UGC 101: A Guide to User-Generated Content Marketing
What is the fabulous and extraordinary thing that is UGC? No, it’s not the latest clog variation of UGG boots—it’s none other than user-generated content!
Today we’re looking at different kinds of user generated content, examples of user-generated content, where to find it, how to use it, and more!
What is user-generated content?
A user generated content definition: UGC is anything on the web that users have a hand in making. Most of the photos, videos, and posts you see on the web are pieces of user generated content. Basically, UGC is anything not made by a brand, though brands do leverage user-generated content for ranking.
Different kinds of user-generated content
The variations of UGC are endless. Some major kinds include:
- Blog comments
- Facebook comments or posts
- User generated videos
- User generated blog posts
Some popular streams of UGC involve collaboration between a brand and a user. Take for example, the Christmas Jib Jab “Elf Yourself” videos that tend to re-emerge every holiday season. Jib Jab let users upload photos of friends and family member’s faces, which are then pasted onto Jib Jab’s animated dancing elves. In the example video below, one users uploaded Harry Potter characters for an special Hogwarts-ian Elf Yourself video.
These videos have been hugely successful—Jib Jab provides the tech and tools while users bring their unique creative flair to the table, creating custom UGC that people LOVE to share.
User-generated content examples: How brands can repurpose UGC
In a previous Facebook advertising post, we showed how several brands are doing a great job of repurposing user generated content for their own benefit, sharing brand-inspired fan art and customer testimonials across various social networks. Here we’re highlighting a few of our favorite user generated content examples once again.
This eloquent endorsement posted by a Twitter fan was taken by Dominoes and then pasted over an image, creating a new visual piece of UGC that could then be shared on Facebook (and other networks).
M&Ms likes to do a Fan Pic Friday, in which a UGC piece is shared on various social networks. This is another great example of a user generated content marketing strategy that capitalizes on users’ creativity.
Starbucks also posts fan generated content every so often - people love their coffee, and Starbucks isn’t afraid to share user generated content that shows off how beloved they are.
GoPro is another brand that has done a fantastic job of utilizing fan generated content. GoPro will often share and promote impressive customer-created videos on their YouTube channel.
All this user generated content marketing has meant tremendous things for GoPro. As GoPro videos become increasingly more popular, more users get excited at the idea of making their own mini-films for their own five minutes of fame. Those users naturally go out and buy a GoPro before creating even more unique UGC videos, which in turn promote the GoPro brand and increase sales. It’s a marketers dream cycle!
Reviews are another form of user-generated content that can easily be re-formatted for different mediums. A stellar Amazon review might do a lot of good repositioned on your website.
Big Barker Dog Beds make smart use of Amazon reviews on their website.
Make the most of your user generated genius - you’re letting your fans do the work for you. When you have a popular brand that generates fan attention, the user generated content that rolls in is immensely valuable. Why? Well for one, there are some pretty creative people out there who find fun and innovative news ways to talk about your product or brand. Ways you may never dream of. The creative culture of user generated content is quite impressive - even the big buck marketing teams would be hard pressed to compete with the creativity of fans.
The work of a mad man
There are dozens of ways user generated content can be repurposed across various web identities—an Instagram post tagging your business can be shared on Pinterest! A shout out on Twitter can become a Facebook testimonial. The possibilities are endless. Don’t let your UGC go to waste—make the most of it!
User-generated content facts & statistics
Alright, alright—this is all well and good. You’ve learned what user-generated content is and how it manifests across brands’ marketing materials in a bunch of unique ways. But, the truly crucial thing is effectiveness, right?
There’s a real—and understandable!—temptation for digital marketers to immediately hop on the latest trend as soon as the opportunity arises. We’re a creative group, after all. We want to stay on the cutting edge. This becomes problematic, of course, when the latest trend doesn’t drive meaningful results.
Luckily, that’s not the case with user-generated content. Check out these facts and stats.
- On average, influencer marketing drives a 650% return on ad spend (ROAS).
- Social media posts that incorporate user-generated content drive substantially more engagement than standard posts.
- Communicating your brand messaging through your employees is proven to drive way, way more social media shares.
- Two-thirds of consumers actively seek online reviews before making purchases.
- 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust the people they know.
- Three out of every four consumers rely on social media content to influence their purchasing decisions.
- 84% of millennials say on-site user-generated content impacts their buying decisions.
- 74% of millennial travelers say user-generated content has a greater impact on them than professional photos.
- Ecommerce ads that feature user-generated content drive four times as many clicks as ecommerce ads that don’t.
- You can effectively implement user-generated content across your entire marketing funnel—or in any phase you find particularly valuable!
User-generated content strategy
It’s worthwhile to take a beat and talk a little bit about why—from a strategic perspective—user-generated content is a valuable addition to your marketing repertoire.
At the risk of oversimplification, we’d argue that it all comes down to a single word: trust. Hardly anyone is going to buy a product or a service from a company they don’t trust, especially if buying it requires using a debit or credit card online. At the end of the day, earning new customers requires means earning people’s trust.
Ask yourself something. Are people more likely to trust what you say about your own product or what fellow consumers say about it?
Exactly. As those stats from the previous section illustrate, consumers trust other consumers—a whole lot. That’s why user-generated content is such an effective marketing strategy. When you use it—in an Instagram post, in a Facebook Story, or on your landing page—you tap into the same sentiment that compels consumers to read Amazon reviews before making purchases.
Plus, as an added bonus, curating—that is, getting a hold of—user-generated content from your current customers is an awesome way to engage them in your marketing process. The business-consumer relationship isn’t purely transactional. Chances are that a lot of your customers feel connected to your business, and curating user-generated content is a fun, powerful way to establish reciprocity in that connection.
These two key benefits of incorporating user-generated content into your marketing assets—establishing trust with your prospects and reciprocity with your customers—should inform your UGC strategy going forward. When you’re considering a potential tactic, ask yourself whether it will help earn the trust of your prospects and engage your customers.
Let’s look at this example from Starbucks’ Instagram profile.
Although rather simple, this user-generated photo sends two clear messages—one to prospective customers, and one to loyal customers. To prospective customers, it says, “Our drinks bring people together and brighten their days.” To loyal customers, it says, “We love it when you create content based around our products."
Two birds, no?
Where to find user-generated content
Maybe you’re getting excited now about all that high class, super UGC ripe for the taking. But where to find it? There’s all sorts of user generated content sites across the web, but it helps to know where to look. (Also, be sure to check out our list of free content marketing tools.)
Some UGC powerhouses included…
Devianart is the #1 spot for blossoming artists of the world to show off their wares. Every kind of art imaginable can be found on this online haven for the artistically inclined (from fabric design and computer generated art, to 3D modeling, drawing, and more).
As one of the few (if not the only) photo-hosting sites giving away a whole terabyte of space for free, Flickr has a lot of users posting their photography work. If you see something you love and want to use, reach out to a user and ask.
Don’t feel like panhandling for photos? Alternatively, search Flickr via Creative Commons for photos that can be used for free in exchange for attribution. These photos can also be found by conducting an Advanced Search in Flickr, and checking of the Creative Commons-licensed only option at the bottom.
Reddit presents a heap of UGC in the form of images, forum discussions, and comments. If you’re looking for authentic user generated content, you’ll likely find all sorts of stuff on “the front page of the internet.”
Where there are users, there is user generated content. And boy howdy, there are tons of folks on Facebook! The semi-recently updated Facebook search tool can help you find discussions revolving around your brand.
It becomes pretty easy to find user generated photos and posts about your brand with a quick Facebook search. Try it out and reap the rewards.
Twitter is a hot spot for discovering conversation surrounding your brand. Just hashify your business and see what’s the buzz! The Advanced Search feature is also useful for finding what people are saying about a topic during a given time frame. You can even embed relevant tweets right into your content.
YouTube is home to the crown jewel of user generated content - video of course! The King Kong of content, video can captivate and hold the attention of viewers much longer than text or photos.
There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu (oh man, the 1st world in which we live), and sure enough, when I search “taco bell,” on YouTube, quite a few user generated video reviews pop up.
Assuming they have good things to say about you, user generated video reviews can be prime UGC to show off and repurpose for your business. Video user endorsements can carry tremendous word-of-mouth power, all the more mighty because you’re seeing the real people who recommend your product, making their opinion exponentially more trustworthy. Text reviews on the other hand, while still very valuable forms of UGC, can be mistrusted by skeptical users who see the reviews as potentially artificial. The Internet’s trust factor when it comes to quoting individuals has been seriously damaged.
In case the hilarity of this image sails over your head - it’s a quote from Yoda (Star Wars), attributed to Dumbledore (Harry Potter), with an image of Gandalf (Lord of the Rings). For optimal misquotation, the link to this image should say “My favorite Star Trek quote.”
Pinterest is another great source for user generated content. People just love posting pics on Pinterest - especially food pics. Again, search your brand and wander through pins to see if anything juicy shows up.
Instagram has become the #1 spot for mobile photo-sharing fans. There’s a ton of great UGC on here, and it’s a great spot to host a contest or giveaway in order to obtain user generated content (more on that strategy later).
I recommend using GramFeed to search through Instagram photos - it’s a handy little site that lets you search through instagram posts by topic or hashtag.
Amazon Reviews (& Other Reviews Sites)
As discussed with regards to YouTube videos, reviews are great for swaying the opinions of hesitant buyers. Scour popular review sites for shining endorsements of your biz - try searching through Amazon customer reviews or Yelp reviews for starters, as that’s where the majority of online evals take place.
People take online reviews quite seriously (although there are tons of hilarious funny Amazon reviews out there as well) and put a lot of thought and consideration into their evaluations. Use the good ones to your advantage!
No brand UGC? No problem—go a bit broader
The best user generated content is content that relates directly to your brand. That tailored fan content works for you on so many levels - it serves as a word-of-mouth endorsement, helps with brand development, and engages with audiences on their level. Basically, personalized user generated content is just the best - it’s the bee’s knees!
Adorable bee from cartoonist Gemma Correll
But sometimes the “best” just isn’t attainable, in which case, the next best will do just fine. If you have a tough time getting your hands on specific brand-related UGC, fear not! Instead, seek out user generated content that is related to your industry. For example, if you sell mountain hiking gear, you might be interested in user generated content from outdoor junkies. Look for photos, blog posts, gear reviews, or videos from campers.
Goal Zero sells portable solar panels for charging goods on the go, but they’ll often share UGC that will interest their audiences, such as a guest post about fly fishing.
Of course, whenever sharing user-generated content, it’s important to give credit where it is due; be sure to call out those awesome content creators for sharing their experiences.
Want custom user-generated content? Just ask for it!
Sometimes, getting what you’re after is a simple as saying, “please.” You’ll be rolling in UGC in no time if you organize a contest that require a piece of user-generated content as a submission.
Take for example, a current Pillsbury contest asking fans to submit by posting a photo to Instagram of their brightest and boldest baked goods.
It’s a simple concept, but bakers from all over are more than happy to oblige, and the user generated content has been steadily coming in.
Contests are often used to build brand awareness and reach, but involving user-generated content adds a huge bonus element, as the brand earns a collection of great fan crafted content that can be implemented for different purposes and on different mediums for years to come.
Winning photos can be curated into a blog post (which fans will doubtlessly share for self-promotion sake), posted on Pinterest, tweeted on Facebook, and so much more. What’s not to love?
Another way to get user-generated content is to host a communal blog or forum.
For example, YouMoz is a communal posting space where community members can share their own blog posts and content on Moz. Members vote on the posts with a thumbs up or down – if the article gets enough positive votes, the post is promoted to the main blog. Online community-oriented sites like this are great for building community and serve as a smart source of high-quality user-generated content.
User-generated content blues? Fake it ‘til you make it
Still having a hard time getting your hands on UGC? Try creating your own! OK, it won’t really be user-generated content if you’re making it yourself, but you can replicate the user-generated style that will likely appeal to users over more blatant branded advertising.
User generated content statistics from Crowdtap show that Millennials consider UGC 20% more influential and 35% more memorable that branded messages. They also are 50% more likely to find UGC trustworthy as opposed to branded advertising. So even if your marketing content isn’t authentically user-generated, that style of marketing will appeal much more to younger audiences than classic branded marketing.
It’s unclear if this photo posted on Starbuck’s Facebook page is fan-crafted or the company’s creation, but regardless it has the style and concept (pop-culture oriented) of a UGC piece. Naturally this got a TON of likes and shares online. Nothing hits quite as hard as nostalgia.
We’ve made a pretty strong case for user generated content. If you’re not foaming at the mouth for that home grown UGC by now, you’d best re-read this post! Your quest for fantastic user generated content may take you to some strange places, but as long as you come up with some UGC spoils, it’ll surely be worth the ride.
Do you have a piece of user generated content that did a ton of good for your business? Share your experience in the comment section below!