Sorry” 42 times on Valentines Day, what did you do?” Similarly, Netflix regularly posts UGC on their Twitter and even takes it a step further, responding to a great number of users who Tweet at them.
Absolutely any content medium can be user-generated. The only limit is your imagination!
How to Invite Submissions
The next part of the process is determining how to ask for users to submit content. This can be done via email invitation, a promotion on your website, and perhaps most frequently through social media. Users can be instructed to submit content by using a branded hashtag, completing an online survey, or uploading media to a landing page.
Another approach is to simply put relevant, engaging content out that naturally sparks engagement with no need for formal submissions. It could appeal to your users’ sense of humor, prompting responses and shares, or to their emotions, such as showing support for a cause.
Why Users Want to Give You Content
Answering the questions "what is user-generated content?" is one thing. But there are plenty of other motivating factors that compel users to submit content to companies. A solid understanding of your buyer personas will reveal what entices your own users, whether it’s a contest prize, a charitable donation, an expression of creativity, a platform for exposure, or simply the chance to tell their friends that they were on tv one time.
Starbucks encapsulated all of these motivations with their now iconic White Cup Contest. They invited their customers to decorate their plain white cups and share pictures of them on social media using their branded hashtag. This drove in thousands of photos of user decorated cups - with the Starbucks logo front and center - which were compiled into commercial slideshows, shared and re-shared on social media, and gained the attention of consumers and news outlets alike.
This simple consumer generated marketing campaign evolved into an annual tradition that raises money for charities, has a holiday themed counterpart, and even launched one winner’s career as a professional artist.
The kicker is that this was actually not Starbucks’ idea to begin with. People had already been decorating their white cups, and they took the opportunity to turn it into a wildly successful marketing campaign.
Repackaging and Repurposing UGC
User-generated content truly is the gift that keeps on giving. Because it is generated by users, the content production will continue as long as your users want it to. People continue to post images of their decorated Starbucks cups even when the official campaign is inactive, showing the staying power that can be achieved with a proper strategy.
The user-generated content you receive can be repackaged in a number of ways. For example, Databox sent out a simple survey asking HubSpot users what their favorite features were, then turned their responses into a blog titled 35 HubSpot Features That Users Can’t Live Without. They produced this original content with user submissions that saved them time, research, and money. More importantly, they know that their content is relevant to their buyer personas because they asked them directly what to include.
There is also great potential for repurposing content. Images can easily and quickly be compiled into slideshows or videos. Videos can be edited together and set to a musical track. Testimonials and written content can be designed for use in sales materials, as website content, or as social posts. You might also consider creating a gallery of the best entries, or adding a scrolling live stream to your website.
So, what is user-generated content? User-generated content is one of the most effective ways modern businesses are building brand trust, awareness, and loyalty with their audiences. And the best part is that their users are happy to take part in it!