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How to get the most out of user-generated content

How to get the most out of user-generated content

90% of consumers say that user-generated content influences their purchasing decisions. Impressive! Exploiting UGC isn’t a new thing. But with 86% of millennials regarding consumers’ comments as an indicator of brand quality, marketers are getting twitchy. With some brands unclear how to use UGC. Look no further… here to help...

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To get the full benefit of user-generated content, you have to understand your audience. You’re going to need to create your buyer persona. Your ideal customer. Download my buyer persona template and start building.

Table of contents

What is user-generated content?

User-generated content. Consumer-generated content. Earned media.

User-generated content definition

UGC is, generally, free content that’s created and shared by consumers, and refers to a brand. They aren’t officially representing a brand. They’re not employees, affiliates, or influencers. They’re just like you and me.

If I post a rave review about a restaurant... it’s user-generated content. If I post a critical review about a restaurant… it’s user-generated content.

You’ll find it in the form of testimonials, blog posts, tweets, reviews, images, videos, podcasts, snaps, etc.

Quick Search word cloud for #ShareACoke UGC campaign

Quick Search highlights #ShareACoke, one of the most successful user-generated campaigns in the history of marketing.

Brands realizing the benefits of user-generated content - and there are huge perks - share it on their social media accounts and websites. Why? Because this free, word-of-mouth advertising, is trusted. It boosts a brand’s credibility. Managed correctly… it’s awesome!

78% of millennials rate user-generated content more than content produced by a brand. UGC inspires way more engagement than any other form of marketing content. We trust UGC because it comes from real people. We’re happy to purchase the products they’re happy to use.

It’s called social proof.

Check out Marketing to Millennials | In Their Own Words. It debunks the stereotyping that surrounds this discerning generation. Offering advice on how to reach out, with big brands who've nailed marketing to Generation Y.

Social proof

Social proof is people looking for confirmation of the correct way to behave in a certain situation, by looking at people they consider to be behaving correctly.

Yep, bit of a mindwarp!

81% of consumers research online before they make a purchase. We listen to users that we trust and take their advice.

Look out of the window and see people using umbrellas, you’ll probably grab yours as you leave. Advice works the same way... Your friend says it’s going to rain, so you take yours.

Examples of social proof include…

  • Expert/celebrity endorsements - likely to be pre-arranged and paid for, unless it’s by accident ;)

  • User proof - reviews, ratings, testimonials

  • You and me - the general public - appeals to our fear of missing out on cool stuff

  • Friends - we know them, we trust them

Expert social proof - UGC

Expert social proof - seal of approval from the leading global research and advisory firm.

Amazon customer review - UGC

User social proof - Amazon’s customer reviews and testimonials are effective social proof.

Why you should be using UGC?

90% of consumers say that UGC influences their purchasing decisions, out ranking all other forms of marketing. 81% are willing to pay more for products that have received positive user-generated content.

What are the advantages of UGC? It should be key to your marketing strategy. Here’s why…

Authenticity

As consumers, we’ve become numb to marketing messages. There are so many brands… they can’t all have the best product on the market. They can’t all be number 1! We don’t believe them anymore. We don’t trust them.

User-generated content is marketing in its purest form. It’s credible. It’s authentic. We believe it.

UGC is proven to increase engagement and conversions. Consumers are 2.4x more likely to see UGC as trustworthy, compared to brand-created content.

Cost effective

Remember the #IceBucketChallenge?

Possibly one of the most effective user-generated content campaigns ever, promoting awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It went viral in 2014, with over 17 million people posting videos online. It raised more than $115 million for the ALS Association.

LeBron James called out President Obama to do the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Remember how much it cost?

Zero!

Conversion rates

User-generated content displayed on a product page can increase conversions by 64%.

Say no more!

Content creation

UGC is a goldmine of content that can be exploited for content ideation. Be inspired by comments, shared images, videos, keywords, hashtags, etc. It’s what your audience is talking about, so joining the conversation with relevant content, will bring more engagement.

Purchasing behavior

UGC influences consumers’ purchasing decisions. No longer trusting brand-speak, we research review sites and social media. We ask our peers, and we trust them. By including customer reviews, unboxing videos, etc., in your marketing strategy, you’ll help potential buyers make the right choice.

Engagement

User-generated content encourages conversations with new consumers. Use it to power up your social ads and you’ll attract more consumer engagement. Social ads that use UGC also boosts SEO by increasing your brand visibility online.

Don’t forget to monitor your efforts with a social media analytics tool. Talkwalker’s Quick Search will identify your brand mentions across text, images, and video. Give it a whirl!

Quick Search - engagement and sentiment around Ice Bucket Challenge

5 years on and the Ice Bucket Challenge is still going strong.

The spike in June?
South Korean singer, Park Bom, did the Ice Bucket Challenge.

SEO

UGC can have mind blowing effects on SEO. It provides a steady stream of engaging and searchable content, and it keeps you up to date on trending tops that your audience is talking about. Here are 5 huge reasons why user-generated content should be part of your SEO strategy...

1 Improve search rankings

Google loves unique, authentic content. It loves it so much that it’ll prioritize fresh and relevant content in SERPs. Use it and you’re speaking to consumers and search engines.

We’re all super busy, and writing unique content takes time. User-generated content is a great source of inspiration for your content strategy. Mine it for ideas. It will identify the questions consumers are asking about your product and your industry.

2 Long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are search phrases with low-search competition. Use long-tail, and ranking highly is a whole lot easier.

They’re keyword phrases that users are using in their searches. Phrases you may not have thought of.

For instance… your keyword is ‘travel books’ but competition is huge. Users are searching for ‘travel books for Luxembourg’. Less competition, and it’s what potential customers are searching for.

Find users’ long-tail keywords and include them in your website copy. You’ll deliver on their searches and address their pain points, which search engines love.

3 Automated searches

You do know that there are spiders in search engines, right?

One of their tasks is to look for customer reviews and testimonials on your website. Once found, the search engine take over and rank your website.

Search engines also check whether the content on your site is good. Whether it’s relevant. Do you know what you’re talking about? Is it trustworthy? Is it helpful? UGC that you’ve included on your site, legitimizes your brand and will bring big SEO points.

4 Site optimization

You optimize your website by including keywords in content and titles, alt-tabs, metas, getting backlinks from other sites, and cross-linking within your site.

UGC reviews and testimonials talk about your products. As well as increasing trust in your brand, they already include links and keyword phrases. These will strengthen your SEO.

5 Social signals

Don’t forget social media. Adding to your social signals means your search visibility will increase. Use UGC content and images for social media optimization – SMO – on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

Trust will be enhanced and happy followers, will share, like, and comment. Increased engagement leads to increased traffic to your website from new consumers.

Educate consumers

Listen to online conversations. Find questions, issues, being raised about your brand. Shared user-generated content is a great way of providing answers because, potentially, they’ve experienced similar issues. Use online customer testimonials to boost your followers’ trust in your brand.

5 steps to create your UGC campaign

When’s the last time you spent money on a product that you saw advertised by a brand, without confirming its authenticity?

Thought so…

We dismiss brand-speak. We check review sites. We research on social media. We ask our peers.

I’m speaking as a marketer and a consumer. So I’m shooting myself in the foot, while patting myself on the back. Hmmm... flexible.

It’s all about turning consumers into brand ambassadors, without spoiling their authenticity. Ambassador marketing, if you like.

1 Define your goals

Ask yourself what’s the purpose of your campaign. Your goals.

  • Increase brand engagement - UGC is content shared by influencers, which always sparks chat - comments, likes, mentions

  • Boosting brand awareness - increase trust, you’ll increase awareness - consumers see UGC as credible content

  • Increase conversion rate - consumers researching before spending, can be persuaded by UGC - reviews, testimonials, unboxing videos

  • Collecting product launch feedback - monitor conversations for positive/negative comments - promote with the positive, improve with the negative

Set a time period for your UGC campaign, and track your performance. Check whether you’re reaching your targets, or not.

For instance... you plan to run a campaign for two months, targeting 600 leads. If after a couple of weeks, you’ve not reached 100, you can assess your campaign and adjust.

Decide what type of content you need. Consider…

  • Where you’re going to share the content - website, ads, social media, etc.
  • The tone of your UGC campaign - fun, exciting, inspiring, educational, etc.

SMART goals - specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timely

Define your goals - be SMART.

2 Identify what your audience wants

You’re creating marketing campaigns that are targeted. Hitting different segments with tailored content. User-generated content you harvest, can then be used to target different segments or new audiences.

To make your UGC campaigns work, you have to understand the content creators, and the consumers influenced by it. To know your customers, use buyer personas. They’ll help you fine-tune your content and marketing campaigns.

To save you time, I’ve created a buyer persona template that you can download for free. Use it to create your dream customer.

Download my free buyer persona template!

Using buyer personas means you can work with your UGC creators, appreciate why they’re happy to share and the kind of content they’ll provide. For those you’re targeting, you’ll discover what it takes for them to engage. To convert.

3 Choose the social networks that work for your brand

Do you know where your audience lives? Which social channel is favored? Do you know the networks where your UGC creators have the strongest influence?

Social media channels for collecting UGC

Do you know where your audience lives?

While you can collect user-generated content from any of the social media platforms, choose where you’ll share that will work for your business, audience, and campaign.

Okay, this is a silly example, but you’ll catch my drift…

Let’s say you’re B2C. You’re a fashion brand. It’s likely you’ll find UGC on image-based channels like Instagram. Does it make sense to share this awesome, visual UGC on LinkedIn? No. Twitter? Yes.

Get what I’m saying?

While it’s tempting to splash positive feedback across channels, it makes no sense. Plus, it makes you look desperate, random, amateurish, and other negative things.

What UGC works best for each social network

Not sure what kind of user-generated content works to post on your different social media channels? Here’re some tips…

Twitter

Yes, you’re limited to 280 characters. Let images do the talking. We scroll through our Twitter feeds quickly, speed reading or ignoring text. What does stop us in our tracks are visuals. Images with UGC about brands are readily shared.

Twitter

Instagram

A goldmine of consumer-generated content. Videos or photos, Instagram users love to demonstrate products in action. Show off their purchases. You will need to use Instagram analytics tools to find all the awesome UGC.

Instagram logo

Facebook

Stories and videos work well on Facebook, particularly ones that have the potential to go viral. They also bring more engagement. The algorithm means it’s hard to get organic reach, but including UGC in ads works well.

Facebook logo

LinkedIn

Keep it professional. Keep it relevant.

LinkedIn logo

4 Tell users what content you want

Finding unexpected user-generated content is great. Of course, you’ll only find it if you’re actively looking for it. Using image and video recognition. Creating Talkwalker Alerts. Dismiss these tools, and you’ll miss all that free advertising.

Would Ben & Jerry’s have found this great UGC without video recognition?
Doubtful.


Talkwalker's video recognition finding Ben & Jerry's logo

Talkwalker’s video recognition - capturing your brand in action.

Not all UGC is flattering to your brand. Identifying and tackling negative comments must also be a priority.

McDonald's negative user-generated content

Protect your brand’s reputation with video recognition.

If you want to generate user-generated content. Force it. You’ll need to tell your audience what you want. Otherwise it could go horribly wrong.

Be clear. Be specific. Provide hashtags, brand guidelines, keywords.

5 Analyze and measure your UGC content

All marketing campaigns have to be analyzed and measured, including your user-generated content campaigns.

Use Talkwalker Analytics to monitor all channels and track engagement. Was your brand hashtag shared? What was the volume? What sentiment was generated by your UGC campaign - positive, negative?

User-generated best practices

Don’t forget that we’re talking about taking users’ comments and using them as part of a marketing campaign, for free.

There are best practices for gathering and using UGC. Be nice. Play fair.

Don’t steal from users

You must ask permission. Using a branded hashtag overcomes this, to some extent. But, I’d still recommend asking the user if you can share their content. It has been known for people to jump on a trending hashtag, not realizing what it was originally intended for.

If you don’t ask, you risk upsetting the user and could turn a positive into a negative. Asking, keeps them happy and opens the possibility of them sharing your content with their followers.

Give credit where it’s due

Tag them. Name them. Mention them.

It’s not just to ‘do the right thing’. If you reference the user in your content, your audience can go to the source and check that it’s genuine UGC.

UGC tools…

... or you’ll miss heaps

In an ideal world, users would tag you, mention your brand, use your hashtag. In an ideal world.

In our less than ideal world, your social listening strategy has to include image and video recognition. This means you’ll find the silent mentions. Those under the radar. The posts that show your brand logo, but don’t reference you in the content.

Video recognition - Coke bottle gif - find 100% user-generated content

Cash in on user-generated content with 100% brand recognition from Talkwalker.

Positive or negative - all UGC is good

Woah, wait a minute… how can negative user-generated content be a good thing?

Customer insights. Product insights. Industry insights.

Heard enough?

It’s marketing in its purest form, and it’s packed with insights.

  • Feedback about a product - means you can improve your offerings

  • Consumers using your product in unexpected ways - create new content

  • Your product used in conjunction with another brand - potential partnership

  • Track the hashtags users are using - new keywords, new communities

  • Align your content language/tone with that used in user-generated content

Planned UGC campaigns that rocked

Brands, realizing the value of user-generated content, are engineering it. Launching campaigns specifically designed to encourage UGC. Here are two brands - I know you’ve heard of - that rocked UGC campaigns…

Starbucks | #WhiteCupContest

Ever doodled on a paper napkin? Back of a menu? Paper cup?

In 2014, Starbucks jumped on this habit that many of us suffer from, and invited people to graffiti their cups...

Customize your Starbucks cup. Photograph it. Share it on social media with the hashtag #WhiteCupContest.

The winning design would be printed on a limited-edition reusable Starbucks cup. Over a three week period, nearly 4000 people submitted entries. Awesome!

#WhiteCupContest winner!

The contest brought Starbucks heaps of positive user-generated content. It also increased trust in the brand, as it demonstrated how much the brand valued customer feedback.

Starbucks White Cup Contest UGC campaign

Quick Search - Starbucks’ UGC campaign still going strong five years after launch.

So successful was the campaign, Starbucks hold annual cup customizing competitions.

Coca-Cola | #ShareACoke

Coca-Cola took product personalization to a whole new level when it replaced its logo on bottles with 250 of the most popular names among teenagers and millennials. The #ShareACoke campaign launched in Australia in 2011 and increased consumption by 7%. The campaign was spread to the US, UK, and other regions around the world in 2014.

Consumers were encouraged to share a photo of their personalized bottles on social media, with the campaign hashtag #ShareACoke.

In the US, a 10 year decline in sales was reversed. The brand gained 25 million Facebook followers, and more than 500,000 photos that included #ShareACoke.

Such a hugely successful UGC campaign, it shows no sign of stopping. The brand now produces bottles with removable sticky name labels!

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Let’s take a look with Quick Search for the last year. See how this yearly campaign is performing.

Quick Search pulls analytics for #ShareACoke campaign

All good, then.

Look at that sentiment! Awesome!

A whopping 124.6K mentions and a 6.5M engagement rate. Countries leading the campaign are the US and India. Supporting that, English and Hindi are the dominating languages.

The top occupation is shown to be social media. Fitting I guess, when you remember the target audience. Looking at this and the age breakdown, it’s a campaign that’s hit its target.

Takeaway

The user-generated stats are so impressive, I’m in danger of repeating myself. But, they’re that impressive!

Phew… thank goodness for image and video recognition.

What do you reckon? Going to try some ambassador marketing? Give user-generated content a spin? It’s free content, talking about your brand, and saying it’s awesome.

What’s not to love?!!

Download my buyer persona template. Rev up your social listening tool. Focus your image and video recognition. GO!

Buyer persona CTA