What is User-Generated Content (UGC)?

User-generated content (UGC), also known as Consumer Generated Media (CGM), is any form of content created by unpaid contributors such as consumers, fans, or users. Most UGC is digital, such as pictures, videos, tweets, or reviews.

UGC has become the new word-of-mouth, and many marketers can take advantage of it by encouraging people to interact with their brand online. The effectiveness and benefits of UGC are the main allure driving many marketers to incorporate UGC efforts into their marketing mix.

Through our own social circles, micro-influencers, or celebrities and athletes, more and more people are sharing their opinions about brands online.

Why is User-Generated Content Important?

UGC has a collection of possibilities that impact the value of a brands presence and marketing efforts. It gives an opportunity for consumers and brands to create a community together and build trust and affinity. From the brand end, it gives an opportunity to learn more about their audience, respond to feedback, and curate marketing content.

For marketers, the return on investment is an important part of UGC. As Adobe Digital reported in 2017, digital ad costs are rising at a rate five times faster than US inflation. Reaching your audience is only getting more competitive and expensive.

Customer advocacy through user-generated content gives you the ability to cut into these costs. By optimizing their audiences, brands are doing more with less by relying on their followers and consumers.

What are the Benefits of UGC?

Knowing the importance, what are the key benefits of UGC? A large benefit of user-generated content is the overall return on investment. UGC presents an opportunity to reduce these rising costs, offering benefits such as:

  • Consumers respond well to authentic content.

UGC has been shown to increase conversions by 10% when included in an online purchase path (salesforce) - in addition, sites with featured UGC saw an increase of 20% in return visitors (socialtoaster).

  • Saving time and effort by curating content.

Instead of exhausting your team to develop content, you can manage time better by investing in user-generated content strategies - studies show that a good mix of UGC and official branded content are effective at creating a good social media engagement balance.

  • Expand reach / take advantage of your customers inner circles.

45% of marketing professionals, agreed that UGC helps increase key metrics on social media platforms (likes, comments, followers).

  • Engage your community and build relationships.

UGC posts shared to social channels see a 28% higher engagement rate than standard brand posts (SocialToaster) - this is mostly in-part that consumers are invited to participate in the conversation with your brand.

Steps to Start Getting More User-Generated Content

User-generated content is as simple as re-purposing content for your brand. Certain uses of content created may require some knowledge on rights management, however many customers are excited and willing to have their posts re-shared or acknowledged by their favorite brands.

  • Understand Which Social Networks Work for You

It’s important to understand where your audience is and where they have the most influence - in addition to the type of contend being generated by your advocates. For example, Instagram works well for fashion brands because of the visual content being shared to showcase new trends and products.

Understanding the benefits each social channel has on user-generated content can help you identify areas of high-impact marketing.

  • Set Goals for UGC

Like most marketing strategies, your user-generated content plan has to have your business goals in mind to be effective. Some common goals include:

Social Media Engagement: These metrics can include comments, likes, and social shares of a piece of content. In parallel, a good social media engagement practice involves communicating and listening to your audience to discover insights.

Conversion Goals: UGC such as reviews, photo-shares, and testimonials are proven to help drive conversion. Consumers are always doing research on their purchases, and often trust their network for the best guidance.

Brand Image: If your brand has found itself in hot water or is just getting started, building trust can be difficult. With the right promotion, you can generate more positive exposure to your brand and track it by following keywords and hashtags associated with your brand.

Saving Time: If your team is looking to produce more content without spending more money or time, UGC can support this goal by aggregating hashtags, comments, photos, videos, and whatever other content your team can re-purpose for later marketing efforts.

  • Invite Your Audience To Share

If you’re not inviting your audience to participate, you’re limiting the reach of your goals. Be clear about what content you want. Perhaps you’re looking for more video content to share on Facebook - encourage your users to generate this content by engaging with them, and creating a hashtag to track posts and expose new customers to your efforts.

In addition, be clear about how their content will be used. Consumers are entitled to copyright protection of their work, so it’s important to understand their rights and your limitations. Be sure to get permission before re-posting or re-purposing content submitted by your audience.

  • Encourage UGC with Incentives & Good Practices

A popular way to generate non-branded content is through social media contests. But that isn’t the only thing you can do. Running a UGC contest or sweepstakes can help you collect thousands of images, videos, and text (such as reviews or testimonials) that can be featured as content in your own marketing efforts.

By layering incentives in your request for content from your audience, you’ll drive the engagement further. In some instances, you can influence entrants to share your contest with their family or friends to produce an even greater pool of UGC.

These contests can take on many faces, such as photo upload contests, or hashtag contests. Our full-service sweepstakes and contest agency will help larger-scale needs execute an effective strategy and campaign to activate your customers and engage new audiences.

  • Measure, Analyze, and Aggregate UGC Efforts

Track the outcomes of your UGC strategies to identify what’s working and what needs to change. Your efforts prior to this point should be community-oriented, so be sure to analyze the tone of your engagement with your users.

Be sure you’re keeping records of high-quality pieces of content shared by your consumers, and reach out to these creators asking for permission to use this content. This is an essential part of saving time on content development!

Your follows and fans are important - be sure to treat them well and respond to complaints and praise equally and professionally.

Closing Notes: Don’t Take Without Asking

As stated earlier, do not make the mistake of taking content from your audience and posting it without their permission. At Realtime Media, we deliver a UGC Contest experience that not only drives results, but has the legal administration available to draft rules that will establish a right to use any entries submitted to a UGC promotion.

Always have an agreement with users before you share their content.