Social media still dominates the digital environment. It has changed the way we interact with information and process it. We follow people we have never met, listen to their advice, and absorb the content they create. People trust people, and this is a critical ingredient for business success as well. Your audience expects a completely different level of communication, in a dialogue mode.

But what if we forget about standard social media marketing and imagine that a brand can produce content in its own online communities, without any third-party platforms? Actually, do not imagine – it already exists. One of the trends in brand promotion in 2021 is the use of user-generated content. Such content is always more winning: it is emotional, it inspires trust, it attracts attention – it is real. Therefore, users tend to pay more attention to it.

What is user-generated content?

So what is user-generated content (UGC) and what are its strengths? UGC refers to publications in any form from your audience on the Internet. Here are some astonishing stats:

Why is this type of content so important? It is simple – people trust people. Not a brand that tells how good its product is, but another person, not even an acquaintance. After all, they talk about their experience and show the product as it is, unadorned.

According to the Stackla survey, 86% of people consider the authenticity and sincerity of content when choosing a brand. And 60% of consumers base their purchasing decisions on content from friends or family. Even if there is a brand in such content, users like it more than advertising publications. Such content is emotional, lively, and understandable to the audience.

Benefits of user-generated content

What are the benefits of user-generated content? Here is our list:

  • Minimum costs. You do not waste time and money creating content, but you can use it in your profile. Important! Do not forget about the right to use the content. Unfortunately, very often brands are not particularly worried about using someone else’s content. It is enough just to ask “Can I share your review at our website/in our app?”
  • Building trust. Whether it is a product, a service, or an experience, today’s consumers want to know what they are getting before ordering. It is important for a person to see and feel the product as it is. When buying clothes, people are interested in how they will look not only on the model. And when choosing a restaurant, they not only base their decision on the reviews and recommendations of their friends but also trust the opinion of consumers on the Internet. Therefore, the “live” sensations and impressions of those who have already interacted with the product or service are important. Thus, using UGC, you will not only strengthen relationships with existing customers but also attract new ones.
  • Efficiency. User-generated content, when used by a brand, almost always performs better than other types of content. It gets more reach and engagement.

Thus, taking into account all of the previous advantages, user-generated content solves the main problem and leads to a purchase.

How to motivate users to create content

Having figured out what user-generated content is and what the benefits of using it are, now let’s find out how to encourage users to generate it.

User-generated content is the most powerful proof that your brand is trustworthy. It is much easier to make a decision when you see successful examples from real life. If the buyer does not yet have a product from your store or does not have your brand items, they can rely on UGC at the time of making a decision.

Let’s consider several ways of encouraging users to create content for you:

  • The easiest one is to ask a user to leave a review after they have received your product or service. Provide the customer with a choice of how and where they can leave a review, for example, directly in your app or in the app store.
  • Run a contest. Prepare a post in which you write down all the conditions. But remember, there should be a minimum of conditions and you should describe them in a simple and clear way. If you want photo content, not just testimonials, make it a condition. For example, if you let users post pictures, you can then share the best ones in your app’s activity feed. The reward in such a contest can be a discount on the next order.
  • Create the necessary conditions. It can be anything – a beautiful cup of coffee, takeout food packaging – the main point here is to explain to the user where they can upload a photo. Most brands seem to expect UGC from their customers, but in the end, they do not do anything with it. Photos, videos, testimonials, and reviews that are wandering somewhere on the net will not increase the credibility of your brand and will not bring any new customers to you. You definitely need to work with such content and make it visible in your online community.
  • Let your customers become the voice of your brand. This does not always require material incentives. Sometimes a little fame is enough. For example, a repost to an official account. The motivation can be a discount on the next purchase, access to a limited collection, and certain terms of service.

Examples of user-generated content

By using UGC, you will not only increase consumer loyalty but also become the subject of word-of-mouth marketing. How to nudge users to create content? And most importantly – what to do after it is created? How do you distribute it to other potential users? The next few examples will give you some new ideas for launching custom content campaigns and help you improve your end result.

Example #1: Coca-Cola and personalization

Coca-Cola is a classic example of how a brand not only constantly exists around us, but also intelligently uses UGC to show its presence, strengthen the connection with us, and fuel interest in the product. As part of the “Share a Coke” advertising campaign, Coca-Cola produced special bottles with the names and nicknames of buyers. Each bottle was labeled with the hashtag #shareacoke, inviting people to share Coca-Cola with others.

As a result, thousands of people printed personal messages on bottles (birthday greetings, marriage proposals, etc). This campaign filled the lives of thousands of people with positive emotions and reminded them of their love for the Coca-Cola brand. Users had many opportunities to share the material, but at the same time, they also had a real product as a reward for their efforts.

Here is how the example of Coca-Cola can inspire you:

  • Simple campaigns with a positive attitude are incredibly powerful.
  • Campaigns that involve many people naturally spread throughout the world.
  • Create an online community for your product, where users can see it in action or connect with fans of the brand. Learn more about creating an online community in our free ebook
  • Do not thank the user only with coupons or posting their photos on your website. Think about what and how you can give them your product.

Example #2: T-Mobile and original ideas

One of the most unusual campaigns is T-Mobile’s Break-Up Letter. T-Mobile has helped its competitors’ customers to easily “break” relationships with their mobile carriers. The organizers of the campaign made a unique offer to everyone who wanted to switch to their services. T-Mobile suggested that they pay their new customers a commission for unilateral termination of the contract with the former operator. 

What is the result of the campaign? It is truly amazing: 80,000 people posted a break-up letter! T-Mobile not only found an original way to attract new customers but also gained valuable insight into what their customers really wanted.

Consider how you can link your campaign to user-generated content and storytelling around your brand. These campaigns are the best way to directly learn all about the needs of your customers.

Example #3: Life BEAM and UGC in advertising

Life BEAM, an artificial intelligence wearables technology company, integrated user-generated content in the form of customer reviews into their Facebook ads. Facebook ads work much better with custom content than average ads:

  •       CTR is 300% higher
  •       CPC is 50% lower
  •       CPA is 50% lower

Example #4: IKEA and social catalog

One of the most effective ways to reuse old content is to launch visual online merchandising based on user-generated content. This way you not only recognize brand advocates but also figure out how customers are using your products. By using user-posted photos or descriptions, you can create a custom catalog that will naturally promote your brand and win the trust of potential buyers. For example, IKEA used photos of its customers’ favorite products made by customers themselves to create a unique online catalog.

Example #5: Lay’s and crowdsourcing

The “Do Us A Flavor” campaign by Lay’s encouraged shoppers to come up with their own tastes and then let fans vote on their favorites. The winners of this user-generated campaign were offered a very attractive prize: Lay’s promised to pay $1 million for the top three flavors.

The campaign has engaged a huge number of participants (to be more precise, 3.8 million applications were submitted). Lay’s went further: after selecting the three best tastes, the organizers invited users to choose the winner on their own by voting for them.

Users had great motivation for this epic campaign, and as a result, companies of all sizes can come up with some valuable content advertising tips.

Here are some conclusions that you can draw from this example:

  • Let users be creative. Give them unlimited creativity while enjoying content creation.
  • Make your content really interesting. People love to share with others what they like.
  • Extend user engagement by inviting them to participate in the process at multiple stages in a row, fueling interest in the brand. For example, Lay’s asked buyers to come up with content, vote for it, and then share it. The more stages a user has to take part in, the more likely they are to stay in the process.

Example #6: Canon and user segmentation

When planning to launch their new mini camera LEGRIA specifically targeted at video bloggers, Canon ran a YouTube campaign asking people to submit their video ideas. The brand gave four lucky winners both the camera and the training that they needed to shoot videos with it.

Canon’s campaign is a great example of a UGC campaign. By targeting bloggers and influencers, Canon narrowed down its audience, thus having applied the user segmentation method. So generating enough engagement helped Canon to convince their end users to pay attention to their product.

Example #7: BuzzFeed and its online community

News platform BuzzFeed has a section on its website called Buzzfeed Community. This page invites community members to produce content for the website. The company even created a leaderboard – the “Top Users This Week” section – and the “Top Posts” section. These gamification features encourage people to participate and contribute their content. People love being part of communities and love competing, so it explains the success of this community.­­

Over to you

User-generated content is a cost-efficient alternative to branded content, which really works and drives conversion. Remember – your audience is your most important asset. By sharing the values of your brand and having a pleasant experience from interacting with you, they are ready to contribute to your promotion. Good luck!