User Generated Content (UGC) has dramatically changed the way in which marketers engage with consumers. The increased popularity of social media, mobile phones, and online sharing has paved the way for the era of user generated content, where consumers are, essentially, becoming ambassadors for brands.
As a small business, this can be a valuable and cost-effective way to build a relationship with a large audience.
What is User Generated Content?
Gone are the days when brands were just names on a pair of shoes or logos on t-shirts. Brands now have personalities, character and, most importantly, stories. UGC allows customers to engage with your brand and become a part of your brand’s story, particularly for small businesses.
Telling a story is a fantastic way to connect with your audience and provide and avenue for your customers to engage with your community, even if you don’t have a massive budget. This creates an emotional connection with your consumer, which is more likely to foster loyalty to your brand.
UGC is any form of content that has been created by followers of a brand – or in other words, fans. In short, you get your audience to promote for you and share their experiences with your brand. Some forms of UGC include user-submitted photos, videos, social media posts, testimonials and guest blogs.
When executed well, customers connect with the campaign and these fan experiences will, subsequently, be shared with other fans. The result? Greater overall engagement between brands and their followers.
UGC is not a new phenomenon. Many large companies have been using this content marketing strategy for years. Some examples you may have seen include Coca Cola and the “Share a Coke” campaign of 2011, Starbucks and the “White Cup Contest” of 2014 and Burberry and the “Art of Trench” contest of 2009. All of these campaigns drew from the experiences of fans and used them to foster engagement between the brands and their following.
However, do not be misled into thinking that UGC is only reserved for the large brands. In 2015, the Content Marketing Institute reported that 86% of businesses, both large and small, were already using UGC as part of their content marketing strategies. This goes to show that a little bit of creativity, a solid strategy, and a compelling idea, can go a long way.
A good example of a small business that has done this well is Freshly Picked, a Utah-based company that makes leather moccasins for children. Freshly picked identified that their primary audience is parents, and built a content marketing strategy that revolved around what parents care about most – their kids.
The company’s campaign calls for customers to upload their favourite Freshly Picked memory, as well as a picture with the hashtag #FPmoccmemories. This campaign has created a real connection between the brand and its customers, as well as a sense of community among Freshly Picked’s fans.
Why is User Generated Content so powerful?
One of the most important characteristics of UGC is that it revolves around the customer. Customers love UGC because it is trustworthy. It is shared by their peers, not the brand itself. UGC involves the real stories and real interactions of other people with a brand, which adds to the authenticity of the content.
According to Business Insider, Shoppers who interact with UGC are 97% more likely to convert with a retailer than customers who do not. This is because these shoppers view UGC as more authentic than messaging that comes directly for the company itself.
Additionally, people’s preferences change every day and, at any given moment, what may have been the in-thing yesterday, may be old news tomorrow. For small business owners focused on running their business, it can be incredibly difficult to keep up with these ever-changing trends.
This is one of the things that makes UGC so attractive. With a compelling idea that gets your customers to share their experiences with your brand, you can run an effective and low-cost campaign. The added bonus? UGC allows you to delegate some of your marketing activities to your customer!
How can User Generated Content help your business?
Customers love it. Brands experience a 28% increase in customer engagement when they are exposed to both brand marketing content and UGC.
71% of customers have reported that they feel more comfortable buying products after having read online reviews, while 64% of consumers actively seek out online reviews before purchasing a product. What makes UGC so revolutionary is that it has adapted traditional word-of-mouth marketing for the digital age.
UGC provides social proof. Using a mixture of both traditional and UGC marketing tactics can help you to significantly grow your brand, as customers trust other customers more than they do brands.
UGC creates a sense of community, helping to build loyalty to your brand. This will help to give your brand top-of-mind positioning as loyal customers will already have a preference for your brand.
If done correctly, UGC can create huge savings on your advertising budget.
How can you do it?
Even if you do not have the large audiences and unlimited advertising budgets of established brands, UGC is a great tool to consider implementing in your content marketing strategy. With the increasing popularity of social media, UGC will not be going away any time soon. The key to success with UGC is to set realistic goals and measures, and to give your customers the opportunity to engage with your brand. As Marty Neumeier famously said, “Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is”.
Bridge the Gap Marketing Solutions can help you get your next marketing campaign up and running. To discuss some ideas, contact us today!