The Benefits of User-Generated Content & How to Get Started

User-generated content (UGC) refers to any type of content that’s created by a consumer rather than a brand. In today’s competitive commerce landscape, user generated content is crucial to brand growth. There are many reasons why you should incorporate UGC into your marketing strategies, and one of the primary reasons is that it promotes authenticity. Consumers are much more likely to consider a post created by an everyday consumer as authentic than they would if the same post came from a brand. Furthermore, numerous studies show that consumers trust recommendations from people that they know. Here are a few benefits of user-generated content and how you can get going:

Organic Reach

One of the biggest benefits of user-generated content is the ability to organically reach other people in your market. Organic reach refers to the amount of people who saw your post without the need for paid advertising. Every time a person shares a post about your brand—particularly visual posts—it reaches that person’s audience at no cost to you. Because of this, organic reach is very important for brands and can help you grow without cutting into your budget.

Shareable Content

UGC offers a great opportunity for you to share what people are saying about your brand. This allows you to spread positive consumer sentiment and build social proof. The goal here is to build a content library. As a brand, you understand how challenging it can be to maintain a steady stream of fresh content; the ability to use content created by other people can take the load off your shoulders. By collecting user generated content, you’ll always have a reservoir of relevant posts ready to go.

Encourage UGC

There are several ways to encourage users to create content on their own. One of the most common ways is through social media contests. Contests are an effective way to bring in UGC quickly. Most often, brands will offer something of value in return, like free products. A study by OfferPop found that more than half of consumers are likely to share content about a brand if they believe they will be featured on that brand’s page, and in many cases, this promotion is even more valuable than a giveaway.

There are many ways to promote your contest. For example, you might create a direct mail campaign targeting potential local consumers with branded 5×7 envelopes. Or, you might include a postcard with detailed instructions on how to be featured on your social channels with custom content. And of course, always promote your contest across all social channels and make sure the guidelines for getting featured or winning prizes is clear.

Search for Content

Outside of encouraging UGC with contests and other efforts, it’s important that you always monitor your brand to ensure you never miss user generated content. Social listening tools are a great way to monitor dialogue about your brand. You’ll find that sometimes users create branded content without using your hashtag or tagging and mentioning you. There could be plenty of untapped content out there that you wouldn’t recognize without monitoring tools, so it’s important that you always pay attention to social conversations.

Sharing UGC Content

Although it might seem natural to pull content that mentions your brand, there are several best practices that you need to consider. The most important practice is to always request permission. Believe it or not, some consumers aren’t aware that by using your branded hashtag, they’ve become a part of your campaign to build a UGC library. If you don’t get their permission, they may feel frustrated and invaded. It’s best to avoid this altogether.

Asking permission creates insurance against potential liability issues, builds trust between you and the user, and strengthens the loyalty they have to your brand. They’ll appreciate the outreach and may even share the content you re-post, creating yet another piece of organic reach.

Second, always credit the person who originally created the content. Giving credit where it’s due is standard social media conduct and ethics; you wouldn’t want someone to use your content without giving you credit for your creation. When you reach out to them to ask permission to use their content, you should also ask how they want to be credited. For example, although they may have posted a video about your product, they may want to be credited with their IG handle.

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