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This is a guest post from Andie Katschthaler at Walls.io.

You may not be familiar with the term “user-generated content” or UGC, but UGC is all around us in the marketing materials we consume.

Even resources we don’t necessarily perceive as user-generated content often help companies sell more products.

This can include a product review, a star rating on Amazon, an unboxing video, or social media posts about products.

UGC is everywhere, and it’s up to brands to find it and harness it in their marketing.

Bonus: Below we’ve listed a few additional (but lesser-known) types of user-generated content:

  • Tutorial videos using specific products
  • Blog posts
  • Product unboxing videos
  • Animated GIFs

Has your business ever used these? Let us know in the comments below.

Sustainable British clothing brand Lucy & Yak is resharing a snapshot of a customer wearing a Lucy & Yak coat:

This Instagram post perfectly encapsulates what user-generated content is: using customer photos to market products.

Source: Instagram

What exactly is user-generated content (UGC)?

UGC is defined as any content created by the users of a website, a product, or a service, whether it’s posted on social media or anywhere else online.

But what’s the big deal about user-generated content? Why are we so into it? Where can you collect it, and how can you make it work for your brand?

User-generated content is authentic, and buyers trust it.

Brands love content created by their users for two main reasons:

  1. They get to reuse great-looking content and share it as part of their own marketing efforts.
  2. By sharing UGC created by happy customers, brands can convince potential customers to buy.

Simply put, the trick behind UGC is that people trust other people most when it comes to making buying decisions. Whether that’s actual in-person recommendations by someone they know or an online review by another customer—potential buyers rely on social proof.

According to a 2017 survey by TurnTo, 90% of U.S. consumers say their purchasing decisions are influenced by online recommendations. Plus, our own original research found that social proof is important to both millennials and Gen Z buyers.

This graph shows why user-generated content is important for buyer decisions

And some consumers even prefer UGC to original brand content, which is often seen as too pushy and promotional.

The younger the consumer, the more important UGC becomes. Gen Z buyers want to support brands that resonate with them, which often means authenticity and transparency.

How to collect user-generated content

Having user-generated content to use in your marketing is great. But, to have it, you have to first collect it.

It may sound counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to get UGC is to ask. Request reviews and ratings from your fans and customers, and incentivize when you can.

Ask customers and newsletter subscribers for reviews.

The most straightforward way of getting reviews is to ask people who’ve just bought something from you to review it, for example, in an email set to arrive at a reasonable time after purchase.

For example, trendy mattress and pillow brand Casper sends out post-purchase emails asking buyers to review their purchase:

This Casper email asks for UGC by asking customers for reviews

Source: Really Good Emails

Another group of people that can create great user-generated content is your newsletter subscriber list, even if they haven’t bought from you recently.

You can publish the reviews you get on your own website, ask people to review your brand on aggregators like Capterra or G2, and even use tools like Reevoo, Olapic, Stackla, Mention, or Livefyre to collect reviews.

Create a fun hashtag campaign for great content.

If you’re looking for content other than reviews, a hashtag campaign can be a great way to motivate and collect user-generated content.

Come up with a good campaign idea and create a hashtag campaign around it. Promote the hashtag and ask your fans to take part and share it.

The Birkenstock website features a section dedicated to the #MyBirkenstock hashtag, encouraging shoppers to share their pics and embedding a gallery of posts shared with the hashtag:

Birkenstock has a hashtag-related UGC site section: #mybirkenstock

Source: Birkenstock

Be clear about what you want people to create, whether it’s images, videos, or written content. People want to know the guidelines for creating content for a brand.

The better you explain what you’re looking for and how you’re planning to use it, the better the content you get will be.

The #KidsInTheKitchen hashtag campaign by NatureFresh™ clearly lays out what kind of content they want to see and how to submit it:

Give people steps to provide user-generated content, like NatureFresh.

Source: Kids in the Kitchen

Reward the best submissions with exciting prizes to motivate users, creating content that you can use in your campaigns later on. Incentives are a great way to coax content out of fans.

Collect existing brand-related content posted by your customers.

Sometimes, you get lucky, and your fans are already creating great content about your brand, without you even asking. Don’t miss out on it and monitor social media for mentions of your brand and your hashtags.

Use a social media monitoring tool to keep an eye on your brand mentions or a social media wall to collect any posts mentioning your brand, your hashtags, or defined keywords on a social wall.

You can repost or share the great content you find this way as well.

How to put UGC to good use

Now that you’ve collected all that great social proof, it’s time to put it to good use. You can even reuse UGC print ads, but the most common placement for fan content will likely be your online marketing efforts.

Convince your website visitors to buy.

Imagine a potential customer browsing your online store. They’re already on your website. They like your product or service.

They’ve looked at all the specifications and information. But somehow they’re still hovering over that buy button.

To get them to click on it, you’ll have to convince them that you really are the best. And that’s where your UGC comes in.

Strategically place reviews from other customers on your website or your online shop, or collect the best posts from social media and embed that on a section of your website.

You can even connect UGC to ecommerce using a social wall, by linking directly from the posts on your wall to the corresponding product in your shop.

Here’s an example of how beyerdynamic—an audio equipment manufacturer from Germany—is collecting user-generated content on a social wall to draw attention to the brand’s products.

They collect user posts which mention beyerdynamic, embed them on their website and then link each post created by their customers to relevant products in their online shop.

This is an example of a social wall that features examples of UGC. User-generated content is anything buyers make about your company.

Source: beyerdynamic

Turn your newsletter readers into customers.

You can use your newsletter to recruit reviewers but, similarly, email is a great way to garner reviews as well. So include UGC in your abandoned cart emails to lure customers back and entice them to finally buy.

Adidas includes user reviews in an abandoned cart email:

Adidas shows how you can use UGC reviews in your automated emails.

Source: Really Good Emails

When you introduce a new product or service, share what others have said about the product or your brand. It livens up the email and acts as social proof for future buyers.

Keep sharing that social proof on social media.

Social media is a great and logical place for sharing content posted by fans, and it’s effortless to reshare the posts.

Retweet content happy buyers have posted, include Instagram reviews by fans in your own Stories, or feature great user contributions on your Facebook page.

Here are two brands cleverly using UGC in their Instagram Stories: On the left, mara_seaweed reshares a post by a fan showing off their lunch made with the product.

On the right, oVertone shares a review by a user and includes a CTA encouraging people to sign up for the product’s waitlist.

These examples show Instagram Story UGC examples

Source: Mara Seaweed Instagram & oVertone Instagram

Just remember: with all your user-generated content, make sure you ask for permission from the creator before using it.

Wrap up

User-generated content can do great things for you. Use it to your advantage.

What existing fans have to say about your brand provides social proof for potential new customers. It shows that your brand is worthy of their time and effort. And that means you get more customers and more conversions.

You can collect user-generated content, such as reviews or social media posts, by asking your customers to share content.

Try asking them for feedback in your newsletter, collect reviews using an aggregator, or create a whole hashtag campaign built around visuals created by fans of your brand.

The clearer you are about the type of content you wish to see, the higher the quality of the submissions will be.

Then, use your social proof on your website, your emails, your social media channels, or even your print ads to show potential buyers how awesome your brand is.

Andie Katschthaler is a freelance copywriter and consultant living in Scotland. She has been the head writer behind the Walls.io blog for more than five years, helping people learn about how social walls can elevate and enrich their marketing efforts. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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