Happy customers not only results in new sales. They can also generate valuable and credible content for your campaigns and social media platforms. Enter user-generated content (UGC); content created by your followers and clients, and one of the most authentic pieces of content you will ever publish in your feed. That’s right. Because, besides bringing a personal point of view instead of a paid advertorial, this type of content can sometimes go viral, giving your brand free exposure far and wide.
I remember once being paid by a global brand to spend a few hours a day researching creative content, testimonials, feedback, and even collages made by customers in Asia and Europe. It was initially part of a mini campaign powered by regional offices, one of those initiatives put in place with a bit of leftover budget at the end of a dead month. However, what I found was so phenomenal that this content became a major awareness campaign. My task was then expanded to reaching out the brand’s biggest fans to bring them on board as well. And yes, I charged for that extra briefing, too.
Depending on how customers relate to a brand and how happy they are with its products, or services, the amount of content that can be lifted off social media, reviews and emails, be it with images or just words, can become almost impossible to measure. Think of it as the modern word-of-mouth – And a positive review or satisfied customer’s endorsement carries a weight that no paid advertisement can achieve.
“User-generated content has an instant credibility factor that can’t be matched by any amount of ad spending or PR spin. Our customers tell our story by conveying their service experience with our Mila technicians – which is overwhelmingly positive. This, in turn, provides our brand partners with measurable customer trust and customer loyalty.” – says Chris Viatte, co-founder of Swiss-based on demand technical support company, Mila.com Chris Viatte and his team leverage UGC in blogs, although the company’s main way of sharing customer reviews are still through its social media channels with daily posts.
Here, businesses owners and digital experts leveraging user generated content share their best tips on how they are successfully leveraging user generated content as part of their social media strategy to gain new followers and clients.
Use UGC to show your brand actively listens to customer’s feedback
“We use UGC occasionally as a way to better connect with our audience, but also to showcase that we care and listen to what they’re saying. The frequency of using UGC depends largely on the type of business you’re running but for us, as a brand monitoring software aimed at marketing managers, it makes sense to pinpoint all feedback for better data gathering and showcasing this data through case studies. When done right and timely, it helps create a lot better traction and builds an emotional connection with your audience.”
Joy Corkery – Content Marketing Lead at Latana
Give something in return
“The best way of doing user-generated content is to offer users something in return. Not only does this encourage a ‘fair exchange’ for the user, but more people will submit content leading to a higher standard of content. For example, if you are a cookie company, run a competition in which users submit their best recipes using your product. The winner gets a gift bundle of your products. This will attract high-quality content and improve your reputation as a brand that values its customers.
But be aware that overly frequent UGC campaigns are tiresome and look lazy. Consumers are very smart these days and will detect if you’re taking advantage of them instead of putting in work to generate your own content, especially if the users don’t get much out of contributing with your brand.”
Deepak Shukla – SEO expert and Founder at Pearl Lemon
UGC works because it is authentic
“User-generated content is an integral part of our content strategies for clients – we find that it’s one of the most efficient ways to grow engagement on an Instagram page organically. By utilising UGC, we can spread awareness of a brand whilst ensuring we have additional content to use later – this is especially useful when a brand may not have a lot of their own lifestyle photography.
User-generated content is so effective because it’s authentic. Potential customers of a brand are far more interested in seeing photos of a product/service in action rather than staged eCommerce shots.”
Kirsty Allen – Head of Marketing at Digital Media Team
Put your customers in the spotlight
“In the last 4 months I implemented a UGC strategy to help supplement the content output on the site. The way I did this was to reach out to owners of surf camps all over the world with an offer to interview them. The interview would then be published on my site with a link back to their site. The value proposition for them was in exchange for their time. Their surf camp would get exposure in the form PR, and they would also get a backlink from an authoritative domain. So far it’s worked really well and we’ve published 6 interviews in the last 4 months.”
Marc Bromhall – Founder at Beginner Surf Gear
Remember to give fair credit to UGC creators
“User-generated content can be such a gift, but I always suggest my clients tread lightly and make sure they are being fair with their usage of created content. Of course, ask the creator for permission before adding this piece of content to your plan. Once you have permission, ensure that the creator is given fair credit when you repost the content by tagging them in the photo and/or tagging them in the caption. Additionally, I always remind brands that I work with that they should not rely solely on User-generated content. Since the content is created without any creative direction, it doesn’t always fulfill all the exact needs of the brand.
Josephine Maida – Owner at public relations agency Maida Media
UGC helped us to go from 0 to 5000 followers
“We use a Facebook group where all of our puppy owners can post pictures and videos of their pups. Most of these users also have Instagram accounts for their puppies, or general puppy accounts for things like pictures and newsletters. We embed those feeds on our website and do reposts on our main socials account while tagging all the accounts involved using appropriate hashtags.
It’s a good balance of user generated content, and it helps us promote our business while also showcasing the accounts for users we’ve worked with or other puppy owners. The results sort of speak for themselves, as we went from 0 to 5000 followers in under 3 years without any kind of advertising.”
Dmitrii Kustov – Digital Marketing Director at LeMitris
Use UGC to amplify the conversation
“We focus our Instagram content on resharing user-generated content from our platform so people can come to our Instagram page and get a first look at our community, as our members love to be involved with the brand and continue their conversations about all things beauty.”
Savannah Scott – content and editorial lead at www.supergreat.com
Use it with moderation
“User-generated content (UGC) is a fantastic strategy for your digital presence. Not only is it cost effective in that you’re not having to pay to create the content yourself, but it’s coming from your audience – and customers tend to trust others’ experiences a lot more than other sources.
Make use of personalisation and social listening to reach out to your customers, guests and visitors who are talking about you. Share their content (with permission) and link back to them – this alerts them that you’ve picked up on their content, and creates an emotional bond with them.
However, as with any strategy, you need to be careful not to overdo it – if your content mix is too focused on linking to other accounts (especially on platforms like Facebook which penalise you for driving traffic away from them), then you could end up reducing your potential audience.
Depending on the size of your audience and the content schedule you’re working with, you should consider sharing UGC between once and twice a week (for large audiences) to once or twice a month (small businesses).”
Dawn Gribble – CEO at Virtual Solutions Global
Customer feedback posts have higher engagement
“We leverage our user-generated content in two ways for storytelling. One, we choose a testimonial review from a customer who had a technology challenge that was solved by one of our Mila technicians; or two, we share the testimonials themselves without adding any additional context. The pure customer feedback posts garner a 3-4 percent higher engagement rate than other social media posts, so we know sharing real customer stories resonates with our followers.”
Chris Viatte – CEO and co-founder at Mila.com