One strategic decision could mean the difference between increasing e-commerce sales by 50% year-over-year, or not. And for the British clothing brand Burberry, this was their exact outcome after launching a website called “the Art of the Trench” in 2009.
The concept for this site was simple: Provide a space for customers to share photos of themselves wearing Burberry clothing (i.e., user-generated content). From there, anyone could like, comment, and re-share the content on social media.
In its first year, the site received 7.5 million views and was a massive success.
User-generated content (UGC) is an extremely valuable tool for marketing a business, demonstrating value proposition, and boosting engagement. It influences purchasing decisions for 79% of people and is also 9.8x more effective than influencer-created content.
What’s more is that brands can reap all of the benefits of UGC without spending much, or any, of their own marketing dollars. It’s hands-off content creation that delivers a great ROI with the right marketing strategy.
This guide will break down four of the best ways for you to leverage UGC on and off social media.
What counts as UGC?
User-generated content is any type of media that people who aren’t affiliated with your brand share on a digital platform. This includes reviews on forums, photos, videos, social media posts, etc.
Think of it as an evolved digital version of word-of-mouth marketing. Instead of telling multiple people about a brand’s product in-person, anyone can upload a social media post that recommends the product to hundreds (or even thousands) of people at once.
One of the main reasons why people respond so well to UGC is because of the authenticity factor. This content is made by a person, not a brand, so the review or recommendation comes across as genuine and not sales-driven.
Even though you don’t personally create UGC for and about your brand, you can (and should) use it to your advantage. Here’s how.
How to make the most out of UGC
1. Add UGC to a website or landing page
Building a new website exclusively for UGC (like Burberry did) is always an option. But, the downside is that this approach requires a lot of extra time and resources that you might not be able to spare at the moment.
A good alternative is to start integrating UGC on the website you already have.
This could mean embedding a product review video in a new blog post or landing page. Or, as you audit your website for SEO purposes, this could mean including UGC in your older content to provide more value to site visitors.
Here are a few statistics that reinforce why this is strategic on your part:
- Featuring video content on landing pages can boost conversions by 86%.
- Someone that visits your website after seeing a UGC video (on social media or elsewhere) is 184% more likely to convert.
It takes seconds to add UGC to your website, but you have to make this a continual practice if you want to see these types of long-term benefits.
2. Include UGC in ad campaigns
Everyone that lands on your brand’s website is in a different stage of the sales funnel. Some people are curious about your company but don’t have immediate purchase intent. Others have purchase intent but are still weighing their options.
By using UGC in your ad campaigns on social media and other digital platforms, you’re able to do multiple things at once:
- Demonstrate to prospective customers that you value your current customers (and would value them too).
- Provide extra insight about your products and services from a customer perspective (not a brand perspective).
- Market your products and services in the most authentic way (according to 60% of consumers).
UGC-focused campaigns feel personalized, which is a main reason why they work. A prime example of this is Coke’s “Share a Coke” campaign, which directly lifted U.S. sales by 2% after more than 10 years of declining revenue.
3. Use UGC as social proof in email marketing
UGC that sheds a positive light on your brand is one of your greatest marketing assets, whether for ads, landing pages, or — you guessed it — email campaigns.
And that’s because people trust people. In fact, most consumers (92%) are more likely to trust (and act on) the referral of someone they know than any other source.
When a current customer creates a social media post and tags your brand, it’s a form of social proof.
Your brand gets more exposure as more people share UGC on and off social media, so why not include this type of content in the emails you send to leads, current customers, and churned customers?
It’s one thing to say that your brand will offer x and y benefits, but it’s another to back your promises up with UGC from people who have benefited firsthand from your services.
4. Encourage your audience to create more UGC
If your brand has been around for a while, odds are that you could pull a lot of existing UGC from social media right now. Maybe you’ve even built up a reservoir of content from social media users that you access on a regular basis.
One of the best ways to ensure that you can continually weave UGC into your marketing strategy is to encourage your customers to create more of this content.
You can do this by running social media contests and giveaways. Or you could take a personalized approach like Coke and ignite a social buzz around your product in a way that your competitors haven’t.
For instance, by incentivizing and rewarding UGC creators through a social media shoutout, you show your customers that you value them on an individual level, not just as a means for meeting the bottom line. And that’s the sort of engagement people crave from brands.
Low-cost Content Creation That Works
Content creation is a process that brands invest in for good reason, but it doesn’t always have to come at a high cost. With UGC, you’re able to market your brand effectively without spending a dime.
So, if you haven’t done so already, take this as your sign that it’s time to invest more time and energy into collecting and using UGC in your content marketing to take advantage of all these benefits.