How To Use User Generated Content To Bring More Customers

User-generated content (UGC) has shifted from a nice-to-have to an essential component of modern marketing.

Today, where traditional advertising methods often fall short, brands are turning to their customers to create and share authentic content.

This approach not only bolsters brand credibility but also fosters a deeper sense of community and trust among consumers.

This blog post will dive into the meaning of user-generated content, its numerous benefits, the various forms it can take, and best practices for leveraging it effectively. 

Table of Contents

What is user-generated content? 

User-generated content (UGC) refers to any form of content — such as text, videos, images, reviews, and social media posts — created and shared voluntarily by customers, fans, or followers of a brand, often based on their genuine experiences and opinions. 

This approach is more compelling than traditional advertising because it offers authentic insights into how real users perceive and interact with a brand’s products or services. Plus, it enhances brand credibility, engages a broader audience, and fosters a loyal community.

UGC comes in diverse forms, ranging from a simple tweet to a comprehensive video review, providing a multifaceted view of customer interactions with a brand.

Example: NIC and Social Pill initiated the #NICSummerLeague campaign, a Predict & Win Contest, during the cricket season to enhance engagement and reach on Instagram. Lasting from March 17th to May 27th, 2023, the campaign invited participants to predict match winners weekly, offering 100 winners the opportunity to receive a free NIC Honestly Crafted Ice Cream Tub. 

During the campaign, the content reached about 3.1 million users on social media, garnering a total of around 3.4 million impressions. There were about 97K engagements with the content and around 6.5K individuals participated in the campaign’s contest through Instagram — demonstrating active engagement and participation from the audience.

At the end of the campaign, the #NICSummerLeague reached 22.1 million accounts, contributing to its success in achieving the goals of increased reach and engagement on Instagram.

7 Benefits of user-generated content

A report suggests that consumers are more likely to trust authentic, unpaid reviews from real users than any other type of content. Further, the value of the global UGC market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 29.4% from 2023 to 2030. 

Here’s why businesses should harness the power of UGC:

1. Builds trust: Since UGC is created by real users, it tends to be more trustworthy. Potential customers are more likely to believe in the experiences shared by their peers than in brand-generated content. 

2. Cost-effective: Generating high-quality content can be expensive and time-consuming. UGC provides a steady stream of content at little to no cost to the brand. This can save marketing budgets and allow brands to allocate resources more efficiently.

3. Enhances community: UGC fosters a sense of community and loyalty among customers. When people see their content being used by a brand, it strengthens their connection and loyalty to that brand.

4. Boosts SEO: Search engines favor fresh, unique content. By incorporating UGC into your marketing strategy, you can boost your website’s SEO rankings. 

5. Enhances experience: UGC enhances the customer experience strategy by providing authentic evidence of real people engaging with and benefiting from the products or services, instilling confidence and trust in potential customers.

6. Valuable customer insights: The raw, unfiltered feedback in UGC provides a gold mine of insights into how customers think and feel about your products, their needs, pain points, etc. This data further helps in product development and marketing.  

7. Increased exposure and reach: When customers share about your brand on social media or other channels, it exposes you to their followers and personal networks, helping attract new potential customers.

6 Types of user-generated content 

User-generated content can take on many different shapes and formats. Such as: 

1. Reviews and testimonials

Customer reviews and testimonials are some of the most common forms of UGC. They provide valuable insights into customer experiences and can be featured on your website or social media platforms.

Tripadvisor heavily relies on user-generated reviews and testimonials. These reviews are critical for travelers looking to make informed decisions about hotels, restaurants, and attractions. 

2. Social media posts

Social media platforms are a goldmine for UGC. Customers often share their experiences, photos, and videos of products on platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Brands can repost this content to showcase real-life usage.

Outdoor apparel brand Patagonia encourages customers to share their outdoor adventures and experiences using the hashtag #PatagoniaAdventure. Customers post photos and stories of their hikes, camping trips, and outdoor activities, often featuring Patagonia products in action. 

Patagonia then selects and reposts this user-generated content on their social media platforms. This showcases the brand’s connection to nature and outdoor enthusiasts while also highlighting the durability and performance of its products in real-life scenarios.

3. Blog posts

Enthusiastic customers may write detailed blog posts about their experiences with your products or services. These can be particularly effective in providing in-depth reviews and reaching niche audiences.

Tech blogs often write detailed posts about using Trello as their primary project management tool. Here’s a good example by MarketWatch: 

4. Photos and videos

Visual content such as photos and videos created by customers can be highly engaging. Brands can encourage customers to share visuals of their products in use, which can then be featured in marketing campaigns.

GoPro is known for its user-generated photos and videos showcasing adventurous activities captured with GoPro cameras. By sharing these on their official channels, GoPro not only promotes their products but also inspires others to capture their own experiences.

5. Unboxing videos

Unboxing videos are popular on platforms like YouTube and TikTok. They offer a genuine first-hand look at a product and can generate excitement and anticipation among potential customers.

Beauty subscription service Birchbox benefits greatly from unboxing videos created by influencers and customers. These videos offer potential subscribers an inside look at what they can expect in their monthly boxes, driving interest and subscriptions.

6. Contests and campaigns

Running contests and campaigns that encourage customers to create and share content related to your brand can generate a lot of UGC. For instance, a photo contest where customers submit pictures of themselves using your product.

Starbucks launched the “White Cup Contest”, encouraging customers to decorate their iconic white cups and share their designs on social media using the hashtag #WhiteCupContest. The contest generated a massive amount of user-generated content as customers showcased their creativity and artistic skills. The winning design was then featured on a limited-edition Starbucks cup. 

This campaign not only engaged the existing customer base but also attracted new customers eager to participate and be recognized by the brand.

5 Best practices for UGC 

To get the most mileage from UGC marketing, it’s important to follow some best practices. 

1. Set clear goals

Define specific, measurable goals that align with your overall marketing strategy. 

Ask yourself what you aim to accomplish with UGC. Are you looking to increase brand awareness, drive website traffic, boost engagement, or generate leads and sales? 

Once you’ve identified your goals, develop a detailed plan outlining how you’ll collect, curate, and leverage UGC to achieve those objectives. Consider factors such as target audience demographics, content themes, frequency of posts, and metrics for tracking success.

Your plan should also address any potential challenges or obstacles that may arise during the UGC campaign.

2. Repost UGC on relevant social platforms 

Start by identifying the social media platforms where your target audience is most active and align with your brand identity. These platforms can be Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, as well as niche communities and forums relevant to your industry.

For B2B companies, LinkedIn is a valuable professional network where you can connect with industry leaders and potential clients. Whereas, B2C companies focus on channels, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where consumers are highly engaged.

Use search tools and hashtags to discover UGC related to your brand or products. Also, look for content that resonates with your audience and reflects positively on your brand. On LinkedIn, this can post testimonials and case studies. Similarly, product reviews, unboxing videos, and influencer collaborations work well on Instagram and Facebook. 

When reposting UGC, prioritize quality over quantity. Be selective in choosing content that aligns with your brand messaging and resonates with your audience. Further, avoid trying to maintain a presence on every social platform. Instead, concentrate your efforts on platforms where you can have the most impact.

3. Ask for permission and credit the user

Respecting the rights of content creators is crucial when leveraging UGC. Before reposting any UGC, reach out to the original creator via direct message or email and obtain permission to use their content. Clearly explain how you intend to use their content and provide details on how you’ll credit them.

When sharing UGC, always credit the original creator by tagging their username or handle in your post. Additionally, include a caption or comment acknowledging the creator and expressing gratitude for their contribution. 

Giving credit not only demonstrates respect for the content creator but also fosters positive relationships with your audience.

To reach influencers:    

  • For B2C companies: Social media platforms offer direct messaging features to contact influencers. Additionally, emails remain an effective method. 
  • For B2B companies: Reaching out via LinkedIn and email is common. If you want to compensate creators for the use of their content, deal desk software can simplify negotiation and documentation, ensuring fairness and transparency in compensation arrangements, and benefiting both parties involved.   

4. Highlight positive content but don’t ignore negative content

Look for content that showcases happy customers, glowing reviews, or creative uses of your products. Share these positive stories across your social media channels to reinforce your brand’s value proposition and encourage others to engage with your products.

However, negative UGC should not be ignored. Use constructive criticism and feedback from negative content to identify areas for improvement and address customer concerns.

Engage with users who share negative experiences and strive to resolve their issues promptly and transparently. This way, you demonstrate your commitment to customer satisfaction and continuous improvement.

5. Monitor the impact of UGC

To gauge the effectiveness of your UGC efforts, it’s essential to monitor and analyze relevant metrics, such as:

  • Engagement metrics (likes, comments, shares)
  • Website traffic and conversion rates driven by UGC content
  • Brand sentiment and mentions across social media and online communities
  • Growth in your brand’s following or community size
  • Overall customer acquisition and retention rates during and after UGC campaigns

Use social media analytics tools and platforms to gather data and insights on the performance of your UGC campaigns — identify trends, patterns, and areas of success or improvement. Then, use these insights to refine your UGC strategy, optimize content creation and distribution, and allocate resources more effectively. 

By continually monitoring the impact of UGC, you can make data-driven decisions to drive better results and maximize ROI.

Summing up

Now that you know how user-generated content works,  tap into the power of this relatable, customer-driven content to engage existing fans, reach new audiences, and drive more sales.

While a degree of strategic planning is required, the effort to encourage participation, provide clear guidelines, and engage with contributors pays off in increased brand awareness, customer engagement, and more.

Ready to start sharing user-generated content across your social media platforms? Use Keyhole to streamline your UGC campaigns, track engagement, and measure the impact of your content. Start a free trial today!

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How can I encourage my customers to create user-generated content?

There are several ways to encourage customers to create UGC:

-Run social media contests or campaigns with prompts or hashtags for customers to share their content
-Offer incentives or rewards for customers who create and share content about your brand or products
-Collaborate with influencers or micro-influencers to create and amplify UGC
-Provide clear guidelines and make it easy for customers to submit their content for potential amplification.

2. How can I incentivize my audience to create user-generated content?

Start by running contests and giveaways, where participants can win prizes or receive exclusive access, discounts, or loyalty points for submitting the best content. This can motivate your audience to create and share content. Further, highlight user content on your official social media channels or website, which not only provides recognition but also encourages others to contribute. Additionally, creating fun and engaging challenges can spur participation by inviting users to take part in unique and creative activities related to your brand.

3. How do I handle negative UGC?

Tackling negative user-generated content (UGC) effectively involves:

1. Acknowledging the negative content promptly and respectfully, demonstrating to the user that their feedback is valued and taken seriously.
2. Focusing on resolution by addressing the specific issue and offering appropriate solutions or compensation to resolve the problem.
3. Regularly monitoring UGC across various platforms to quickly identify and manage negative content, ensuring it does not go unnoticed.
4. Viewing negative feedback as an opportunity to learn and improve your products or services. And, using the insights gained to make necessary adjustments and prevent similar issues in the future.