User generated content or UGC is one of the best methods for sharing product case studies in real time. The challenge in receiving UGC is two-fold – 1. it can be difficult convincing users to share at all and. 2. when they do, it’s not always the best quality. I’ll run you through how to increase the number of contributions, improve the quality of UGC, and boost post frequency. But first, let’s talk UGC.
User Generated Content (UGC) is content created by users or customers. It is usually shared in praise but, at times, it’s created as a criticism of a product or service. In the instances where it is shared as praise, it can be a great tool to boost sales and give prospective customers a chance to see the product or service in action.
Quality UGC is the best testimonial any service-provider or product company can receive and share. It is also a great way to create content for your brand-owned social channels without investing in a photoshoot or graphic design work.
This four-step process will help you understand what quality UGC is, give some examples of brands working the UGC angle and help YOU get better UGC from your audience for your brand or brands. This process also assumes that you’ve created a great product, worked out (most) of the quirks and kinks and are ready to take it to market. This process is slightly different when you’re in the beta testing phase because you’re actually using your users as quality control in that instance, so it should be more of a closed process.
Step 1: Build a Community
Every digital marketer says this but what does it really mean? Building a community entails creating a two-way conversation on one or more social media platforms to help your audience understand why they want to be part of your ecosystem. How to do it? Well, that’s where the fun begins! Building a company can be bolstered by contests, influencer campaigns and sales promotions. This two-way conversation also encourages your audience to become brand evangelists and share your product and services with THEIR audience, thereby increasing your organic reach, engagement and organic sales.
Contests are a great way to get quality UGC, because there’s an incentive. This is different than straight sales promotions because you’re actually asking your audience to DO something to get the offer code and/or you’re encouraging them to share for X amount of days to get an offer code + a larger prize pack. Sweepstakes are a great way to reduce your level of investment while still garnering a high number of entries. If you want to also increase your social media engagement on multiple platforms, you can create a Digital Scavenger Hunt or challenge. This allows you to direct your audience from Facebook to Instagram to Twitter to LinkedIn and back to your site, subbing in different networks for your brand strategy.
Influencers are paid to promote products. They’re paid for the influence. They are paid for their ability to create content that converts. That means the content they create is (usually) amazing AND, if you’re paying for the campaign, you can usually share some creative guidelines to help fulfill the content needs of your brand. This is a bit of an investment, but can pay off BIG if you find the right influencers.
Sales promotions promote quality UGC by increasing the likelihood of purchase, which means there’s a larger pool of individuals sharing content and that also increases the opportunity for varied types of content.
Step 2: Show, Don’t Tell
If you want quality UGC, show your audience what you want instead of telling them. Share photos from team members or stock photos as an example of quality UGC. Make it attainable, don’t expect users to share photos with a photoshoot quality, understand that these images are probably going to be created with iPhones (which have potential for great shots) and, if the product or service warrants it, create a piece of content that really illustrates how to capture a great image of the product or how to promote the service visually. This is an effective way to increase that two-way conversation with your audience because it will, usually, prompt a series of questions from your audience that you can answer and use as a launchpad for promotion, explanation or lead generation.
Step 3: Promote the Best of the Best
Start a weekly feature highlighting the best customer-shared photos. Find the best of the best and make a point to congratulate the creator in a public way. Use this as a starting point for a sales promotion or as a surprise and delight campaign. In the surprise and delight campaign, start sharing offer codes or invitations to exclusive portions of your email list (another lead generation tool!) for this user, specifically. This will help you have a way to mobilize that audience AND a pool of people to focus on for your next round of UGC capture.
Step 4: Seek Influencers IN Your Community
This step goes a bit further than step 3. It takes the concept of segmentation and makes it strategic. Take time to identify the influencers who organically engage with your brand channels. Why? Because if they’re already fans, they may organically share (saving you a fee) OR they may be interested in creating content for a varied arrangement or on an on-going basis. Brand Ambassadors are slightly different from Brand Evangelists because Ambassadors often collaborate with the brand 1:1 to creatively brainstorm and create content with a strategy. Evangelists often spread the word because they’re simply and truly happy with the product. Both are needed for successful campaigns but finding the Ambassadors and creating an ecosystem around that beyond straight influencer payments? That’s what will take your UGC to the next level and ultimately result in more sales and more leads.
UGC can be a great marketing tool, if the audience is properly promoted, if the content is properly promoted and if you get a little creative with the ways in which you go about collecting and generating more of that content. Incentives work best but, sometimes, you can get lucky and have an influencer or two already following you, making the likelihood of great organic content so much larger than if you didn’t take a second to look into that community you’ve built for the true gems in your pack.