User-generated content offers consumers what they want from a brand: authenticity. 

Here you’ll learn:

  • What user-generated content (UGC) is all about
  • Why UGC is worth marketers’ attention
  • Creative ways to encourage UGC
  • How to leverage UGC in marketing

When it comes to content creation, the stakes are high. Experienced marketers know content can be the make-or-break factor that determines campaign success.

But what if you didn’t have to create it yourself? 

“Amateur” content created by those in your audience could potentially attract marketing results that rival professionally written blogs, social media posts, or ads.

In fact, 9 out of 10 consumers report that user-generated content influences their purchasing decisions. Ready to take advantage of it yourself? Let’s get started.

person scrolling through photos on smartphone

Original content created by influencers can become the driving force behind lead generation and brand awareness. (Image via Pexels)

What is user-generated content?

User-generated content is content created and published by your audience. 

For example, a customer buys a bouquet of roses at a local flower shop. They take a selfie with the flowers and post it on Instagram, tagging the flower shop.

Not only will the flower shop be notified of the post, but the photo itself serves as its own kind of marketing, letting followers know what the product is and where it can be found.

UGC can exist in many forms, including:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Text
  • Posts
  • Podcasts
  • Reviews
  • Testimonials

Who can create user-generated content?

Customers aren’t the only people who can create UGC. You can also get excellent original content from employees and influencers.

Authentic content generated by employees can help increase brand awareness, tell your company’s story, and strengthen the connection with the target audience.

Original content created by influencers can become the driving force behind lead generation and brand awareness. But you don’t necessarily need to partner with an influencer to create content that advertises your brand. Sometimes, if they enjoy your products and services, they may promote them for free via UGC.

Leveraging user-generated content is a word-of-mouth marketing tactic. Your customers and clients become brand ambassadors, recommending your products and services to others.

These days, 90% of consumers say they’re more likely to trust a brand if it comes recommended by another consumer (even if it’s a stranger).

Pro tip: With the pandemic increasing how often we find ourselves online, Search Engine Land suggests UGC is as important to explore as ever.

Why user-generated content is important

Think of UGC as part of the “show vs. tell” mindset. It’s not your company bragging about how great your offerings are, it’s coming from other happy customers.

Along with the authenticity factor, key UGC benefits include:

  • Trust – Consumers trust brands that inspire and leverage UGC because this type of content is credible proof that your product is worth buying.
  • Brand loyalty – UGC is a demonstration of brand loyalty. When consumers see that type of loyalty from others, they’re more likely to become loyal as well.
  • Lead generation – UGC can turn someone’s followers into potential customers, complementing your lead generation efforts.
  • SEO – User-generated content can boost your SEO efforts in many ways, including backlinks to your website.
  • Personalization – UGC resonates with your target audience. You can use it to increase personalization in many aspects of search engine marketing (SEM).

The best part about UGC is that it’s usually free. While it may take a certain effort to encourage, source, and leverage this type of content, it still has a high potential ROI.

Potential drawbacks

While UGC seems like a perfect way to advertise your brand, it’s also true that this content creation is outside of your control. It comes with a few downsides, such as:

  • Quality – UGC isn’t always professional quality (poorly written text, low-resolution or overly filtered photos, etc.)
  • Messaging – You don’t have any control over the content posted by your users. It may not always reflect your brand image or voice.
  • Access – You may not always be granted access to the content or receive permission to reuse it for marketing purposes.
  • Availability – UGC is organic, so it isn’t created or published on a schedule.

Pro tip: Google has its own guide to user-generated content, with tips to help you incorporate it into your own campaigns.

young woman setting up smartphone to record a video

Always acknowledge your audience’s content and tag them if possible when you repost their original content as a way to show appreciation. (Image via Pexels)

How to encourage user-generated content

Arguably, the toughest part about leveraging user-generated content is sourcing it. While you can’t force organic content, there are a few ways to encourage it:

  • Run contests on social media that involve sharing content.
  • Create and promote a branded hashtag for your audience to use when sharing UGC.
  • Let followers know you’ll repost UGC on your website or social media.
  • Offer incentives such as small discounts or early access to new offers in exchange for UGC.
  • Engage with users on social media and implement hashtags whenever possible.

User-generated content: best practices

Encouraging user-generated content is only half the job. To amplify its reach and influence, consider these tactics:

  • Ask for it – The easiest way to receive UGC is to ask for it. Post a request for UGC on social media, in blogs, or via email marketing campaigns. Create a set of guidelines for UGC and make it available to your audience.
  • Make it visible – Once you have the content, try to use it as much as possible. Repost it on social media, add it to your blog posts, make it part of paid ads, and implement it into your marketing emails when it makes sense for your audience.
  • Repurpose it – You can use UGC for a variety of content marketing tactics. For example, you could turn a video into a blog or write a case study around a review.
  • Say thank you – Always acknowledge your audience’s content and tag them if possible when you repost their original content as a way to show appreciation.

Pro tip: If you decide to repost, repurpose, or reuse UGC, make sure to ask explicit permission from the creator.

The takeaway

User-generated content can be an authentic and highly effective digital marketing resource. By leveraging content from your audience, you’re leveraging word-of-mouth marketing to bring more high-potential clients to your virtual doorstep.

A smart approach to UGC can help you build brand loyalty, generate leads, increase conversions, and improve marketing ROI.

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