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user-generated content for social media marketingUser-generated content (UGC) – the comments, images and videos that customers post on social media — offers an excellent marking strategy in ordinary times. During the Covid-19 epidemic, UGC offers a near ideal solution to today’s unusual marketing challenges. Here’s why.

With group activities and in-person events unavailable, people are spending more time on social media. Daily usage of Facebook is up 27%, YouTube is up 15% and TikTok is up 15%, according to The New York Times. People research products on social media more rather than visit stores. Many people have largely abandoned physical stores in favor of ecommerce sites.

Meanwhile, budgets of marketing departments and communications agencies have been cut. Marketing executives face tough budget decisions. They must prioritize the most cost-effective options. In many cases, UGC offers the best answer.

UGC in Paid Advertising

UGC offers an accessible and affordable source of authentic visuals. Equipped with smartphones and image-editing apps, almost anyone can become a content creator.

“Fresh, compelling visuals have long been a critical element of any winning digital marketing strategy, yet with reduced budgets, and lessened capacity to even produce visuals due to the lockdowns, marketers are in a tight spot,” says Peter Cassidy, co-founder and CMO of Stackla, a user-generated content marketing platform.

Some brands include UCG in paid advertising campaigns. After an early March production shoot for a product launch promo was canceled, security company ADT sourced UGC from social media users, reports AdExchanger.

An Issue of Trust

Favorable customer comments about a product, especially when posted with a photo or video, are more likely to encourage purchases than branded content. User-generated visuals may not be as slick as professionally edited content, but that lack of polish is more likely to generate trust. According to Nielsen Research, 92% of consumers trust earned media, like UGC, more than any other form of content.

UGC can also encourage hesitant customers to return to previous buying behaviors, such as dining out or visiting attractions, Cassidy adds.

“Businesses should be considering how they can showcase the return of customer activity in order to foster consumer confidence, and user-generated content can offer weary shoppers the authentic social proof they need in this respect, he says.

Key Steps to Gathering and Using UGC

Re-evaluate how you solicit UGC. Check the promotions and contents used to collect UGC to ensure the tone is sensitive to the current mood. If you’ve been requesting reviews based on order date, consider switching to ship date. Supply-chains are discombobulated and deliveries often delayed. Shoppers don’t like to be asked to write product reviews about items they haven’t received yet, cautions George Eberstadt at TurnTo.

Monitor for positive mentions. A social media listening tool can identify positive mentions of your company and products. Remember to monitor for nicknames, abbreviations, and common misspellings of your products. Large, established brands can receive enough user-generated content simply by asking for it. Most brands might not be so fortunate.

Take advantage of UGC you already have. Take an inventory of UGC you’ve already accumulated and note what’s worked well in the past, recommends Colin Turmond, senior product marketing manager at BazaarVoice. Showcasing previous customer comments, product reviews and photos, in addition to encouraging new reviews, can help boost your digital presence. “And if you are unable to generate new UGC during COVID-19, this is a great way to ensure you continue to amplify the voice of the consumer.” Thurmond says.

Request permission to use. Ask social media posters if you can share their content. Most will likely approve and even be flattered. When soliciting content, spell out the conditions in opt-in forms and terms of use. Also make sure campaigns meet social media network regulations.

Bottom Line: User-generated content has become even more valuable for marketers during coronavirus difficulties. UGC is affordable, authentic and often plentiful on social media.

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