If you run an ecommerce business or work in marketing, you probably spend a lot of time curating your brand’s content and online presence. Unfortunately, consumers struggle to trust branded content, citing a lack of authenticity. We know, it hurts us too. One thing people do trust, however, is product reviews. If only you could bring the two together, right? Well, you can!
User-generated content is the way. Here’s how you set up an awesome program, and scroll to the end to see some examples of excellent UGC posted by a few brands you might recognize.
What is User-Generated Content?
As the name suggests, user-generated content (or UGC) is content created by your customers. This can be a photo, video, text, or anything really, as long as it’s created by people and not brands. For many brands, Instagram is the primary platform used to curate UGC. Since it’s a highly visual medium, sourcing photos and videos is relatively easy.
Why should you care about User-Generated Content?
To put it simply, UGC is the easiest way to inject authenticity into your own content strategy, with the added bonus of increasing customer loyalty and trust. You likely already know how important customer reviews are - in fact, you’re probably already working on creating a better customer review platform to maximize good reviews. UGC is the natural next step.
Still not convinced? Here’s a stat that might make you think twice: social media posts that feature UGC see 50% higher engagement, and email campaigns that utilize it see a 78% increase in clickthrough rates on average. Once you’ve created your program, it’s a low-effort marketing strategy that has the potential to pay off in a big way.
What platforms work best for UGC?
Instagram is the obvious choice for UGC for many brands, due to the highly visual nature of the platform and the pre-built tagging feature. It might be the easiest place to get started if you don’t know where else to begin, but if you already have an active community space on, say, Facebook, you can absolutely engage the audience you’ve worked so hard to create to participate in your UGC program.
The platform you choose won’t be what makes or breaks your UGC program. The key to successful UGC comes down to your content submission guidelines and your content review process.
Of course, you can’t have UGC if nobody is posting. So, how do you get people to participate? You need a way to motivate your audience, and to give them instructions on how to act.
While not absolutely necessary, incentivizing people to post content by way of contests, giveaways, or other rewards is a good place to start. If you’re already asking people to leave reviews, asking them to create their own content for a chance to win a prize is a natural fit.. Whatever you choose, make sure the value is clear to your participants.
Create clear guidelines for content submissions. This can be as simple as asking users to tag their posts on Instagram with a certain hashtag, or as complex as asking for written consent (if you’re running a contest, you’ll likely go this route anyways).
Your guidelines can and should change depending on the goals of the campaign you’re running - for instance, if you’re trying to expand your social media following, asking followers to tag your page directly or share their posts on their stories is a good idea. While the guidelines can be flexible, they should always be clear and as easy for users to follow as possible.
So, you’ve done the work to set up your UGC campaign and the submissions are flooding in? Awesome! Now it’s time to review your submissions and decide which will fit in with your campaigns.
It’s a good idea to stick with your ideal customers, but don’t be afraid to show a bit of inclusivity when you can. Even posts that don’t fit your ideal mold will likely have a thing or two to teach you about your customer base. Review every submission, and if you find a gap between what you wanted and what you received, don’t be afraid to pivot.
UGC We <3
Ok, we’ve discussed the theory behind UGC. Now let’s look at some brands putting it into practice.
As a longtime loyal shopper of Aerie and American Eagle myself, I’ve always adored the way they utilize user-generated content both on their site and on Instagram.
From their reviews section, which encourages people to post photos as well as their sizing info, to their Instagram, which includes “unretouched” in the content guidelines, their commitment to celebrating real bodies is both empowering and incredibly helpful to shoppers trying to decide if clothing will work for their body type. There’s a reason I keep coming back!
2. Concrete Minerals
Cosmetics companies and user-generated content are just *chefs kiss* meant to be. On Instagram especially, where the visual medium is the name of the game.
Concrete Minerals is doing a lot of things right when it comes to the Insta game, from showcasing their shades on many skin tones to reposting looks their customers used their products to create. Both on their feed and in their tagged section, you’ll see tons of user-generated content featuring looks created with Concrete Minerals products.
3. Adobe Lightroom
Adobe always pushes the envelope on marketing creativity. I love their approach to marketing Lightroom, which is a product used mainly for editing photography.
Their recent campaign asks photographers to post edits they’ve created in Lightroom and hashtag them with #LR_Conceptual for a chance to be featured on their feed.
The submissions are mind-blowing, but the coolest part is that they keep several hashtags active at the same time (remember, users can follow hashtags on Instagram, so it’s worth it to keep things fresh).
Chances are, you’ve already heard about the potential to recover lost revenue if you implement an abandoned cart strategy. UGC can help with that too!
I love this example from Munchkin, which pairs the items customers left in their carts with examples of users using them IRL.
Prana is a clothing company with a sustainability mission, and a big part of their brand is standing by that mission. The way they utilize user-generated content to create community around their brand mission is truly something to study.