User-generated content, aka UGC, is the bedrock of successful social marketing.
User-generated content, or UGC for short, includes any type of content that has been created by a user and then shared online, generally via social media. This can, of course, include videos, photos, GIFs and memes, but it can also refer to other types of user-created content such as testimonials, reviews, and even survey results.
As the global influence of social media continues to expand at unprecedented rates, the importance of user-generated content to successful social media marketing has grown in lockstep.
It provides brands with a level of authenticity and credibility that is nearly impossible to capture via other forms of digital marketing because it is being shared by real consumers without the direct influence of the company. Simply put, buyers trust their peers more than they trust marketers or even brands themselves. In fact, 85% of consumers find visual UGC more influential and compelling than brand-sponsored photos or videos.
To take full advantage of this trend, every consumer-facing brand should be focused on turning its customers or fans into brand ambassadors. By getting your fans or customers to help promote your brand on their personal social media feeds whether it's Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Reddit, you’ll reach hundreds if not thousands of new potential customers with every share.
This level of exposure in combination with the aforementioned trust that is naturally baked into UGC creates a type of brand reach and influence that other forms of digital marketing just can’t match. And if done correctly, this type of outreach can be extremely cost-effective.
The easiest place to start in your journey to creating amazing customer experiences that produce serious amounts of incredible user-generated content is through experiential marketing. Whether in-person or virtual, conferences, brand launches, store openings, concerts, and the like are the perfect place to create cool experiences for consumers that lead to compelling UGC.
For Pixilated and our customers, that more often than not involves branded photos of GIFs taken with one of our easy-to-use photo booths or our brand new online photo booth for virtual events. But, there are of course many different avenues to helping consumers find a cool moment to share with their followers.
Authentic UGC tends to be the byproduct of a user-experience that is compelling enough (good or bad) for the person to share that experience online. So, whether you’re giving out SWAG at an event, collecting survey feedback, or even handing out free samples of your product, it’s important to always ensure the interaction doesn’t feel forced, participants are getting something out of it, and that you’re encouraging them to share their experiences.
One common misconception is that UGC is free or doesn't require the same level of thoughtfulness found in more traditional marketing endeavors. But, the reality is a lot of effort goes into creating a compelling experience where UGC feels natural. Pulling off a memorable moment or creating that compelling experience is going to require a considerable amount of time, energy, and budget.
With that being said, the end results of thoughtful user experiences and interactions are worth all of that upfront effort, because the opportunity for scale can be tremendous. It goes without saying that predicting which user interactions are going to have the biggest impact is difficult if not impossible, but when it clicks there is the potential for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of brand impressions across multiple content mediums.
That level of exposure is nearly impossible for smaller brands and companies to recreate on their own, and it cannot happen without well-curated brand experiences. So when you consider your UGC moment or activity it will greatly benefit you to think through the end-user experience as well as the context within which it is happening.
Context is king when producing compelling user-experiences because it makes all the difference in how the interaction is perceived. You’ve got to think about what the experience is and make sure that whatever it is you're doing aligns with it. The more you can curate the experience to match the theme or context within which it’s happening the more likely you are to produce a positive impression. To put it more simply - if you’re at a craft beer convention, hand out branded koozies or bootle openers, not laundry detergent packs.
The more that you can centralize your user-generated content around the apex of personalities and interests that align with your brand, the more likely you're going to have it deeply resonate with not only the individual but also their online community and network. This only happens if you ensure that your UGC moment is aligned with the moment that brought the consumer and your brand together.
It’s not as simple as branded sunglasses or a step-and-repeat, because that alone isn’t compelling enough to produce the quality and quantity of UGC needed to have a real revenue impact. While producing a novel photo moment, fun hashtag, cool SWAG, or amazing event experience, requires a lot of planning, creativity, and money, it also comes with much better ROI, and likely a smaller budget, than more traditional forms of marketing. AND it can be repurposed in multiple ways across most marketing mediums.
Taking the UGC that you’ve helped inspire and repurposing it for your own marketing efforts is a fantastic way to improve brand engagement and page conversions while also helping to increase the ROI of your experiential marketing investment. The goal is to create something experiential that is ideally producing a positive interaction or camaraderie between the brand and the consumer and then using that as an opportunity to leverage it for social proof in another location.
Again, that is not necessarily an easy undertaking, but it is certainly worth the effort and will get easier with practice. Getting your brand exposed through shares and likes will help you reach thousands of consumers that might not otherwise have interacted with your brand. And you’re getting introduced with a credibility that only comes from authentic UGC. There's a lot of din and noise out there, especially on social media, and fresh UGC will help your brand cut through the noise and continue to grow.