Discover how to create an effective social media content calendar and have a successful social media content strategy.
Instead of spending thousands on advertising campaigns, many brands nowadays incorporate user-generated content in their marketing strategies, and no wonder! UGC has so many benefits, we don’t know where to start.
Let’s begin by quickly answering the «what is user-generated content» question, then move on to USG’s benefits, and different types of UGC. Then we’ll tell you how to get more UGC from your followers, show you some successful campaigns, and finally say a word or two on UGC best practices. Ready? Let’s start.
What is User-Generated Content?
User-generated content, or customer content, is simply content generated by users. This is the content social media users create that brands share on their social media accounts and other marketing channels. UGC can take any form, from photos and videos to reviews and comments, but more on this later.
Why Use User-Generated Content?
The benefits of UGC are many, so here are the ones you should be aware of.
Builds Credibility and Trust
When it comes to advertising your brand on social media, UGC is much more trustworthy to consumers than brand-made ads. How come? Well, the answer is simple. Consumers trust other consumers more than brands who try to sell them products or services. Posting UGC from happy customers who’ve had great experiences using your product (s) or service (s) will create all the social proof you need and with that boost your brand’s credibility and trust. This is exactly why influencer marketing is more popular than ever before!
Want to learn more about influencer marketing? Check out our three pieces on the subject.
- How to set up an influencer marketing campaign
- The complete influencer marketing guide
- How to manage influencers and micro-influencers
Makes Your Brand More Relatable
Want to publish content that your audience will find relatable? Look no further than UGC. After all, who can create a more relatable content for your followers than, well, your followers? When someone sees a photo, a video, or other type of UGC they relate to, they’re more likely to check out your brand and what you sell. Isn’t this why you’re looking into UGC anyways?
Increases Your Social Media Posts' Engagement and Reach
In a way, posting UGC is like posting ads… that are completely free! When you share a follower’s post, that person will most likely re-share it on their profile, so it’ll reach more people and have higher engagement.
Increases Your Conversion Rates
According to this study, user-generated content is 5 times more likely to convert customers than content created by brands. Do we need to say anything else?
Gets You Interesting Content
It can be hard to produce interesting and engaging content for all your social media accounts every single day for years on end. This is where UGC comes to the rescue. It’s a win-win for both social media users and brands. Your followers will get exposure and feel appreciated, while you’ll get authentic and credible content that can do only good for your brand.
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Types of User-Generated Content
Visual User-Generated Content
It’s not very surprising that images are the most common (and most popular) type of user-generated content. They are constantly being used as UGC by many big and small brands, given that images created by customers can increase the number of their followers and social proof for that matter. Instagram is the social platform where you’ll see most of this image-based user-generated content, but Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are great platforms as well.
This is another great type of UGC, but a bit harder to get when compared to images. Videos from your customers, fans, and followers are an amazing way to introduce new people to your product or service, especially those who have never heard about your brand before.
Textual User-Generated Content
Customer feedback should be very important to every business that wants to succeed and be better than its competitors. From it, you can get valuable feedback to improve your products, but also your potential customers can be better informed when looking to buy a product from your company.
If you sell your products on Amazon, customer feedback in the FAQ and Q&A sections can get your products to rank higher and you can build a better social proof. You can encourage your existing customers to leave feedback by adding one sentence in the email they get automatically after buying a product.
Ratings, Reviews and Testimonials
Encouraging your customers to rate and review your products can be very useful and advantageous for your business. Whether the reviews take place on Facebook or Amazon, they will build trust in your brand so you can expect to see more customers in the future.
When looking for a product, consumers often can’t decide between a couple of similar things they want. This is why social proof in the form of ratings and reviews plays a great role and can be just enough to push online shoppers to buy your products instead of your competitors'.
Testimonials are also a great idea. You can ask for testimonials from your satisfied customers and showcase them on your website, online store, or social media.
Social Media Comments
Comments on social media are very valuable for your engagement rate. After all, comments are very appreciated by almost every social media platform’s algorithm — the more comments your post has, the more people will see it. It sounds easy, but it can be very time-consuming to incentivize your followers to comment more often. The best way, however, is to simply reply to as many comments you get on your posts.
When your fans see that their comments are seen and replied to, they will be encouraged to like and comment more often, and you’ll probably get more shares as well.
How to Use UGC on Social Media?
Before you start posting UGC on your social media accounts, you need to really know your audience. What are their likes and dislikes? What are their interests? What type of content they want to see? What posts they mostly engage with? Having these questions answered will make your user-generated content marketing strategy so much more successful.
Now, here are our tips on how to use content from your followers on social media.
Post a Photo or a Video
This is how most brands use UGC on their social, unsurprisingly so given that it’s very effective. Simply posting a photo or a video by a customer who’s satisfied with your product or service will create brand awareness but also inspire brand loyalty. Just create a great caption, use emojis, and don’t forget to both tag and thank them!
Post Multiple Photos
This is a great way to showcase a product, especially if it’s a new one. Collect at least 5 if not more similar photos where people are suing your product (s) and publish them all at once in one post. It will definitely peak your followers' interest, and don’t forget to tag each and every person who contributes.
Create a Unique Hashtag
If you have a large following on social, you wouldn’t want your followers to send you their posts in your DMs. So, what’s the easiest way to collect UGC? By creating a unique and branded hashtag (s). Promote it in your posts and Stories and let your followers know that they can use it every time they publish a post that’s related to your brand. This way every time you want to post UGC all you have to do is type in the hashtag in the search bar and scroll through the posts to find the best ones.
Post UGC in Stories
Stories, both on Instagram and Facebook, are increasing in popularity day by day. They are great for engagement, but also for posting UGC. When you share UGC in a Story and tag the creator, that user can then re-share it in their Story and with that spread the word about your brand.
Moreover, if you’re on Instagram, you can create a Story Highlight especially for UGC where you can store each and every user-generated post that you publish on your profile. This way, whenever a new user who’s not that familiar with your brand visits your profile, they can see plenty of satisfied customers and interesting posts which will make them trust your brand from the very start.
Create UGC Contests
Creating contests will not only bring you more UGC, but it will also get your brand in front of new audiences. Not to mention that you’ll increase your engagement, the number of followers, and of course, sales.
First thing you’ll need to do is choose a prize. This can be a product your company sells, or even something from the brands you collaborate with. Then you have to set the rules and simply explain them to your followers. What should people send in order to win? When’s the deadline? Should they use a hashtag? If yes, and we highly recommend that you create a special hashtag for the contest, which one? Will their posts be judged based on the number of likes or will it be a random choice?
Then all you need to do is promote your contest, maybe reach out to influencers, and voila!
You can use brand new UGC, but this can also be a great opportunity to re-use your already published posts.
Did you know that more than 70% of consumers read product reviews before actually buying a product they like? This makes sharing reviews from your customers a great idea! After all, who wouldn’t want to buy a product that has these kind of reviews?
You can use social media to remind them to leave reviews on your website, third-party review sites, even on social media if you use Facebook to sell your products. We especially recommend this if you’re a smaller brand that’s just starting out!
How to Get More User-Generated Content to Promote Your Brand
As we already-mentioned, running a contest is one of the best and fastest ways to gather more user-generated content. If you want to boost your brands' visibility and get content from your followers, creating a competitive contest is a great place to start. Just make sure that you make it as simple as possible with clear rules so that more of your fans choose to participate.
Depending on the rules and how the winners are chosen, you can motivate your followers to create not only more content, but also content of higher-quality than usual.
To additionally stimulate your followers to submit content for your contests, you can offer them rewards or incentives. If there are good enough incentives, like a giveaway of your best-selling products, your followers will put more effort into the content they’re creating. This way they’re also more likely to promote and share their freshly created content with their followers, even on their other social profiles.
If you still cannot give your products for free, you can reward your followers with some kind of a recognition, a large discount, buy one — get one free coupon, and so on. But even with a small marketing budget, you can still be creative and offer some great incentives. That being said, you can always collaborate with other brands and offer their products as rewards.
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Support or Join a Cause
When consumers know that by buying a product from a specific brand they’re also supporting a good cause, they’re more likely to buy it and tell their social media followers and friends about their noble deed.
Depending on your brand’s values, you can pick a worthy cause to support that aligns with your purpose. With each sale you make, you can assist people who live in hard conditions, help animals, or have a positive impact on the environment. You can then mention that cause on your social media accounts, so that your followers see you as a conscious company with great values, and not as a business that only wants to generate more sales.
Engage With Your Followers
It’s always good to engage with your followers, and this is especially true when it comes to businesses. You can engage with your followers in many ways, and it’s always good to respond to their questions and suggestions in an honest and empathetic way.
Share your follower’s posts where they praise or cheer your company. But also reply to critics. By being active and responsive on social media, your followers will think more frequently about your brand. Additionally, they’ll probably also have a more favorable opinion about your business and will continue to engage with your posts more often in the future.
Create and Use Hashtags
If you’re planning on using user-generated content in your social media marketing strategy, creating your own branded hashtag can be extremely valuable. Just look at some of the most successful hashtag campaigns from famous brands, and you’ll see what we’re talking about.
One of the most popular hashtag campaigns is Coca-Cola's #ShareaCoke campaign. It was such a great concept, that Coca-Cola benefited a lot in terms of exposure on social media. Their engagement skyrocketed, the main reason being that the posts were personal and easily shareable. And, of course, they had a catchy hashtag.
Another great hashtag campaign is Calvin Klein’s #MyCalvins where they didn’t even offer an incentive. Their fan base and followers served as models for their underwear and without expecting something in return, their social media followers and customers took pictures of themselves in Calvin Klein’s underwear and shared it (mostly on Instagram) by using the popular hashtag.
Our Favorite User-Generated Content Campaigns
Let’s take a look at the most popular and our favorite user-generated content campaigns so you can learn a thing or two from these successful examples.
Adobe is a software company that creates applications for creatives and designers. They are very active on Instagram and their campaigns are quite prosperous. For pride month, they created and promoted the hashtag #Adobe_InColor, so that their users take colorful photos or manipulate them in Adobe Photoshop, and share them on social media.
There are a few other user-generated content campaigns that Adobe has successfully started. Under the hashtag #Adobe_Perspective, many photographers took and shared amazing, high-quality photographs. While using their products, designers also joined the #Adobe_BeautyInChaos hashtag campaign and Adobe in return featured their best designs on their Instagram page.
The campaigns Adobe makes are not only great for receiving a lot of user-generated content, but content useful for their brand in many other ways as well. They use it to promote and demonstrate the futures of their software, but also for endorsements from experts in the graphic design or video production industry.
Coca-Cola — Share a Coke
This is without a doubt one of the most popular, if not THE most popular campaign for user-generated content throughout the world. They made the campaign famous mainly by using ads on social media, but also on billboards in many different cities around the world.
The idea for this campaign was to share a Coke with your loved ones, since every bottle had specific names for the specific countries where they were sold. People took photos of their Coke in over 80 countries and shared them on social media with the said hashtag. This is why the campaign became a great success and was very well-received, especially by younger audiences.
Starbucks is an amazing example of how a branded hashtag campaign and a contest on social media can get you a lot of user-generated content. In 2014 with their #WhiteCupContest, Starbucks started a campaign to motivate and encourage its customers to draw on the cup and share the doodle with their friends and followers on social media.
Because this campaign was fairly successful, two years later in 2016, they created yet another similar campaign/contest with the hashtag #RedCupArt. The best design would be printed on limited edition cups in the Starbucks coffee shops, so people started joining and a lot of cups with drawings were shared on Instagram and Twitter.
In comparison with the Share a Coke campaign, Starbucks didn’t spend nearly as much money to promote its campaign for driving user-generated content. Instead, Starbucks made a contest with gift cards as prizes, and a lot of coffee lovers who love to draw and doodle joined and shared their art.
Best Practices for Sharing User-Generated Content on Social Media
Finally, let’s quickly go over some important things when it comes to sharing UGC on social media so that everything is legal and safe for your company.
Always Ask Permission
It’s important to always ask the original author for permission before reposting their photo or video. Many of your followers who publish content using your branded hashtag will want their content to be shared by your page; however, this may not always be the case.
Since it’s their original content, it’s smart to build a habit of asking your fans in a private message or in the comment section, whether or not it would be okay for your brand to repost their photo or video. That way you’ll not only protect yourself from potential copyright infringement, but you’ll also show your fans that you care about them and value their content.
However, if your branded hashtag is created ESPECIALLY for gathering user-generated content, your followers know that their content can be used by your brand at any time so you won’t have to ask everyone for permission.
Credit the Original Author
Whenever you post another user’s content on your profile, make sure to ALWAYS tag the original author in the description.
This is a good practice for a few different reasons. You’re recognizing the users who posted the original content, and you’ll also give them more visibility. By giving them proper credit, you’ll probably get more engagement on your posts and you’ll be motivating other users to post more content where they’ll tag your business or use your branded hashtag.