user-generated content tips for marketing & PR

Image source: HubSpot

More than a few digital marketing experts tout user-generated content as one of the most effective marketing strategies. Effective user-generated content (UGC) can generate 6.9x higher engagement than brand-generated content on Facebook, according to the Internet Trends 2017 report. Skincare and beauty products retailer Glossier increased its number of customers by more than 550 percent by combining user-generated content with influencer marketing. Clothing retailer UNTUCKit increased its online sessions by more than 2.5x from 2015 to 2016.

Research shows that consumers trust recommendations of other consumers, especially acquaintances and influencers, more than brands. User-generated content also offers a way to circumvent Facebook algorithms that restrict the reach of brands’ post.

Finding, amplifying and repurposing user-generated content is affordable as well as effective. It allows small organizations to compete against companies with the deep pockets to pay for extensive advertising campaigns on Google, Facebook and other channels.

Many Examples of Successful User-Generated Content Campaigns

Examples of successful user-generated content campaigns abound. Lululemon asked people to share images of themselves “getting their sweat on” in its #TheSweatLife campaign. That led to 250,000 uses of the hashtag, more than 7,000 photo submissions through Twitter and Instagram, over 40,000 unique visitors to the campaign’s microsite, and a large spike in conversions, relates AdWeek.

In Starbucks’ White Cup Contest launched in April 2014, the coffee-purveyor asked customers to doodle on their Starbucks cups and submit pictures as entries, HubSpot notes. Customers were told the winning entry would be the template for a new limited edition Starbucks cup. Nearly 4,000 customers submitted entries in three weeks. The winning entry gained substantial publicity for Starbucks.

Chobani asked its customers to submit videos and images praising its yogurt. The content was shared on the company website, billboards, and across other media. Chobani attributes the campaign to a 225.9% increase in revenue between 2009 and 2010.

Steps to Captivating UGC Campaigns

Success is far from guaranteed. Don’t expect a tsunami of submissions if you lack a huge audience of adoring customers. Experts recommend these steps.

Creative incentives. Offering rewards can encourage people to submit photos, videos or testimonials that present your product in a positive way. You don’t need to offer a monetary prize. Special products and recognition go a long way in motivating people. The reward should correlate to the effort to create the content.

Align campaigns with your audience and networks. Determine your audience’s preferred network and create a request for content that inspires them. If you pursue a large target market, give consumers the option to submit content through their preferred platforms, as Coca-Cola did with its “Share a Coke” campaign.

“Different demographics have different motivations, attitudes and behaviors that influence their engagement,” advises Amish Tolia, chief strategy officer at Pear, in MarketingProfs. “Make sure that incentives and calls-to-action will resonate with the target audience.”

Cover the legal bases. Secure the rights to use content as you desire for as long as you wish. Spell out the conditions in opt-in forms and terms of use. That fine print probably won’t discourage contributions but will protect you against future legal problems. Also make sure the campaign meets state, municipality and social media network regulations. While you can mimic the legal documents from major companies that have run UGC campaigns, it’s advisable to consult your legal counsel.

Make submitting easy. That means a seamless entry process, including clear entry instructions, a website that’s easy to navigate, and forms that require only fields necessary to meet legal restrictions.

Make it a game. Gamification — or tallying points, creating competitions or integrating other game-like features — can increase interest. Tangible prizes can help, but many people will submit content just to compete and gain recognition.

Emphasize the promotion. Promote the campaign on your website and other social media networks. A powerful hashtag helps boost campaigns on networks like Instagram.

Monitor for positive mentions. Large, established brands can receive enough user-generated content simply by asking for it. Most brands might not be so fortune. A social media listening tool can solve the problem by finding positive mentions of your company and products. Remember to monitor for nicknames, abbreviations, and common misspellings of your products. Then reach out to social media users via comment or direct message and ask them to use their post.

“Most users will be flattered and helpful,” advises digital marketing guru Jeff Bullas. “Once you have a few UGC posts up on your feed, others will be more likely to submit their own too.”

Bottom Line: User-generated content can be an enormously effective – yet affordable – marketing strategy. Some leading brands post almost nothing but user-generated content. Since people place little trust in brand advertising or marketing, amplifying photos, videos or recommendations of other consumers offers a superior strategy. The key is to solicit positive brand mentions or uncover them through social media listening.