Say you’re exploring a city and you see an empty restaurant vs a booming patio next door. You reasonably conclude the food is better at the latter, and you give it a try. Before we experience something new, there’s no denying we take some comfort in the approval of others. This is the principle at work when it comes to user generated content, or UGC.

WHAT is User Generated Content?

Any content your consumers create about your brand, from photos to testimonials and more. Promoting UGC enables you to showcase your products from the consumers point of view. After all, chances are your consumers are already capturing this content so why not use it to your advantage?

User generated content doesn’t just draw attention to your brand, it also helps you get a better understanding of your audience (and what they think of you). This approach might seem to scream B2C advertising, but B2B brands can also get in on the love. B2B brands can encourage employees, product users, and other “visitors” of the company to reflect upon their experience with the brand.

Adobe is just one inspiring B2B brand that has taken UGC by the reigns. Their Instagram page is filled with posts generated by creators who are using their design tools, creative apps, and other software.

WHO participates in User Generated Content?

You AND your consumers. UGC is a two-way street. Brands want users’ content on their platforms because 76% of consumers think UGC is more honest than traditional advertising methods. And, more often than not, consumers posting about your brand would jump at the chance to be featured on your channels and earn their fifteen minutes of digital fame.

It’s no surprise that it’s preferred to interact with a trustworthy and authentic brand. What’s more authentic than stories from the people actually using your product? Millennials in particular are seeking UGC with 84% saying that UGC has at least some influence on their purchase. At this point, peer reviews are as trusted as professional reviews if not more so. Ultimately, you can enhance your performance when consumers engage, and there are many places for consumers do so.

WHERE do we see User Generated Content?

I spy UGC everywhere, mostly because it’s more memorable than many other forms of media. Your brand can incorporate UGC into your marketing on your digital platforms by using countless strategies including:

  • Customer Reviews and Video Testimonials:  Using customer’s reviews and testimonials as part of your content strategy demonstrates to your target audience that you understand their interests and gives others an unbiased account of someone’s experience with your products.
  • Customer Stories: Promoting customer’s stories is an effective and very personal way of showing your products or services in action. Exposing these experiences to your audience can build a community centralized around your product.
  • Contests: Contests are one of the more exciting types of UGC. These are popular among consumers, especially since rewards are at stake. Even if the incentive is small, contests open up a door for consumers to easily engage.
  • Hashtag Campaigns: Creating a hashtag campaign is a great tool that categorizes your content (and makes it more searchable), draws attention to your product and generates circulation of your consumers’ posts.

WHEN have we seen User Generated Content Success?

Even before the 21st century, journalists caught on that printing photos and columns generated by readers had a profound effect. Then in the early 2000s, with Facebook leading the way in a social media surge, UGC became a popular strategy to attract consumers. Now, user generated content is everywhere. Here are three examples of UGC campaigns that can inspire any brand. 

  • Wayfair

    The hashtag #WayfairAtHome enables consumers to post photos of their homes set up with Wayfair products. Some submissions are selected to be the content on the brand’s Instagram page accompanied with a link for browsers to purchase the featured items. This UGC combines customer testimonials and design inspiration by showing “real customers”, and not something staged by a design professional.

  • IBM

    One of the largest tech companies in the world, this B2B brand uses UGC even though their products are hard to visualize. On Instagram, IBM posts images of real people working for the company and using its technology services. The account also uses UGC to focus on IBM’s connection with events such as the Met Gala or Tribeca Film Festival. This approach showcases the human side of IBM and paints a picture of a consumer-conscious brand.

  • Starbucks

    Every winter season, Starbucks launches its #RedCupContest. Ingenious, because you must purchase a drink to participate. The reward to the best photo integrating the red cup receives a hefty gift card. This prize incentive motivates participants and the annual occurrence makes the campaign a staple of the holiday season.

WHY should you take advantage of User Generated Content?

If you aren’t convinced yet… UGC can be a great way to create long-lasting relationships between consumers and your product. It can help to drive engagement with your digital marketing with minimal cost. In the meantime, you can learn a lot about your audience, what draws people in or repels them, and what changes may be necessary for your brand.

Brands must be cautious and strategic before letting UGC steer their digital marketing. It’s crucial that you give credit to the original poster when re-publishing a user’s content. Afraid that your UGC efforts might backfire with negative feedback? It’s important to constantly monitor for abuse of any contests or hashtags. Make sure you have a “quality control” system in place and all UGC you share is vetted by appropriate team members before you hit that post button. As always, the best way to respond to negative feedback is with a meaningful message that other customers can see as well, which will show you are sympathetic to the issue and willing to improve customer experience.

If you’re attentive to your customers and employ user generated content effectively, you’ll find increases in engagement and consumer trust. So brands: consider letting UGC take the stage so you can take a bow.