Marketing is all about telling a story — and letting customers tell their own stories can be one of the best ways to do just that. User-generated content (UGC) can be a key element of an effective content marketing strategy for almost any product, brand, or company.

What Is User-Generated Content?

User-generated content is exactly what it sounds like. It can include photos, video, blog posts, comments, or even reviews about a brand, product, or company that was created by one of its users. UGC is not content created by an employee of the company or a marketing agency. Savvy marketers include it as part of their content management strategy. And, it can help your brand or business be successful too.

How Does User-Generated Content Work?

A picture may be worth a thousand words. But, a real-world picture is often worth far more than a slick, perfectly lit product photograph. User-generated content works because it’s seen as more trustworthy and “real” than traditional marketing and advertising content. Among survey results:

  • A full 9 in 10 consumers say UGC has a greater influence over their buying decisions than promotional emails, search engine results, and other internet marketing strategies.
  • People are twice as likely to share UGC.
  • As many as 85 percent of users find visual UGC more influential than traditional photos and videos.
  • Facebook ads with UGC have three times the click-through rates as the typical Facebook ad.

What’s more, customers actually want to share their photos and stories, making user-generated content a free or low-cost way to build your brand and customer base.

What Can User-Generated Content Do for Your Brand?

User-generated content can help marketers at all stages of the customer journey. From exploration to consideration, and even post-purchase, UGC can strengthen customer loyalty.

  • Photos or videos of real people using a product create awareness and showcase the brand in a credible light.
  • UGC such as reviews and videos give consumers an outlet to ask questions and seek recommendations before making the decision to buy.
  • The opportunity to share their own experiences and videos can turn happy customers into brand ambassadors long after the sale.

What Can Brands Do With User-Generated Content?

Some creative examples of how brands have used user-generated content include:

IKEA User-Generated Content

IKEA

IKEA created a user-generated catalog. By offering customers a chance to win any of its products, the brand encouraged users to post their own photos to Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #ikeakatalogen.

T-Mobile

Wireless company T-Mobile encouraged customers switching from other mobile providers to create and share “break-up letters” to the company’s mobile competitors on Facebook.

Nest

Security camera maker Nest encouraged users to post videos of bears, hail, window washers, and misbehaving pets to YouTube and Facebook using the #caughtonNestCam hashtag.

Capital One

Financial services firm Capital One encouraged customers to tell inspiring stories about key life decisions. Using the #DefineYourDream hashtag, the brand created Facebook videos to tell selected customers’ stories.

FedEx

FedEx encouraged customers to spot and photograph their aircraft, trucks, and delivery personnel in the wild. This boosted social media engagement by more than 400 percent. And, the campaign added a human element to the brand’s global reach.

How Can You Get Started With User-Generated Content?

  • Interview your most vocal customers and tell their stories on your blog.
  • Highlight user-generated reviews and photos from Instagram and Facebook on your product pages and in advertising.
  • Build brand loyalty by promoting a worthy cause through social media and encouraging your customers to do the same.
  • Let a supporter with a strong social media presence take over your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feed for a day.
  • Create forums on your site where users can post questions and share solutions.
  • Reply to rather than ignore negative reviews or comments. Making things right can have a big positive impact on your brand.
  • Tell users what you want. AdWeek reported more than half of customers want direction on creating UGC. But, only 16 percent of brands offer guidelines.

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