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What is User Generated Content (UGC) and how can your company benefit from it?

User Generated Content is content created by users. Depending on the situation, this phenomenon may be very desirable and even be part of the brand’s marketing strategy. User Generated Content is a powerful tool that can generate huge reach and significantly influence brand awareness among potential customers. How does UGC work and how to use its potential?
Read our guide to find out:

What is User Generated Content – definition


Let’s start, somewhat perversely, by explaining what User Generated Content is NOT. We certainly won’t include a collection of content prepared by influencers on behalf of a brand or content published as part of any paid collaboration. This kind of activity is influencer marketing, and it has little in common with UGC. While there are similarities, content marketing is also something separate, for the same reason: it is commissioned and controlled by the brand, rather than created from the bottom up.

The idea behind user-written content is that it is 100 percent organic, honest and credible. The creation of User Generated Content can, and should, be encouraged, but it must not bear the hallmarks of formalized collaboration.

User Generated Content, also known as Consumer Generated Media, is various types of content that people who use products and services publish. The hallmark of UGC is a grassroots initiative – this content is not created in cooperation with a brand, but because of exceptional satisfaction with the use of products.

Examples of user-generated content


There are many examples of UGC that we encounter every day (sometimes without realizing it). Here are some of them:

Reviews on online stores and sales platforms

This is an extremely desirable form of UGC, as consumers still pay considerable attention to the opinions of other customers. Organic, credible and positive reviews are often a factor in determining a purchase decision.

Reports, reels, short videos

Short video forms, especially popular on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, but more recently on YouTube, do not require much commitment from the audience. These forms have been triumphant for several years, and there is no indication that this will change in the coming months. Internet users are still eager to consume this kind of content, as social media algorithms also note. As a result, the videos reach a wide audience and influence the recognition of the brands they mention.

Texts – blog articles, social media posts

Although the written word is not doing well on the Internet, people still read and blog. The texts don’t have as much viral potential, but they can be very helpful.

Longer video

Although the written word is not doing well on the Internet, people still read and blog. The texts don’t have as much viral potential, but they can be very helpful.

Graphics – fanart, memes, photos

Especially those that showcase a product or service. The graphic form is second only to short films. Graphics that relate directly to a product or service can drive not only interest, but also sales.

While it is difficult to estimate how many new customers were attracted by the “war” between Kielecki and Winiary mayonnaise (driven by the users themselves), one thing is certain: it certainly did not benefit the other brands.

A particularly interesting example of UGC in the form of images are photographs added by customers directly to product cards in online stores. It’s a great tool that allows potential buyers to look at “real” photos of the product, as well as get the perspective of people who have had a chance to use it.

Comments

Often the real magic of user-generated content happens not in the actual posts, but underneath them. Comments on videos, articles or posts on Instagram often provide context, lead to confrontation (for example, when an influencer recommends an expensive product and readers present a cheaper, equally good alternative).i.

Live broadcasts

Live streaming is already enabled by many social media platforms (TikTok, Instagram, Facebook), but it is a domain where Twitch and YouTube are leading the way. Broadcasts gather millions of users in front of their screens, who often come to spend time with a well-liked presenter and her community. On more than one occasion, a brief mention and sometimes even the presentation of a product in a frame stirred up discussions, even though they were not intended or planned.

How to use UGC in your brand marketing campaigns?


Not every thing published by a user will be noticed. Some will go unnoticed without your help, so it’s important to keep your hand on the pulse and constantly monitor the web for mentions that appear in it. Catching UGC at the right time can be crucial. So many images, texts or videos are created on the Internet that a response delayed by even barely a few hours may no longer be necessary – simply no one will pay attention to it.

Some companies take advantage of user-generated content by sharing it directly, creating social media posts or ads about it, or efficiently referencing it in later publications. Others offer cooperation or a thank-you note (e.g., a stock of branded products) to those who were responsible for sharing a positive post – especially if the post brought the company good press.

Many companies directly encourage their clients to create this kind of content – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Sometimes it’s a request to leave feedback or add a photo, often tied to a loyalty program. Sometimes brands reach for contests, in which the condition for participation is to create a specific entry and publish it online. It doesn’t always have to be a competition – sometimes the fact that a company is looking for recordings, photos or other materials about its products is enough, and there will be people willing to share them. The company can – in consultation with the content’s authors – publish the content in its channels, gaining additional publicity and authentic, organic content.

When sharing user-generated posts, be sure to mention or tag them if possible. This is not only a nice gesture, but also a necessary recognition of authorship.

UGC is an opportunity to establish relationships

Texts, images or videos created by users of your brand’s products are not only the basis for creating advertising, but also a great opportunity to establish a relationship with your customers and voluntary ambassadors, and even build a community on that basis. Taking care of the customer (nurturing), i.e. appreciating their loyalty to the brand or rewarding them for regular purchases (for example, with discounts or special promotions for returning customers) is an important part of a marketing strategy, and UGCs provide an excellent anchor for this.

Another way to leverage not only the content, but the very fact that some people take the time to prepare it, can be an excellent starting point for building a community and then managing it. Community management can be another element of a long-term marketing strategy, but to be effective, you must have among your users people who are satisfied enough with your products and services to want to actively and regularly participate in the community – in other words, ambassador customers.

How to encourage users to create and publish UGC on social media?


Above, we discussed the situation in which every brand would like to find itself – in this vision, customer-generated content appears regularly, and the biggest worry is how to use it in a meaningful way. However, not every company is so fortunate as to have its customers come forward on their own with videos or photos of the products they have purchased. However, this does not mean that we should then wait patiently for UGC to appear. In such a situation, it is worth looking for a way to reach them and encourage them accordingly. Here are some suggestions:

Ask them

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. While it may be too bold to ask for a video about a product, there is nothing stopping you from sending a request to leave feedback to the store along with information about your purchase. However, remember to make the procedure as simple as possible for customers. In your request message, include a direct link to where this feedback can be left, don’t make users search for it themselves.

Don’t want customers to complain about too many messages from your site? You can ask at the ordering stage, in the form, if they feel like leaving a review. Checking the box will result in the customer receiving an email with a link after finalizing the purchase, leading to a place where they can write a review. This approach will also allow you to measure conversions and verify how large a percentage of consumers feel like sharing their impressions about their purchases.

Create a loyalty program

Building a loyalty program won’t happen in a few days (or even weeks), but it’s a tool that will help your company implement a long-term strategy – such as customer retention.

As part of gamification and setting the rules of the loyalty program, you can also encourage users to create content about your brand and reward their attempts with points. In order for this approach to be successful, you need to be able to monitor the content that will appear as part of the action. It will help to…

Establishing a common #hashtag

This is a particularly popular way to collect all themed drop-ins in one place, such as on Instagram. Creating a hashtag that is specific to a particular UGC creation action will allow you to quickly separate these mentions from all the others that may appear online during a similar period. Also consider developing a separate hashtag for community building.

The #mycalvins tag, though launched thanks to a clever advertising campaign using images of celebrities, has taken on a life of its own over time. The campaign was launched in 2016 and initially “generated” about 180,000 posts on Instagram, but to this day more photos bearing this distinctive tag are appearing, and they are being uploaded by everyone – not just the well-known and watched by hundreds of thousands. At the moment, the post count has surpassed 870,000 – eight years after the campaign was launched!

Hold an attractive contest

Announcing a contest in which users will have the opportunity to share their impressions of your brand’s products (including on their personal profiles) is a simple idea that can be very effective. Of great importance here is the selection of an appropriate reward for the efforts of the contestants. If it is attractive enough, there will certainly be those willing to participate.

However, remember – when organizing a contest on social media – to follow the rules and regulations, prevailing on a particular platform. Many actions that used to be the norm (for example, liking or sharing a contest post as a condition of participation) today are not allowed by social media. Make sure your contest doesn’t break the rules – the consequences could be a significant reduction in reach or even a ban on your account.

Watch what customers write

We have previously written about tools for monitoring mentions of your company online – they will also come in handy here. Internet users talk to each other on a daily basis and exchange insights about various brands, products and services. However, they do not always signify a particular brand. You can, with the aforementioned tools, see these discussions (as long as they are publicly available) and respond to them accordingly – for example, thank users who recommend your products. You can also – although this is more difficult – respond to unfavorable comments, for example, by offering an amicable solution to the situation.

What’s more, reaching out to a customer who recommends your brand online can give them a boost of positive emotions, and thus encourage them to continue sharing good news about your products or services in the future.

User Generated Content: summary


Is that all you can do to create more “grassroots” content about your brand? No, but the next steps, such as an ambassador program, working with influencers or an employee engagement program, are already elements that go far beyond the definition of User Generated Content – we’ll certainly come back to this topic in the future and talk about how you can get your company talked about more – but this time in a more controlled way.

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