There are two things that are common between wildfires and social media. Both catch on and spread faster than we can imagine. Of course, social media is not as destructive as wildfires, however, if you have seen the thought-provoking Netflix documentary “Social Dilemma” directed by Jeff Orlowski, you know that it can be equally, if not even more destructive.
Alright. Let’s keep the negativity aside and think of some positive things that social media can do for a business. To begin with, social media marketing has become a must-have tool for businesses. We are way past the days of cost-benefits analysis. If your business is not on social media, you will not be on the customer’s radar. Period.
Now there is a form of organic marketing that is catching on on social media. It has been around for a while now but you may not have recognized it explicitly. It is so genuine, unbiased, and focused that one needs to take a double look to realize what it truly is.
We are hinting about user-generated content a.k.a UGC. UGC is perhaps the best example of organic content. As the name suggests, it is created by users in the form of comments, unboxing videos, text reviews, image reviews, thumbs-up, thumbs-down, and whatnot. UGC is so reliable that most customers trust organic content more than promoted content. And this is not a recent behavior.
Even back in 2012, Nielsen found that “92 percent of consumers trust organic, user-generated content (UGC) more than they trust traditional advertising”.
In fact, UGC ranks high in customer trust, appeal, and also in winning followers on social media.
Where is user-generated content created?
Of all the social media channels that we can think of, it is one in a handful of them that UGC is created and shared with great fervor.
Instagram is one of them. With 1 Billion active users and 500 Million daily users, Instagram is a visual-based social media channel that cannot be missed. Studies suggest that Instagram UGC gets 58x more engagement than on Facebook.
Benefits of using user-generated content (UGC) on social media
In addition to earning customer trust, UGC also offers a long list of benefits that your business cannot and should not turn a blind eye towards.
1. It costs next to $0
Organic user-generated content, that is content that users publish for free about your brand costs nothing. Of course, there are businesses that incentivize their customers with monetary and non-monetary benefits to write reviews and publish social media posts. These UGC cannot be classified as organic UGC.
Organic UGC, which customers publish on their own will without any incentives costs next to $0. It also has great reach since each customer will have his/her own social circle with similar interests.
2. It serves social discoverability
User-generated content is naturally infused with keywords that are related to the product or service. The terminologies, phrases and the overall language used by the user makes UGC content SEO-friendly. As a result, it is easier to find your brand on social media.
Ultimately, this leads to an increase in follower count, impressions, and also conversions. Thanks to the algorithms, this discoverability and reach are maximized with each UGC post that is published on social media. Ultimately, this could even lead to increasing your website traffic from social media channels.
3. It lives forever
Imagery, blog, social media, tweet — every form of content has a shelf life. Similarly, UGC also has a shelf-life. However, it is longer than most forms of content. There are two reasons why UGC enjoys a longer shelf life.
First, as long as the product exists in the market, future customers would want to read about its reviews and related content before making a purchase decision. As a result, they are more easily discoverable. Second, UGC is hosted on content platforms that do not require extensive maintenance like CMS. This extends their shelf life almost indefinitely.
4. It boosts customer loyalty
UGC is the collective wisdom of a crowd that has already purchased and used the product. Prospects who are sitting on the fence about making a purchase decision could benefit from it. Since UGC is always unbiased, it helps prospects make an informed decision that will serve them well leading to maximum customer satisfaction. We all know that satisfied customers tend to remain loyal for the long term.
5. It builds trust
Last, but the least, user-generated content builds trust in customers’ minds. UGC is created by existing customers. It is not incentivized. Customers who publish content of any form are not going to gain anything from it. It acts as an unbiased platform where honest reviews and opinions can be shared. All these factors make UGC a trustworthy form of content.
Social media might be construed as a source of misinformation and fake news. However, when it comes to UGC on products and services, it is usually to the point and unbiased. Even when it is about the cons or downsides of a product.
With this trust, UGC from partners in your affiliate program or other brand advocates helps your business with building a community around your products. Because relatable content from other users brings authenticity to your brand and complements your marketing efforts.
6. It creates a community of customers
UGC brings together customers from diverse walks of life together and makes them feel part of a community with a shared liking or interest. Brand communities have already proven that they boost brand loyalty, induce prospects to switch from the competition, and also act as a bond between existing customers.
Types of user-generated content (UGC) on social media and how it serves
UGC is a collective term used to describe several types of content that users create about a brand. They usually take the form of:
1. Product reviews
Reviews written and published by users on their social media handles of the product or service fall under this category. An Insta story or an image explaining a product, its benefits, and its features.
For example, have a look at how Ohana restaurant uses customer reviews on Instagram.
Social media reviews also help prospects find answers to questions that could be brooding on stopping them from making a decision. In a way, these reviews act as solutions to FAQs that will help users make an informed decision.
Unboxing videos, product walkthroughs, ownership videos, and explainer videos are also user-generated content. These videos are often created by influencers and content creators. Here is Lewis Hilsenteger a.k.a Unbox Therapy unboxing a Nike Adapt BB.
Almost every media platform that is popular today has video capabilities. Instagram offers video posts, reels, and IGTV. YouTube has long-form videos and Shorts for short-form videos. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat — the list is endless.
User videos on these channels that showcase the product is perhaps the best representation of user-generated content. Videos are more converting than text or imagery because it helps the user find product information in a channel that they are most comfortable with.
Clearly, from a brand’s perspective, engaging creators to produce advertising videos on social media can work as a powerful tool to reach new target audiences.
However, the more efficient ad strategy also implies maximizing the use of already available branded videos, like those shared on a company’s YouTube channel — utilizing these as a source of advertising Demand for out-stream video ads run on publishers’ websites.
3. Use of Hashtags
Nobody could have guessed that the humble hashtag symbol “#” would become such a huge pillar of social media success in the 21st century. But, yes it is, and using it wisely is critical for marketing success.
Hashtags perform the duty of compiling all user posts on the theme under one roof. A simple hashtag search brings up countless images and posts from users sharing their images or videos associated with the hashtag. Even the use of a branded hashtag used alongside posts can be classified as UGC.
If you are a music buff, you cannot have missed Spotify or its #Spotifywrapped hashtag. Since 2016, Spotify has been using the hashtag to create virality for its app. The campaign allows Spotify users to view a compilation of data about their Spotify activity across the year and also offers the option to share it on their social handles.
Over the years, Spotify has added more details to the campaign with quizzes, personalized playlists, Wrapped badges, and much more. This truly elevates the user experience and nudges the user to use the hashtag while sharing their Spotify activity. While UGC is usually content created by the user, in its campaign Spotify has smartly fed the user with content making it easier for them to share on their social handles.
How to activate User-generated content on social media?
Yes. you need to activate UGC on social media. UGC does not start flowing on your social media handles one fine morning. A little bit of prep is required to nudge users to create content and share them on social media.
Here are the steps to activate UGC:
1. Shoppers love to share
As exhilarating as it is to shop, shoppers also love to broadcast their recent purchases to their social circles. Provided, you remind them to do it. A quick reminder to post an image or video of their recent purchase along with a hashtag is the simplest way to activate UGC on social media for your brand. To a greater extent, you can use email marketing, messaging, or even in-store marketing to nudge users.
2. Visual content trumps everything else
Images and videos have a captivating power. They can show and tell what text cannot. In fact, more than 57% of users find images more appealing than text. This is because we humans are basically visual beings who see and recognize rather than read and interpret. So, create opportunities for customers to create visuals. Photo corners in the store, photogenic packaging, social media templates, photo/video contests, are all great to populate user-created imagery.
3. Curate user-generated content
Even if you are just getting started on your UGC journey, chances are that there is already some UGC existing somewhere on social media. Curating them is the best way to recognize the efforts customers have put in to create them. It also encourages them to create and publish more content that will serve your social media strategy.
Harnessing social media UGC to your advantage
There is no doubt whether UGC on social media is beneficial to a brand. The question to ask is, how can a brand harness social media UGC to its advantage. You must have found the answer in the words above.
To repeat, UGC is the most authentic, trustworthy, and also an organic form of content there is. It is a great marketing tool for all businesses, especially startups and small-scale businesses that do not have deep pockets to invest in full-fledged marketing campaigns.
So, how are you getting started with harnessing UGC on social media?