User-generated content, or UGC, is quickly becoming one of the best ways for brands to connect and engage with consumers in a more natural manner. On top of building trust and confidence, “Brands with strong user-generated content marketing campaigns will enjoy much more sustainable growth than their competitors,” according to Tomer Tagrin, Co-Founder and CEO of Yotpo.
This trend has only grown since the pandemic started and will surely continue to shape the way companies do business for years to come as 30% of the time millennials spend consuming all media is spent on UGC.
UGC will help build trust in your brand as potential customers will enter your sales funnel via content shared by a person they interact with online instead of through paid ads.
We reached out to business leaders to see how they recommend incorporating user-generated content in order to boost customer engagement.
Photos are a huge part of the online experience. So much so that Instagram has become one of the most popular social networks in the world with 1 billion users. On average, female iPhone users under the age of 25 take 250 photos each month. If you can find a way to make even one of those related to your brand, you stand to boost your engagement by quite a bit.
“Encourage your customers to upload pictures of them with your product and tag your brand,” says Brittany Harrer-Dolin, Co-Founder at Pocketbook Agency. “Keep an eye on your social media and make sure to repost any photo that has your brand tagged on your feed or in your story.”
Photos are the most common and easy to utilize UGC. Make sure you ask permission before using a person’s picture if they didn’t explicitly post about your brand or tag you to avoid any potential legal headaches.
A good testimonial video about your product can have a great effect on boosting engagement and converting leads according to Yana Nigen, Founder and CEO of WARP.
“Testimonial videos are great UGC, as they can be created with ease using personal digital devices. Make sure you provide instructions in your campaign for users/customers. These are great assets for your website, YouTube channel, and social media campaigns. Make sure to run your campaign by legal to make sure you can obtain the rights to this UGC content.”
You can also screencap a line from the testimonial and then share it across your socials as a post to double-dip. “Sharing a good quote without having to post an entire video is an easy way to amplify customers’ words and boil their testimonials down to their essence,” says Rym Selmi, Founder at MiiRO. “Plus, people might scroll past a video without giving it a chance. At least with a picture the key information is communicated quickly.”
For the uninitiated, hashtags are a way for social media users to view any related content. If you #YourBrand and a customer clicks on it, they will be brought to a page featuring any photo or post with the same hashtag.
“By pushing certain hashtag campaigns you can increase UGC,” says Michael Fischer, Founder at Elite HRT. “Something like #BrandNameandMe will put the focus back on your customers and make them more eager to share content and show others how they are using your product.”
To make sure your audience is aware of your company’s current hashtag, be sure to place it in a place of prominence, Fischer added. “Put the hashtag on your website and on the top of your company’s social profile so customers will see it as soon as they click on your page. Your UGC will increase once your hashtags are visible to all.”
Including your hashtag with every product you send out is also best practice to make sure customers don’t miss it. If you happen to have a storefront or physical location, include messaging on doors and windows and at points of service.
“An influencer campaign can greatly boost engagement… at a cost,” says Michael Van, CEO at Furnishr. Most user-generated content is going to come from users with small social media followings. Influencer content is content that you pay users with a large following for.
“Influencers have large and active followings that your brand can tap into for an agreed-upon fee. Be sure that their audience aligns with the one you are trying to capture and that they are considered credible in their field,” Van added.
Influencers can be as large as the Kardashian’s or as small as a local chef with a foodie following. The prices you pay will vary greatly depending on how big their audience is, so figure out what is in your budget and reach out to one that will work with you and align with your brand. For instance, if you sell cooking equipment, the local chef would be a perfect person to work with.
Don’t let the size of their audience be the deciding factor either. Some smaller influencers have a much more active audience that is more interactive and willing to try products they get behind.
A contest can be a great way to boost user-generated content if it isn’t happening organically already. “A contest that encourages users to post pictures as their submission will give you a huge stream of content that you can use across all of your social accounts,” commented Ryan Rottman, Co-Founder and CEO of OSDB.
“Invite your customers to post pictures and then choose a winner from the submissions. The more creative the better. You will be pleasantly surprised at how creative your customers are.” Some companies have seen lifts in engagements as high as 200%.
“Use UGC as a form of social currency,” adds Caleb Ulffers, CEO at Haven Athletic. “Meaning: offering a discount or free sample or brand-related experience can drive participation.” This method has worked well for companies like Marc Jacobs.
Try multiple contests throughout the course of the year with varying prizes to keep your audience interested.
Don’t settle for just reposting photos on your social media sites, use them on your web domain as well.
“Featuring your customer’s photos on your website helps potential customers draw connections between products and images and acts as a way to celebrate your fans,” says Chandler Rogers, CEO at Relay. “Customers will see other customer’s photos on your website and want to join in on the fun, hoping to be featured on the website themselves in many cases.”
Your home page is a great place to start, but using them as a point-of-purchase marketing technique is also worth considering, adds Lina Miranda, VP of Marketing at AdQuick. “Placing UGC at the checkout page or product page is an awesome way to showcase how other customers are using the product and how it will look in real life, not just in the professional product images you have on your website.” This works especially well for clothing companies where customers are eager to see how an item they are considering will look on someone like them before purchasing.
Featuring customer photos on your website has lifted engagement 4x for some companies and can create a steady stream of photo submissions.
“Customers are going to tell you how they feel whether you want them to or not,” says Alexandra Fennell, Co-Founder at Attn:Grace. “Might as well get ahead of it by collaborating with them to help solve problems.”
Asking for feedback from customers shows them that you want to work with them to improve your product offerings. Pick and choose what feedback you want to showcase on your website and how it helped drive a change at your company in the hopes that it will inspire others to do the same.
This might be harder to do in the age of Covid, but as restrictions start to ease and we collectively move into the endemic state, you might want to consider hosting an in-person event to boost engagement.
“User-generated content is great, but it’s far from perfect,” says Brett Estep, COO at Insured Nomads. “A user-generated picture, for instance, might have an unflattering light or be low quality or could even have another company’s product in the background. Take control of the situation by hosting an event where you can set up the scene the way you want.”
Include the hashtag at the location too to have further control of the outcome. Something as simple as a photobooth where people engage with the product can be enough to generate engagement from customers and potential ones. Adding some sort of so-called company “swag bag” will help keep you on their mind once they leave the event.