User-generated content (UGC).
When I mention that term to a potential client, often the first two questions are:
- How do I engage my customers in creating more content?
- How do I ensure the content isn’t crap?
It’s quite common that marketers believe user-generated content to be low quality.
And sometimes it is. We’ve all seen UGC competitions gone wrong.
But when done right, authentic user-generated content increases reach and engagement on social media channels. And when UGC is embedded on your e-commerce site, it increases dwell time and boosts conversions too.
There’s a simple reason why: you trust the opinion of your friends, peers and even other customers more than the product-description and pixel-perfect images from the brand.
When you analyse the content created by your customers and get insights on what type of content performs really well, you can also create even better content for your brand and, perhaps, use some of the best pieces of UGC in social advertising too.
I hear you say: sounds fantastic, but how do I get this right for my brand?
Not so long time ago I participated in a meeting with a client’s content team – the client continuously engages their customers in creating content with great success - and the client organised an internal review meeting to share some of the best practices and tips from their recent user-generated content campaigns. I was lucky to get an invite!
Would you like me to share their best practices?
Here are four steps for a successful user-generated content campaign:
- Design the concept and question
- Launch with a low profile, engage and amplify
- Curate the best entries and display on your website
- Share on all marketing channels
1. Design the concept and question
The first step is where many companies get it wrong; the concept of your user-generated content campaign and the question you ask from your customers will define both the quality and volume of the content your customers are going to provide. Set the bar too high and nobody will click submit. Set the bar too low and you'll get a lot of irrelevant content. If the bar is ridiculously low, nobody is motivated to participate either.
How do you create a winning concept and question?
The perfect concept and questions to ask from your customers are unique to each company and campaign but there are some recipes for success:
- Spark emotions: ask your customers to share something they care about. For instance, ask them to tell a story about their loved ones or someone they find inspirational. Posts mentioning and connecting multiple people, together with your branded hashtag, will spark higher engagement. For your inspiration, check how Women for Women is asking their audience to share a story about someone they find inspirational.
- Be specific: Don’t ask your customers to share general feedback; give them a clear call-to-action what you’d like them to do and, where possible, use some of the existing UGC as an example too.
- Tap into the themes that your audience loves: Does your audience like a particular movie? Do they use your product and services when exercising? Are there local events or holidays in the calendar where your product is a good fit? Use a theme that your customers can relate to.
- Make it fun: And I’m not asking you to create a meaningless competition with your audience sharing silly cat videos. But keep in mind that campaigns with a touch of humour tend to perform better.
2. Launch with a low profile, engage and amplify
Another reason why UGC campaigns sometimes fail is when the brand tries to create hype without involving their community of customers. Shouting about how awesome the campaign is can be off-putting.
The better you know your customers, how they talk about you online and what type of content they like to share about you, the easier it is to start the campaign with a low profile while engaging some of your most active customers.
Start by asking your community a question on social channels and then engage with them. Like and comment each response you get; even the ones that you wouldn’t think are the optimal ones. Amplify some of the best ones in your social channels. The great examples will guide other customers and, of course, authentic images from your customers will spark higher engagement too.
3. Curate the best entries and display on your website
When you are getting responses to your question, it’s time to kickstart your campaign by embedding the best pieces of user-generated content on your website. We all love to be recognised - and displaying the content on your digital channels will help other customers to join the campaign with their entries too.
In addition to helping your campaign grow, the social content displayed on your website will increase the time spent on site, which can improve your SEO and boost conversion rates too.
For more inspiration, learn how to add a social media feed on your website.
4. Share on all marketing channels
The last step is to share the content on all available marketing channels. Often brands promote their UGC campaigns on social channels but don't fully integrate their campaigns in all communications channels.
These days social media channels prioritise the content shared by our friends and peers but consider using some advertising budget to boost the campaign. Create ads with photos of real clients using your products. Seeing another customer like me and you using the product is far more powerful than a perfect image from an agency.
And don’t forget your physical locations too! Do you have some extra space in the elevator walls or by the checkout?
3 examples of a user-generated content campaign
Hilton Grand Vacations
Social media is arguably one of the best ways to discover new travel destinations and learn more about the hotels, restaurants, attractions, and tour operators.
To increase reach on social media channels, Hilton Grand Vacations is asking its customers to share images and videos with the hashtag #myHGV. Authentic, customer-generated stories are compelling, and spark likes and comments on social media channels.
For more inspiration, here are four examples of how travel brands add user-generated content to their websites.
GoPro is often highlighted as one of the most innovative brands, and user-generated content has been a key part of its marketing strategy for years.
GoPro Awards page invites their fans to submit images and videos captured with GoPro devices. GoPro’s marketing team curates the most engaging ones from the vast number of entries and reposts them on their Instagram channel. The posts are tagged with #GoProAwards, and with the help of Flockler social media aggregator, automatically displayed on their website.
University of Wisconsin
Before the rise of the Internet and social media, the best way to get familiar with colleges and universities was to visit their open days. Today, students and their families have access to a vast amount of content online, helping them to pick the most suitable options before visiting them.
Student life is so much more than just the curriculum – the social network online and offline is a key part of the career after graduating. Therefore, user-generated content in education marketing is a natural part of any school and university’s marketing strategy.
For example, the University of Wisconsin gathers and displays social media feeds during their key events like open days and graduation. Authentic content from current students adds social proof to the website and saves time from the content marketing team.