Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

How (And Where) To Use User Generated Content In Your Marketing Plan

User generated content is the easiest way to build brand loyalty and brand awareness at the same time. Here’s how to use it and when to share it.

Your marketing strategy is crucial to the success of your business. It tells the story of your company and communicates your unique point of view. But at the end of the day, it isn’t the only way to attract customers.

When considering a purchase, your customers will turn to social media to find out the real scoop on your product or service. They depend on the input from their peers to determine whether or not your brand is right for them.

If you don’t have a solid social media presence, your marketing strategy will take a hit. But what if you don’t have the time or marketing spend to overhaul your social media accounts? That’s where user-generated content (UGC) comes into play.

UGC allows you to gain the trust of your target audience by showcasing content created by existing customers who already believe in your product.

Take a look at what a user-generated content strategy is, why you need to use it, and how it will benefit your brand so that you can increase your conversions, not your budget.

UGC Definition in Marketing

User-generated content, or UGC, is any digital content created by people instead of by companies. Rather than a brand promoting themselves, users promote your brand through their content.

Companies can track content creation by using branded hashtags that are functional across social media platforms. They can then leverage this free content to their benefit, improving rankings and building credibility with their target audience.

Brands share UGC to their websites, social media accounts, and other marketing channels as a way to attract their target audience. This cost-effective marketing effort shows that real people believe in the brand.

3 Reasons Why Your Business Should Use UGC (User Generated Content)

Because marketers are tasked with positioning services and products in the best light possible, we often omit details that may negatively impact customer buying choices. This makes buyers wary of trusting product marketing.

Businesses need to use UGC strategically to build trust. Here are three key reasons why your business needs to leverage user-generated content right now.

1) Trust drives sales.

A 2012 study by Nielsen reported that the most trusted form of advertising is “earned media”, which refers to word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family. The second most trusted form is online consumer reviews.

Notice how neither form of advertising originates from retailers. They originate from consumers themselves.

Consumers will trust each other much quicker than they’ll trust retailers, merchants and corporate-types. They’re increasingly market-savvy, and are aware of retailers’ motives. (This isn’t specific to commerce. It applies to all sorts of markets. A referral from a person you trust is always worth more than a slick sales pitch.)

People are more likely to purchase a product online because a friend or family recommended it, as compared to what the company says about it. It’s who they trust, rather than who they know, that drives their purchasing decisions.

If their friends and family haven’t tried the product, the next logical option is to turn to online reviews by fellow consumers. The beauty of modern technology is that consumer reviews can take shape with more than just words – photos, videos, location check-ins, etc give reviews vastly increased persuasive power.

This is where businesses should come in to encourage the growth of “earned media”.

2) It’s easier than ever to let your customers be your ambassadors.

User Generated Content on Baublebar ecommerce store

Many fashion retailers have started asking customers to submit photos of themselves wearing their products. Setting up and dealing with such a submission process might seem painfully tedious: It requires extra time spent handling user submissions, and effort to constantly update your website.

Fret not. Social media platforms can now simplify that process for you.

With Instagram hashtags and integration built into their ecommerce store, Baublebar aggregates its customers’ Instagram ‘selfies’ on a single page, which acts both as customer endorsement and crowdsourced style guidance. Baublebar have since reported a 3x increase in conversion rate and a 6% engagement rate out of 300,000 unique visitors – just using social media!

Your customers are your most powerful social influencers. Most people enjoy sharing their experiences with their friends on social media, and it won’t cost you a single cent to let them do as they please. Set things up nicely for them to do it, then get out of the way.

3) People want to know what your products REALLY look like.

Seeing the product actually being used gives people more confidence to purchase it. Photos uploaded by customers may not showcase your products in the best possible light, but they are far more authentic and believable than your professional product photos. (Even the “best possible light” point is debatable, given the power of Instagram filters and the rising quality of amateur photography.)

Are your products appealing only because of good camera angles and lighting? Hopefully not! They should look good in use, not just in promotional material.

Comodo Instagram Menu

A newly launched restaurant in New York decided to do just this, and what happened after was powerfully successful. Instead of creating a centralized menu of their own, Cómodo let their customers create an Instagram Menu. Using a common hashtag, guests are encouraged to upload photos of Cómodo’s food, as well as seek inspiration for what dishes to order. The campaign has since generated up to 280 million media impressions. More importantly, they are now receiving table reservations up to 5 months in advance.

If you think your products are excellent, have faith in it. Let your customers speak for your products with their photos. Accompanied with product photos that you already have, you now have a lethal weapon to attract potential customers.

Different Types Of User Generated Content

User-generated content is any online content that was created by an end user. This could be a comment on your blog, a tweet about your brand, or even a selfie of someone wearing one of your products.

The rise of social media has opened up new opportunities for marketers to connect with their target audience through user-generated content. With UGC marketing becoming more popular among brands as well as consumers, there are many different types of UGC available for businesses today:

  • Social Media Posts: Images and videos posted to a TikTok account, Twitter feed, or Facebook page help with brand exposure.
  • Online Reviews: Whether these reviews are on Amazon or the product page on your website, consumers trust this type of word-of-mouth marketing.
  • User-Generated Blog Posts: Blog writers build a solid relationship with their readers, translating into a solid UGC strategy to promote your product.
  • Podcast Clips: Just like blog posts, listeners trust the opinion of their favorite podcasters.

No matter which type of UGC you employ, the beauty is that UGC breeds UGC. You can use this content to get more people talking about your brand and build up a loyal following.

How (And Where) To Use User Generated Content In Your Marketing Strategy

User-generated content marketing is a solid way to build brand awareness, cultivate relationships with existing clients, and inspire trust in potential customers.

But how can you use UGC effectively, and where does it make the most significant impact? Take a look at three methods for utilizing user-generated content in your marketing strategy and where it works best.

1. On Your Website And Promotional Materials

Sharing exceptional UGC is a great way to spark interest in your brand. Using these materials in your advertising helps you share your company’s story in a way that is engaging and appealing to your target audience.

By including user-generated content in your marketing materials in place of casual social media posts, you allow customers to be part of the narrative. The story will feel more authentic and organic to users who are new to your brand. This creates a sense of trust that cannot be bought.

To inspire new customers to want to be included in your brand, use UGC everywhere: in your marketing emails, displayed in your store, and on your landing pages.

Customer reviews heavily influence purchasing decisions. Strategically place customer reviews close to where users need to click to order your product. Find the most eloquent reviews and inspiring photos and make them the first thing potential customers see. If they see others having a positive experience with your brand, they will want to be included.

2. On Social Media And The Blog

Brand loyalty is all about nurturing long-term relationships with your target audience, resulting in multiple sales and interactions.

And it all begins with brand awareness.

By using content created by existing customers, you’re able to get your brand in front of more people while also proving that your brand is worth getting behind.

To do this, center your online presence around UGC. This helps users connect with you and other customers, creating a virtual community with your brand at the center. Include user-generated content in your blog posts to draw users into the conversation you are making around your company.

Share your customers’ content on your social media accounts and follow up right away with a call to action for other users to share their own stories of opinion. This will generate discussion and generate even more content creation, which builds your brand community even further.

Plus, people who create and share UGC are likely to be some of your most loyal followers. Chances are they purchased from you more than once. User-generated content lets you harness that brand interest and create a sense of ongoing loyalty in people who are new to your brand.

3. Collect A Catalogue Of Content

It’s challenging to create fresh content for your social media channels constantly. Launching a user-generated content campaign is a great way to build a high-quality content library to ensure you always have relevant content to share on your social media pages.

For example, encourage your target audience to share pictures of how they use your product and have them post the images with your unique hashtag. Search this hashtag over multiple social media channels to collect various types of content.

Gather your favorite submissions and use them in your posts. Save all your favorites so you can post them regularly and continuously engage your audience.

Key Tips For A Successful UGC Marketing Strategy

Now that you know how to build a user-generated content marketing strategy, let’s look at ways to ensure your marketing campaign is successful.

  • Always Ask For Permission: Even though hashtags take on a life of their own, resharing content without explicit permission can cause headaches for marketers. Asking for share permission guarantees a positive rapport with content creators.
  • Offer An Incentive In Return: When launching UGC campaigns, include a prize to generate interest. Offer multiple levels of rewards to maximize participation.
  • Credit The Creator: Tag content creators directly in your post to ensure your audience knows where the content originated. Giving proper credit allows the content creator to enjoy the benefits of being a part of your brand and makes it easy for fans and followers to see the content came from an authentic influencer.
  • Be Specific About What Content You Want: Communicate what you wish to gain from user-generated content and let creators know what you are looking for. This ensures they create content that aligns with your marketing goals.
  • Study Submitted Content: While you won’t post every piece of user-generated content, you can learn a lot from what is created. You may learn new uses for your product, new hashtag communities to engage with, or what words are being used to describe your brand.

Like any marketing tool, UGC requires a strategy. Make sure all user-generated content aligns with your current marketing strategies and represents your brand accurately.

User-Generated Content Examples

Goli Gummies

example of user generated content with goli gummies

Like many eCommerce brands, Goli built brand awareness for their unique apple cider vinegar gummies through influencer marketing.

Goli asked popular influencers to act as brand advocates and generate engaging branded content, including images and videos. This content was then used in their marketing campaign and only cost the free products they send to the content creators.

Goli used the songs, pictures, and reviews to flood Facebook, Instagram, and other social media channels with unique UGC. The creative content inspired the online community to investigate what the Goli brand had to offer.

Ultimately, the successful user-generated content marketing strategy pushed their product into the spotlight and allowed them to gain critical placements in big-box retailers and create a new product.

Starbucks White Cup Contest

ugc example with starbucks white cups

Starbucks launched a UGC campaign by asking their customers to doodle on a plain white cup and post their creations using the Twitter hashtag #WhiteCupContest.

The incentive? The winning cup designs would be printed and used in Starbucks stores nationwide. This campaign generated over 4000 submissions and launched their second UGC marketing campaign under #RedCupArt.

This user-generated content campaign was super effective because it was easy to participate in and had a huge incentive. It also involved existing customers interacting with a familiar product while attracting new ones who wanted to enter the contest.

Apple #ShotOnIphone

ugc examples

Apple may be one of the most recognizable brands out there, but that doesn’t mean they ignore the power of UGC. When they heard feedback that Apple phone cameras did not perform well in low light, Apple enlisted their loyal customer’s help in proving just what their product could do.

Apple launched the hashtag #ShotOnIphone and asked their existing fans to show what their product could do. Users then uploaded high-quality shots and videos to multiple social media platforms with the title “Shot On iPhone.”

Not only did Apple save quite a bit on ad spend and marketing, but they made their users feel special when they saw their own customer photos in Apple’s global ads, further building brand loyalty and ensuring repeat customers.

Leverage User-Generated Content To Build Your Brand

UGC is about making your customers see themselves in your brand. Some businesses still view social media platforms as just another means of mass communication. This leaves room for you to gain a competitive advantage.

Truly engage your followers by using UGC to encourage them to go beyond liking and sharing. Let them play a pivotal role in building your brand, and inevitably, deeper brand loyalty.


UGC FAQs

Can you use UGC to help build marketing funnels?

Yes! UGC is a great strategy to build marketing funnels because the content will speak to potential customers.

How can I use UGC to build customer loyalty?

UGC is a great way to get your customers involved with your company on a deeper level, and you many customers will be honored to talk about your products/services!

Is user generated content credible for my marketing strategy?

UGC is authentic and speaks to potential customers because it is information provided by other customers.

Image Credits: The Masters Canvas, Baublebar, BestTechInfo

Chris Giarratana

Chris Giarratana

Chris Giarratana is a Digital Media Strategy Consultant in Orlando, FL. With over 13 years of experience, he works with national brands to make his clients more money.

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