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When looking at User Generated Content, authenticity is everything for Millenials. The first social media generation has turned a wary eye towards advertisers, instead turning to their peers for recommendations. Out of a group of individuals surveyed, 76% answered that they trust content shared by “average people” over content promoted by brands. So does this signal the end of advertising as we know it?

Not quite. Though it may look like the door is closing on traditional advertising, brands have figured out a way to reach audiences, while seamlessly recruiting “average people” to assist in the process. What we now know as User Generated Content, or UGC, has become both an insanely effective method for brands to reach audiences and a cost-effective solution to the rising costs of paid advertising.

User Generated Content
Courtesy Online Marketing Institute

What is User Generated Content?

Simply put, UGC is free marketing content, produced by ordinary people. And while it may sound like a smooth tactic put in place by marketers, it’s actually a mutually-beneficial method that uses both parties’ social media reach to build each other’s visibility. User generated content can take the form of photos, reviews, reposts, videos, and comments that highlight brand’s product and can be repurposed by that brand for marketing use.

With 55% of consumers trusting UGC over any other marketing strategy, there’s no better time to acquaint yourself with UGC and its indisputable ability to spread a message like wildfire.

Examples of User Generated Content

User generated content has existed in some way or another for longer than you’d imagine. Think about how record companies, book publishers, and cosmetic brands would ship out complimentary products in order for the masses to review them and spread the good word. UGC works much on the same level. Although, with UGC, all that’s needed is a social media following and an incentive to create content.

Interactive Charitable Campaigns

Instagram has led the way in kick starting some pretty special UGC campaigns. Aerie, the women’s swimwear brand dove in headfirst with their #AerieReal campaign. The incentive: For every untouched photo posted with their hashtag, Aerie would donate $1 to the NEDA (National Association of Eating Disorders). The outcome: Thousands of photos that linked to Aerie’s account, while promoting a great cause.

Hashtag Contests

Hashtag Contests

A similar concept is the hashtag contest. Hashtag contests have become fast and fun ways to grow an audience and turn your social media presence into an interactive sphere. The concept is simple. Starting by encouraging users to post photos with particular hashtag, companies will then choose winning entries.

A personal favorite of mine was Petco’s “Halloween Photo Contest”, which brought in floods of adorable pets in costumes. Likewise, Starbucks sparked their audience’s creativity with their #WhiteCupContest which sourced thousands of entries of hand-decorated coffee cups!

But aside from just being cute ways to bring your followers together, hashtag contests are performance boosters of another breed. A 2017 study showed that accounts that host Instagram contests will grow their following 70% faster than those who don’t!

Courtesy Capterra

User Reviews

You and everyone you know probably reads user reviews. Whether on Google, Yelp, Amazon, or any outlet that you’re shopping on, user reviews are the ultimate manifestation of users seeking “authentic opinions” before making purchases. Featuring user reviews can alone boost your product conversion rate by 74%! But having your products reviewed alone is not enough. It’s repurposing those reviews that really ads the most value to your content.

Reviews can be posted anywhere. From Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook, to your company’s website and newsletter. It’s those reviews, testimonials, and case studies that come in handy when users are looking to share their experience with one another.

Video Marketing Content

How to Master UGC to Your Brand’s Advantage

As a proven X-Factor in Millenial marketing, UGC has been a catalyst in B2C (Business to Community) marketing. By using the company’s public platform to engage with users and communities, brands have been able to strike up meaningful relationships and flourish in a marketing sphere that strives for engagement.

Ask Questions

Your comment section is your best friend. And when comes to UGC, it’s an open forum where you can engage with your audience, and even use their feedback to provide better services. The best user engagement usually begins with a question.

Whether it’s through asking a general question or seeking direct feedback, comment sections are often breeding grounds for the best UGC. So, don’t be afraid to interact, because you never know when a good comment can turn into a meme, a post-worthy snippet, or an inspiration for a future campaign.

Be Authentic

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, authenticity is everything. So much so that 86% of consumers say that authenticity is a vital factor for them when making a purchase.

When creating UGC that is authentic, be transparent, honest, and true to your brand. Think of UGC as proof of your brand’s authenticity. All you need to do next is gather it from the right places!

Keep The Content Flowing

The best UGC is consistent, steady, and excels at creating a dialogue between the company and the audience. Having a social media specialist who is fluent in user engagement is becoming a priority for companies and agencies that want to connect with young audiences. A lot of audience interaction comes from active followers; so building and maintaining an online community that is in constant dialogue can work wonders for your brand.

User Generated Content Stats
Courtesy Hootsuite

Where Your UGC Gets the Most Value

User-generated content depends on the audience more than it does the marketer. Hypothetically, a marketer could have the most ingenious UGC campaign; but without reaching the right audience, it would fall flat. Knowing who your audience is and where they spend their time is a good start. These a just a few places where UGC has seen exceptional results.

IG Story

Instagram stories are prolific for their content. Celebrities, restaurants, and brands are constantly tagging users in their stories to expand their engagement. Next time you’re browsing through your feed’s stories, think about how many of them use UGC and why it’s effective.

Facebook Live

Facebook thrives on UGC. Their studies showed 6.9x higher engagement with UGC than brand-generated content. Facebook Live is just one their recent features that yields top notch user-generated content. Allowing users to post, comment, and tag live video, the content created through Facebook Live has become a flowing well for marketers to draw from.

LinkedIn Articles

LinkedIn’s video capabilities have given it a step up in the B2B marketplace by offering a special place for businesses and client’s to interact directly. Likewise, their articles have offered users a platform to share their experiences and engage with a wider professional audience. When corporate accounts repost those articles, it’s a great indicator of their engagement in their field, and also a tremendous example of user-generated content.

Twitter Surveys

Last but not least, Twitter’s surveys feature is a fun and interactive way to engage with your base. The concept is simple: post a question (with optional answers) on Twitter, and wait for your followers to make their deciding click. The results can then always be used for later posts and promotions, making it a quick, easy way to generate content from users.

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Courtesy Tatvic

Track Your UGC with Analytics

Now that you know what UGC is and the best practices to produce it, you want to ensure that your strategy is working! Every major social media platform has an analytics feature that will allow you to keep up with your reach, impressions and engagement with your audience. If what you’re doing is working, keep it up. If not, definitely keep experimenting. Because when it comes to UGC, it’s worth investing in marketing that has the ease and authenticity that Millenial audiences are looking for.


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