The Ultimate Word-of-Mouth: User Generated Content (UGC)

Definitions – UGC

· A term used to describe any form of content created by consumers or end-users.

· Any form of [visual media] that is created by users of an online system, made accessible via social media. (per Pixlee which has a visual focus of photos and videos)

· Branded content that was posted to a social media channel and produced by someone outside of your company.

· Any content created and pushed out by unpaid contributors.

· Also known as organic or earned content and consumer generated media (CGM).

Consumers trust UGC 50% more than other media and Social Media Today found that 85% of users find visual UGC more persuasive than brand visuals. It is not a bad thing that your customers can market your brand as well as if not better than you can because there will always be people seeking opportunities to have their opinions heard. It is simply a matter of capturing that energy for your brand. Brands can also allow UGC to inform them of the ever-changing attitudes of consumers instead of trying to keep up with those changes as they occur. UGC can come in the form of consumer videos, images, comments, reviews, or portions of a Q & A section; social media posts, blog posts, testimonials, quotes, social shares, tweets, and on and on.

So How Do You Capitalize?

The most well-known example of UGC is YouTube. Users upload over 300 hours of video every minute - that’s every minute. Successful large company UGC campaigns promote across their website and social media channels; offer prizes for participation; and reward consumers for presenting the brand in a positive light. But positive gains can be made from a smaller scale by creating engaging content that encourages natural conversation and sharing.

Host contests or quizzes on social media platforms

Ask users to list two things that “tell how” or “share why” they interact with your brand.

Define the objective of the contest or quiz and clearly communicate expectations for content.

Add an urgency factor to increase participation.

The prize doesn’t have to be a week in Hawaii…think branding, instead.

Issue a challenge – the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014 increased awareness and donations beyond anything the charity had previously experienced. The most fabulous part is that ALS didn’t even create the challenge, it was started by some professional athletes.

Utilize unique hashtags to align your brand with events and trends. Consider the Instagram campaign launched by Aerie, the woman’s clothing company, that used #AerieReal to distance itself from companies that touch up model’s photos and to celebrate real women. The company also contributed to the National Eating Disorders Association as part of their campaign.

Ask questions about users’ experiences with your brand or questions about your products/services.

Host social media takeover days.

Include a “Share Your Story” section on your website or social media channels – feature brand related stories, experiences interacting with the brand, or how the brand has made a positive impact on someone’s life. Chobani created a campaign that asked customers to submit videos praising its yogurt. The company attributes the greater than 200% revenue increase it saw during the sales year to that campaign.

Include a UGC platform on your social media channels and your e-commerce site that provides opportunities for consumers to write reviews or comments.

The benefits of UGC are numerous. It builds trust by backing away from obvious advertising and moving towards authentic, personal experience with your brand. UGC contributes an unparalleled trust factor to a brand by humanizing it.

UGC has authenticity. The Nielsen Consumer Trust Index found that 92% of consumers trust UGC on websites over marketing ads. Depictions of seemingly authentic experiences are inspirational and aspirational. Authenticity leads to engagement - 63% of consumers said they would rather buy from a company perceived as authentic.

Engagement and reach are increased through UGC. When your customers share their brand experiences, their friends then share it and their friends share it… On the reverse side, brands need to repost and respond to UGC to encourage more participation. A brand inspires other consumers to submit content when it interacts with UGC by sharing, liking, commenting, etc.

UGC provides honest and helpful feedback. It gives you an opportunity to respond sympathetically to someone’s poor experience and to provide a resolution. It also helps the reviewer feel valued when you demenstrate your organization’s desire to “get it right” and shows that you care about your customers’ experiences.  UGC lets you gain insights from your target audience and others that can help you streamline your practices for increased user experience.

Ever caught under the strain of content production? UGC helps with content curation, reducing the burden on your writing team. In essence, you are delegating to your audience some of the burden of content creation and filling the content void. Just be sure to tell users what contact you are specifically looking for – pictures of … or their experience with … and specify the format whether it be video, image, or comments.

UGC increases content and the abundance of key phrases which increases the searchability of your site and who doesn’t appreciate an increased SEO? It also increases site traffic. When you facilitate an interactive environment for your visitors it will increase the time they spend on your site which can increase conversion rates. Increased site time usually means that someone has found useful or valuable information.

Users feel valued when a brand uses their content. UGC strengthens your online community because it offers a sense of belonging by creating a consumer-centered climate. Users see their voice, their message, and their content.  This helps build a more authentic relationship with your customers and creates social proof. Numerous studies have found that people trust word-of-mouth more than brand ads.

UGC also increases conversion rates. Brands see an increase in conversions with UG photos versus professional images and 82% of consumers feel that UGC is a deciding factor when they make purchases. UGC is not just for social media platforms, it can be influential on your website and e-commerce site in the form of reviews and testimonials. Business Insider found that consumers who interact with UGC are 97% more likely to convert than those who don’t. Plus, UGC is incredibly cost-effective as most of it is free!

There are challenges involved with UGC, the biggest being a loss of quality control. Businesses need to moderate and monitor user content to combat spam and general nastiness. It is essential to regularly monitor UGC and deal with inappropriate content quickly. This is often as simple as redirecting or moderating an online conversation or responding to a negative comment with a genuine apology and positive resolution.

It is also hard to control UGC because the content belongs to the creator and/or the platform on which it is posted. There can be legal issues in regards to who owns the content and how brands can go about gaining permission to reuse UGC. Often it is difficult to verify actual owners and get explicit usage consent. When requesting content for a campaign, specify what will happen with any submitted material and ensure you are in compliance with any state or local laws. When you use UGC, be sure to credit content with a photo tag and caption mention.

UGC is a vote of confidence from your consumers – they are promoting your brand and often without any prompting from you. The content gained through UGC helps build brand awareness and to establish your credibility as a thought-leader. It also increases lead generation and boosts engagement. UGC is relatively inexpensive and yet highly effective as a social media marketing tool. It helps connect and engage with consumers in an authentic and cost-effective way. UGC shows others how your customers interact with your brand and shares their excitement for your products or services.

If you are ready to expand your marketing to include user generated content, contact the experts at Strategy Driven Marketing to explore options and get started now!