User generated content (UGC) has been a trend for a few years now. In fact, it’s the basis for the fortunes of social media giants like Facebook and Twitter, and you’ll often see user-contributed pieces on TV news and newspaper websites.
But what about your own brand? Can user-created content boost your business fortunes? At greatcontent, we think it can, so let’s explore how it works and how you need to capitalise on what user-originated content has to offer.
What is user-generated content all about?
User generated content is any content that is sourced by companies from their customers or web users and that’s used as marketing material in their campaigns. It can be visual or textual, and it often synchs up with social media accounts.
Examples of UGC are everywhere. Artisan furniture retailer Wayfair uses the Instagram hashtag #wayfairathome to showcase interior designs made by customers using their products.
Accounting services company Xero also use Instagram to post stories about how customer benefit from their products instead of just content based purely around accounting – which could get a little dry.
Understanding how user-created content differs from branded content
User created content is generally compared with branded content. In branded content, the brand take centre stage and full control. Marketing teams may commission outside film- or app-makers, but control over the content is retained by the brand itself. The idea is to create content which promotes the brand in question without taking the form of traditional advertising. So branded content often treads a fine line between marketing content and pure entertainment.
UGC is different. Here, the brand relinquishes control and leaves it to its audience to come up with content. Companies can encourage individuals to take certain actions, but they don’t have control over what they will come up with. The actions they encourage could include anything from taking holiday photographs to wearing branded clothing in creative ways or leaving reviews of certain products.
Both forms of marketing try to enhance the authenticity of brands in ways that old-style advertising often fails to do. As such, both are vital parts of modern marketing toolkits.
How to make user-created content work for your brand
If you want to promote the personality of your brand and foster engagement among your audience, UGC is a great way to go. But it needs to be done well. So here are some tips that will help to guide your strategy.
1. Keep things as simple as possible
When crafting a user-generated content strategy, remember that you are trying to encourage customers to give their time and effort freely – and that most people have limited time.
So, connect your campaign to simple actions which ordinary customers can easily execute. Burberry’s “Art of the Trench” campaign is a good example: the apparel giant simply asked customers to take snaps of their trench coats and selected the best images for their Instagram feed. Easy.
2. Give the results of UGC as much visibility as possible
When you run UGC campaigns, don’t hide away the results or make it hard for users to access them.
Have a strategy in place to promote the creations of your customers across relevant marketing channels, and don’t be afraid to promote them above other materials. At least for a while, make every UGC campaign your centrepiece. For UGC to work, as many customers need to see it as possible.
3. Provide enough lead-in time to collect submissions
User generated content campaigns won’t work if they are rushed. So use a period of one to two months to build anticipation of the event. Announce competitions, and inform users about deadlines. Make sure to give them plenty of time to create content that they are happy with.
4. Be ready to capitalise on UGC campaigns
If you’ve attracted hundreds of beautiful Instagram images, that’s great! But it’s only half the story. To really benefit from UGC, companies need a strategy that will turn that customer effort into sales and engagement.
So be sure to use analytical tools which teach you how to measure brand awareness, and if awareness isn’t shifting, create additional content to enhance the impact of UGC.
Blogs about your favourite submissions, how-to guides about taking photos, or stories about the products being promoted are all good companions to UGC campaigns. So mix them together. UGC is great, but it’s more effective as part of wider marketing systems.
Craft user-generated campaigns which work with greatcontent’s help
At greatcontent, we have plenty of experience in helping clients boost their brand authority by using both branded and user-generated content. So get in touch if you’d like to explore how to make the creativity of your customers work for you.
Text: Sam Urquhart