User-generated content (UGC for short). These are the words you must add to your marketing strategy if you’re not doing so.
User-generated content has been around for a while. Most state that it is as old as the content itself. One might even say that it might be considered an evolution of word-of-mouth. Undoubtedly, the most ancient and influential kind of marketing strategy.
Simply put, UGC is defined as any type of content produced, published, and submitted by unpaid contributors, also known as users, followers, or fans of a certain brand. Basically, all these entities are producing free marketing for a brand.
But there’s more to it. Don’t go anywhere, let’s dig a bit deeper.
What’s exactly user-generated content (UGC) and what does it mean?
User-generated content comes in the most different forms, whether it’s videos, pictures, reviews, social media posts, TikToks, blog posts, or simple testimonials/critiques or any other form of content, generated by consumers, fans, users, followers (whatever you prefer to call it).
UGC is anything referring to the act of users promoting a brand, product or service, instead of the brand itself.
It helps consumers (who are looking for information online) to learn more about a specific business, product, or service.
Unsurprisingly, this form of word-of-mouth information can be valuable to help these potential customers to make a decision. Why? Because it’s usually considered to be more authentic and trustworthy when compared to company-generated marketing content.
And if you’re thinking this is just a web trend or a marketing buzzword, don’t fool yourself. This has been around for a while and it’s growing.
John Doerr (a Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist, listed in Forbes magazine) has stated that “the next wave of the Web is going to be user-generated content”. If he had said that as a prediction, well he was right. Currently, user-generated content is a synonym for a sizable (emphasis on that) return on investment for brands and businesses.
User-generated content: how does it work?
Simply put, just as a friend’s recommendation might do the trick for a specific product and might be more influential than a brand ad, user-generated content appears to be way more powerful than the traditional brand marketing.
According to an article published on Bazaar Voice, 85% of users inquired “find user-generated content to be more influential than brand content, and nearly half of the top-performing marketing leaders rely on it”.
These 85% of people surveyed seemed to believe that UGC is more influential when compared to brand photos or any other type of brand content. So, it’s no surprise that marketers are now paying more and more attention to it and trying to leverage this trend to improve their brand’s engagement and increase sales, by improving their customers’ loyalty.
In another article published on Crowdriff, the statistics are just positive (to say the least). It says that (citing):
- “87% of consumers still trust reviews and recommendations from family and friends who received a free brand experience”
- “71% still trust bloggers, vloggers or social media stars who have gotten the same treatment”
- “Customer reviews are trusted 12 times more than marketing coming directly from the organization”
- “Two-thirds of consumers say they trust the opinions of other customers posted online”
- “85% of consumers find visual UGC more influential than brand photos or videos”
- “Roughly 30% of the time millennials spend consuming all media is spent on UGC”
And the list goes on!
User-generated content is all about authenticity
Given this, it only makes sense to consider the user-generated content as an effective and efficient content marketing strategy.
So, now that marketing departments understood that people trust other people and prefer to hear about the personal experiences of other users, rather than marketers and their brand-generated campaigns/ads, it’s all about reaching users to have a more authentic insight.
How?! Well, in a world full of digital influencers, bloggers, and celebrities willing to share their favorites go-to products/services it seems to be quite easy. But keep in mind that the key to the success of user-generated content is all about authenticity.
According to another article published on Social Media Today, taking by example the Black Friday, user-generated content is “one of the easiest and most powerful ways to build trust and nurture existing customers” and by leveraging it creates “an authentic presence amid the flurry of deals, provide social proof for on-the-fence buyers, and generate a buzz around your brand”.
According to the same article, “UGC not only attracts new buyers, it also engages your most active and loyal customers, which can instantly give you a competitive edge”.
In summary, it states that existing customers work as the best advocate for a brand, given that consumers tend to listen to their peers. So, UGC drives authentic engagement while building trust.
Here enters another related concept: the Peer-to-peer (P2P) marketing. The newer generations among consumers and also the most digital one (and probably the biggest buyers around now) – Millennials and the Gen Z – look for authenticity, not marketing strategies. It means that they look for their peers’ opinions and recommendations. In other words, the user-generated content.
User-generated content: 7 benefits to keep an eye on
Here’s what your brand might benefit from UGC:
1. Content curation made easy and affordable
UGC is under the concept of content curation, which means that is about sourcing, marking, and sharing the best and most suitable third-party content.
And consequently, UGC benefits from some aspects of content curation: brand awareness growth, social media metrics boost, and improved trustworthiness.
2. Consumers see UGC as a more trustworthy one
We said it before. It’s undeniable the power of word-of-mouth or the P2P marketing and UGC plays a big role in this. People find UGC clearer and more compelling and tend to trust it.
3. It’s good for your budget
Marketing budgets are limited and often hard to stretch. Here’s where UGC might be of good help.
Luckily for marketers, user-generated content has little to no cost involved. You’ll just have to browse your fans/followers/costumers’ images online (social media rules here) and you’ll get – possibly – a good return.
Currently, UGC represents one of the main sources of visual content for marketing departments to use alongside with branded or commissioned content.
4. It works as social proof
It’s from real customers, it’s there and it can be seen. This works perfectly to increase a brand’s credibility and authenticity.
5. Improves the brand’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
For brands looking to improve their SEO, user-generated content might be of great help, given that positive reviews improve SEO ranking and boost their visibility and traffic.
This can be enhanced if you decide to analyze the most frequently used words and phrases by the brand’s audience to improve the keyword optimization research.
6. User-generated content shows that a brand is relevant and make it more relatable
UGC sparks conversations about brands, products, or services and improves engagement, which – as a result – boosts awareness around it and increases the number of followers.
7. Direct access to audience insights
Want to know what is being said about your brand?! Just take a look at the UGC around it. This is a gold mine of data, where you can access to key insights about your brand/product/services.
Through UGC, your audience will be sharing what they find to be engaging, what is working for them, or what are they complaining about.
This information is helpful for you to generate leads and even to increase sales.
To keep in mind: UGC doesn’t come without risks
You know what they say: where there is great reward, there is also risk. Well, using UGC involves both.
So, before running a user-generated campaign, consider these potential risks: ownership and copyright (in short, don’t use it without permission); brand suitability and reputation; social issues (you don’t want your brand to be associated with hate speech, bullying or illegal content).
Also, UGC must be used with care, as part of your content strategy. Make sure user-generated and brand-generated content are fully aligned, and you have a coherent brand voice and a consistent marketing strategy.
When done the right way, UGC is one of those things where everyone wins.
The consumer is winning by getting access to a “personalized” understanding of the product from other consumers perspectives.
As for marketers and brands, they just get access to free, wide, and effective content that raises awareness for their brand and boosts results.
Are you going to stay on the lines for this?!