Creating content for social media and digital marketing is a never-ending cycle, making it a tedious yet necessary task to keep up with. To add another layer of difficulty for marketers, consumers are now more cautious about the brands they choose to interact with and support. This has made sharing content that is authentic a top priority for digital marketers. A form of marketing that’s been rising in popularity and helping digital marketers stay on top of the game is user-generated content (UGC).
What is user-generated content?
User-generated content, also known as UGC or consumer-generated content, is content that has been created by a third party organically that promotes a specific company or brand and is shared online on social media or a website. There are different types of UGC, ranging from images, blogs, videos, case studies, customer reviews, testimonials, podcasts, referrals, and more (Myers, 2023; Beveridge, 2022). User-generated content can also be described as an evolved form of word-of-mouth marketing. If the content positively discusses or promotes a specific brand or company, then the content has the potential to be used as user-generated content for the brand.
UGC can come from four different sources, including customers, brand loyalists, employees, and UGC creators. When thinking about user-generated content and who creates it, the main creator of UGC would be the customers. With social media, customers can easily access and interact with your brand, including with their content. Images with brand-praising captions or unboxing videos are all common forms of user-generated content from customers. This can be content shared organically by the customer, or content a brand requested customers share on social media. For example, when releasing a new product, a brand could ask customers to post photos or videos with their thoughts on the new product and tag them (Beveridge, 2022).
Similarly, brand loyalists are customers with a dedication to your brand. As a fan or advocates of your brand, these customers go the extra mile when sharing content about your brand. They are passionate and enthusiastic about your brand and will likely be receptive to creating more specific UGC content if asked (Beveridge, 2022).
Employees within your company are another cohort that can share positive content about your brand. User-generated content shared by employees is referred to more specifically as employee-generated content. Employees have to ability to share insight as both an employee and as a customer which gives an even more authentic and knowledgable experience. Employee-generated content can show your brand’s story and values through behind-the-scenes images and videos, or content that allows employees to discuss what they love about the company. This provides a fresh, authentic perspective that can help establish brand identity and develop a trusting relationship with customers across social media (Beveridge, 2022).
The fourth bracket that can share user-generated content is specific UGC creators. These individuals create sponsored content that is paid for by the brand to emulate organically-created UGC. This content is designed to showcase a brand in a way that still appears authentic and organic (Beveridge, 2022). Typically, this content will still be perceived as authentic to its target consumers as UGC creators can be more selective in the brands they choose to support and promote in their work.
What’s the difference between UGC creators and influencers?
UGC creators and influencers may sound one and the same, but these two marketing tactics have key differences which lie in their purpose behind the content and the type of relationship the individual has with the brand. Influencers have a prior arrangement to create sponsored content for the brand and are often paid. Influencers are also building their own following while working with brands.
Meanwhile, creators of UGC have no prior arrangement with creating content for a brand and are not typically paid. Though, some individuals are specific UGC creators that do work with brands and get paid for their content. User-generated content is more organic and is perceived as more authentic than content created and shared by an influencer (Myers, 2023).
The benefits of UGC marketing
User-generated content has been on the rise in recent years, and for good reason. About 45% of shoppers prefer to conduct their research online for genuine feedback before deciding to purchase a product or service (Myers, 2023). Additionally, nearly 92% of consumers report that they “trust organic, user-generated content” more than brand-generated content (Deshpande, 2017).
In addition to improving customer relations and building trust through organic content that provides authentic customer feedback, UGC marketing has a plethora of benefits including outsourcing content creation, high-performing content, and additional customer insights. Here are a few more reasons to include user-generated content in your digital marketing repertoire:
- Outsourcing Content for Digital Marketing
According to Curata research, the greatest challenge content marketers report facing is insufficient resources to consistently create and deliver high-quality content. By utilizing user-generated content in their marketing strategy, digital marketers can save time and money, and boost credibility with outsourced content (Deshpande, 2017).
- Increase Social Media Traffic
When UGC campaigns are employed on social media, customer relationships are built and strengthened through an increase in traffic on social media. This social traffic and engagement results in “a higher follower base, extended reach, increased brand awareness, boosted social metrics such as likes, shares, comments, [and] retweets,” and greater traffic toward the brand’s website and sales (Deshpande, 2017).
- Increase SEO Ranking
User-generated content can also help with your efforts in search engine optimization (SEO). Kissmetrics explains, “25% of search results for the World’s Top 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content,” (Deshpande, 2017).
UGC can help with SEO rankings by providing marketers with words and phrases their target audience frequently uses. This provides an easy, yet valuable resource for digital marketers to improve their keyword optimization research. Backlinks that direct users to your website and positive customer reviews can also improve SEO rankings, all of which are commonly used in user-generated content (Deshpande, 2017).
- Learn About Your Audience
When researching a target audience, user-generated content can be a great resource for marketers. UGC provides key insights to marketers by allowing them to see and analyze what their audience cares to share about their brand. Marketers can also analyze the direct feedback associated with this content to generate an overall audience sentiment about a product, service, or brand.
Digital marketers can then take this information to make research-informed decisions with their content marketing strategy, such as employing personalized advertising. Around 71% of consumers prefer advertising that is personalized to their needs and wants, compared to general, traditional advertising (Deshpande, 2017).
- Gain a Fresh Perspective with Unique Content
Similarly to learning about your target audience, user-generated content can also provide marketers with a fresh perspective. Every person has a unique perspective, so it only makes sense that the content created by a brand would differ from user-generated content. UGC marketing keeps a brand’s content loaded with variety, up-to-date on trends and other relevant societal news, and encourages loyal and new audiences to engage with the brand (Deshpande, 2017).
How can I use user-generated content?
Although content generated by users is easily accessible for a brand to access, it’s important to understand the etiquette of sharing another person’s content on social media to avoid negatively affecting customer relationships and even avoid legal matters regarding copyright.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll always want to get consent before sharing content that was not created or paid for by your brand. Even though users on social media have tagged your brand on their content, a hashtag is not consent to be shared in a user-generated content campaign. Ask for permission with every piece of content you want to share and show your gratitude to the creator (Beveridge, 2022).
Once you’ve received permission to share the content you’ll want to credit the content creator wherever you share their content on social media. You never want to give the impression that the content was created by your brand if it indeed wasn’t. Therefore, it's necessary to tag the creator of the UGC and indicate what part of the content you’re crediting them for (Beveridge, 2022).
Always remember that user-generated content is a working relationship between the consumer and the company. Even though a brand has been featured, discussed, or tagged in a form of media, it does not give a brand explicit permission to utilize the content in its marketing efforts. Additionally, receiving consent and crediting the creator are both necessary actions meaning you can’t do one and not the other. Build a relationship with UGC creators and be careful not to make it a one-sided transaction.
When working with UGC creators and receiving content that is usable for your brand, you’ll want to be clear about the kind of content you’re currently seeking. Only an estimated 16% of brands that use user-generated content offer guidelines on what they are more likely to share (Beveridge, 2022).
Both specific UGC creators and brands want their content to be shared, but if the content doesn’t align with the company’s needs, then it’s wasted time and effort for UGC creators and an abundance of unusable content for the brand. Don’t shy away from being clear about what you’re looking for since being transparent and communicating your needs will only help both parties (Beveridge, 2022).
If your business is searching for additional help with its digital marketing efforts, set up a consultation today with BlueTickSocial to get started!