Social media is a powerful tool that brands can leverage in many ways. We know consumers want to engage with brands that are authentic and can build a community around their offerings online. But what if you could take it a step further? Enter: User-Generated Content on social media.    

What is User-Generated Content?   

User-Generated Content, or UGC for short, is any form of content that people, rather than brands, create to join the conversation online with a brand and its community. UGC can come in the form of images, videos, text, online reviews, audio, and more. These conversations often live on social media, community forums, blogs, landing pages, or any other digital marketing channels.  

These posts help give your presence an added layer of authenticity by showcasing the perspectives of real users. And the great thing about today’s technology is that almost anyone can create high-quality photo and video content directly from their phones. 

Why is UGC important?   

Social networks, by nature, are designed to facilitate two-way conversations with our favorite brands. Typically, the brands start the conversation. So flipping the script and allowing followers to engage organically is a sign of a strong brand community.   

Allowing users to create content not only helps generate buzz for your brand on social platforms. It also builds an inner circle of organic brand advocates. By nature, humans want to engage and be included in conversations that are relevant to them, further broadening the reach of the community.   

The best proof that your product or service is right for a consumer is social proof. Shoppers are increasingly using review sites and social media as search engines to discover new products and services. And this social proof is a great way to organically demonstrate the strength of your brand and increase conversions.   

So, how can you encourage users to create and share this type of content for your brand, and turn customers into brand advocates?  

Create buzz for your brand.  

The first step to getting people to talk about your brand? A solid UGC strategy. You need to generate some buzz, so find a way to become a disruptor in your industry. Your product doesn’t need to be flashy or exciting to do this.  

Brands like Aerie and Warby Parker have disrupted the undergarment and eyewear industries respectively by creating unique customer experiences and making unexciting product categories exciting again. A strong differentiator is a great way to get your target audience to talk about your brand and become loyal customers.  

Have a strong branded hashtag, and engage with it regularly.   

So, now you have people talking about your brand. But how do you know what they’re saying and how to find those UGC posts? Take charge of the conversation by owning a strong branded hashtag and staying engaged with it regularly.  

Remember, social media is a two-way conversational channel. Having a strong community management plan as part of your social media strategy is important in engaging with your customers as they enter the conversation.    

Don’t be afraid to utilize influencers.  

Influencer marketing campaigns are all the rage on social media right now, but they’re not as new as you might think. Traditional marketing tactics similarly rely on word-of-mouth to help grow awareness. Influencers are also a powerful resource to generate buzz for your brand. They’ve worked hard to build a dedicated base of followers who trust in their opinions and recommendations. Influencers are generating brand conversations and influencing purchase decisions every day through their efforts.  

It’s important to remember success doesn’t happen overnight. UGC campaigns and influencer partnerships can often be a long-term strategy. Even if your influencer marketing doesn’t immediately lead to direct conversions; you can rest assured that the boost in brand awareness will aid in encouraging others to join the conversation in the future.    

Hold contests and giveaways.  

Let’s face it: almost everyone loves free stuff. Holding a contest or a giveaway in your social media posts is a great way to encourage user-generated content and provide something in return to show your appreciation. Asking users to share a photo of themselves interacting with your brand or sharing how your brand has made an impact on their lives are great ways to generate authentic content.  

Make it clear how users can engage with you.  

After you’ve put in the hard work to put all of these measures in place, it’s important to keep the conversation going. So, make sure that customers know and understand all of the ways that they can engage with you. Feature user-generated content from social media on your website, use signage with your branded hashtag to encourage others to join the conversation on social, and leverage events and sales to generate extra buzz.   

That’s it! Now you’re ready to go out into the world and amplify your brand conversations on social media. Who knows, this could be the missing piece that your brand’s marketing strategy needed all along.