User generated content (often abbreviated to UGC) is promotional brand content created and shared by users, fans, and brand advocates. As opposed to influencer marketing, UGC is unpaid and usually created by average, everyday consumers. Users choose to share UGC either because they’re happy with a brand experience and want to share it, or because they’ve been incentivized to do so through a brand-run contest or promotion. It can take many shapes — from an Instagram post, to an online review, blog post, or something as simple as a single Tweet.
If it seems like UGC is everywhere, that’s probably because lots of brands are incorporating it into their strategies. UGC can have many positive benefits for brands, including amplified reach, increased brand goodwill, and greater brand trust. Depending on the company objectives, the strategy may incorporate user generated content. So how do we know when UGC should be part of the mix? Here are some of the situations we encounter most often.
1 – Your product pages aren’t performing
Product pages are a critical component of any ecommerce experience. They’re what really sell the product. But just because you’ve gotten the user as far as the product page doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to purchase. A lot of things can be wrong with product page design — maybe the images are too small, maybe the product information is shallow, or maybe the add to cart button isn’t obvious enough. If you’re having trouble converting traffic from your product pages and you’ve done everything you can to make sure your page design is modern and functional, then it may be time to add UGC to the mix.
User generated product reviews and product photos can help give users the extra push they need to feel comfortable converting. This type of UGC offers candid feedback about things like sizing, the way product colors appear in real life, and can make users feel confident about durability and quality.
Rent the Runway uses UGC to help users feel more confident when making a dress selection.
2 – You need more brand awareness
Brand awareness is a chief marketing concern for a lot of brands who need exposure to wider audiences. User generated content can help brands make progress toward this goal because it has the ability to amplify a campaign or message far beyond what a brand could achieve through advertising and existing earned media alone.
The ultimate goal with UGC is to create a campaign that sparks interest with users. You see a friend doing something fun or crazy and posting it on social media, and suddenly you want to do it too. Once you do, it gets pushed out to all of your friends as well, and so on. This is the definition of how something goes viral, and it shows how you can use UGC to garner more brand awareness.
Coca-cola’s Share A Coke campaign encouraged users to buy more Coke, and to share images of the customized bottles on social media.
3 – You need to diversify your content
We all know the value of content marketing. It’s an essential element of any digital strategy and most brands work hard to churn out high quality content on a regular basis. Unfortunately, every other brand on the web is also working hard to do the same, and it isn’t always easy to keep up. If you’re doing the same things over and over again, your content can grow stale and lose its effectiveness.
UGC offers a great solution to the staleness problem because it provides tons of additional fresh, engaging content. Every user comes from a different background and has a unique perspective, and the content they create will be distinct from the content that comes from your brand. You can repurpose UGC on your website, emails, and social channels to breathe new life into your messaging and imagery.
4 – You need to cultivate authenticity and trust
No matter how authentic and genuine you think your brand messages are, they’re still always going to be seen by consumers as just that — brand messages. Over time users have developed a healthy skepticism of brand messages and advertising and can be hesitant to trust the word of brands who, after all, have a vested interest in promoting themselves. The same can’t be said for user generated content, which is created by ordinary people who are not employed by the brand.
Just the same way we trust the recommendations of our friends and personal acquaintances, users trust the opinions of other users in their online communities. That means investing in generating UGC can help bolster goodwill for your brand, because content created by users is seen as both trustworthy and authentic.
5 – You need to build a community
There’s value in having a community of engaged followers and brand advocates. Users who feel part of a community that surrounds your brand are more likely to become loyal, lifelong customers. An engaged community will help amplify your brand message even further, and developing a deeper connection with your community makes them feel part of something bigger than a mere transaction between a company and a consumer.
It’s clear that user generated content, when carefully strategized and executed, can be a powerful component in your digital marketing mix. UGC could be the right choice for your brand in particular if you’re looking to amplify your reach and cultivate greater brand authenticity and trust, or if you need to make your messaging even more persuasive.