User generated content can be a social media goldmine for businesses of any size if used correctly. Reliable and authentic, user generated content can be used to engage an audience for a fraction of the price of paid media. However, so many businesses are yet to fully consider and understand the value user generated content can have in their overall digital strategies. User generated content is underrated, and as a result, you might be missing the opportunity to build your brand trust. Here, we look at why this content style should be an essential piece of your overall strategy, how to do it right and what it looks like when it’s poorly managed.
Give me the lowdown – what is user generated content?
User generated content (UGC) is essentially original content created by a customer that has been shared online. This content can be presented in various formats, including static images, testimonials, videos, stories, and podcasts.
UGC enables consumers of a product or service to share their genuine experience with the brand. This content is typically organic and not managed by a brand, so it’s considered a more genuine and meaningful way of highlighting a product.
As a business owner, why should I care about UGC?
The value of user generated content should not be underestimated. While the importance of this kind of content may vary depending on your industry, the benefits that quality UGC can provide are worth exploring. We unpack why you should care about UGC below.
For this article, when referring to UGC, we are not including any paid influencer activity. To learn more about influencer marketing, please read our blog.
Have you ever had such a positive experience with a brand that you feel like you need to shout it from the rooftop? I know I have. When I’ve had an incredible dining experience, I may take a photo of my meal and share it on Instagram just like I do after a trip to the hairdresser. These quick snaps can be captured and shared for various reasons, but ultimately, they’re also showcasing my positive experience with my friends, family, and followers who are likely to listen to and respect my opinion.
Because these interactions are in the moment and often unprompted, they’re seen to be more authentic and trusted than paid ad placements. A recent study found that 96 per cent of consumers don’t trust ads, perceiving them as opportunistic and out of touch.
“This attitude has been cultivated following years of clickbait-y slogans and heavy-handed photoshopping, which only widened the gap between the consumer experience and the advertised subject,” inc.com.
While we wouldn’t necessarily take this as a sign not to advertise at all, it does indicate that there are other, just as important ways to communicate brand credibility and trust.
Once upon a time, Instagram was all about the stylish magazine-style grid that featured perfect-looking people. Now, things have changed, and people better respond to a range of authentic and diverse content that features people from all different walks of life. Unfortunately, it’s often not possible for a business – particularly a smaller one – to create content that’s representative and inclusive of a wide range of gender, sexuality, physicality, and race. However, if they’re able to tap into and use content created by their consumers, they are more likely to be able to represent a more comprehensive portion of their customer base, presenting a more realistic, true-to-life version of the brand.
While UGC has always played an important role in digital marketing, we’ve seen the value increase throughout COVID-19 when businesses have had limited availability to shoot and create content. Through accessing and sharing content created by their consumers, businesses could still share fresh and engaging content.
Save time and money
We all know that content creation is more complex, and time involved than it looks. While UGC shouldn’t replace internal content creation altogether, it can be a valuable addition to your marketing mix. Combining a suite of brand-owned images, UGC, lifestyle RGs and paid influencer content can be a great way to showcase important brand messaging, communicate brand personality and demonstrate diversity and authenticity.
What does this mean as a consumer?
It means you have more influence than ever before. Online channels ensure customers have a way of making a brand accountable. Consumer action like a negative review or an unfavourable video testimonial, for example, can genuinely impact a brand’s reputation and, by extension, its bottom line.
Small businesses rely heavily on feedback and testimonials to generate brand awareness and engagement. Take Frank Body, for example. This cult Australian brand experienced exponential growth in a short time, primarily due to the community they created and the UGC they helped to facilitate.
Co-founder and Creative Director Jess Hatzis told Forbes,” We created a bold brand persona that resonated with consumers, and to this day, it is still the largest referrer of traffic to our website. We spend a lot of time developing content that our consumers want to see, but more importantly, we had a very deliberate UGC strategy from day 1 – and we now have over 100,000 consumer-generated images living under our hashtags #letsbefrank and #thefrankeffect.”
While Frank Body’s products are undoubtedly good, it’s not the quality of the products that has grown the brand to where it is today. With a uniquely cheeky tone of voice, the Frank Body brand captured and engaged audiences from the start. Ultimately, people wanted to be a part of the brand story by sharing their own content showing #thefrankeffect.
Social media channels enable consumers to have a direct line of communication with the brands they use, and as such, they can make brands accountable.
Some key things to keep in mind as a consumer:
Consider the impact and ramifications of sharing your experience
Reviews and testimonials can have a significant impact on a brand. It’s worth considering what impact sharing your experience will have and the purpose behind it. If you have an unsavoury experience and think it’s essential that other people are aware, by all means, share away. But, if it’s just something that wasn’t to your liking, there is nothing ‘wrong’, consider if it’s worth sharing.
Be open to a response
Some businesses take feedback seriously and respond as such. Some will even take this feedback on board and make meaningful changes. It’s important to be prepared to listen or to continue the dialogue.
How can we incorporate UGC within our overall digital communications strategy?
While a lot of UGC is shared without prompts, there are steps a business can take to further encourage and facilitate this.
Invite people to share
Encourage people to share their experiences and how they can do this best. For example, it’s common when buying online to receive a cute postcard along with your purchase with an invitation to share your content with corresponding tags and hashtags. Sometimes, people need a simple prompt to know where and how to best tag people or what hashtag they should use, so make it easy for them!
I know, I know, we’ve talked a lot about authenticity, and now we bring up incentivising people to share content but hear me out! This could be as simple as choosing the best piece of content once a month and awarding the uploader with a free product or voucher. This way, not everyone gets something, but you’re still recognising and rewarding the contribution.
Create a community
Social media should be a form of two-way communication between a brand and the consumer or audience – that’s why it’s called social media. Engaging with and recognising all UGC, even if it’s not the ‘prettiest’ piece of content, should be a key part of any business’s strategy. A quick comment lets the poster know you’ve seen and recognised them and can be genuinely exciting. According to Stackla, 51% of consumers are more likely to engage with and/or purchase from a brand if it shares its social posts in its marketing. By simply taking the time to respond to and engage with your community, you can improve your brand sentiment and build trust.
Some brands take this even further through simple surprise and delight campaigns where they may choose people at random who have engaged with the brand and recognise their dedication by sending free goods.
What can go wrong?
As with anything, user generated content can go horribly wrong if not used properly. Here are a few things to consider before sharing your UGC.
Consider who has created the content
We always suggest looking at the poster’s profile before sharing their content. Imagine if you’re a plant-based pizzeria, and you share a photo from someone who also has pictures of themselves hunting on their social media. It’s not the best look, and it doesn’t support your brand values. Additionally, it may also encourage online trolling.
Ask for permission
Just because someone has taken a photo that features your product, that doesn’t make it fair game. You should seek consent to reshare that content on your platforms. A simple comment on the photo asking if you can share the image will suffice. We also recommend taking a screenshot of their response for your records in case the content is ever removed.
Likewise, just because someone has posted a photo or a video featuring your brand, you don’t have to share it. You need to consider what value it has to your overall audience and if it will elevate your brand reputation. By being selective, you encourage people to put more time and effort into creating high-quality content.
Context is everything
You need to understand the landscape before launching a campaign with a UGC element. There are countless examples from global brands demonstrating what a lack of consideration and forethought can do. For example, in 2011, Qantas ran a #QantasLuxury campaign across Twitter encouraging people to “tell us ‘What is your dream luxury inflight experience? (Be creative!) Answer must include #QantasLuxury.” However, they had grounded several flights earlier in the month, and the overall brand sentiment was quite negative.
They generated several less than positive responses, including:
Getting from A to B without the plane being grounded or an engine catching fire
#QantasLuxury is a complimentary cheap hotel room because your cynical airway left you stranded in Adelaide, of all places. Adelaide.
#QantasLuxury is a massive executive bonus while your workers starve and your former customers choke
Before encouraging user generated content, take the time to consider the landscape and if there are any additional measures or actions, you need to take before launching.
Have we managed to convince you that user generated content is important yet? Like with all aspects of marketing, approaching user generated content with a strategy in mind is the key to leveraging the overall benefits this style of content can have for your brand. If you’re looking to build trust and diversify your content mix, we recommend considering how UGC may be able to support you with this goal. Get in touch if you’re looking for support and guidance on the best way to integrate UGC into your overall comms plan.