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What’s more authentic?
On the left, we’ve got a polished post featuring a delicious looking burger that has clearly had some help getting picture ready.
On the right, we’ve got a real person enjoying some fries, a soda and McDonald’s Instagram hashtag campaign, #SipShareWin.
That’s the difference between user-generated content and official marketing materials. It’s (relatively) unfiltered. It’s not trying to sell you something. That’s why 84% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as a word of mouth recommendation.
Before we dive in, there’s one thing I want to clear up. The terms UGC and Influencer content get used interchangeably sometimes and is very hard to differentiate for the untrained eye. When I speak about user content in this post, I mean the unpaid, spontaneously created content people make just because they love how you roll.
UGC has heart. It gives your business a human face that you haven’t paid for. This makes it a fabulously engaging form of social proof. It says, Look! Real people like us enough to be seen hanging out with us online. You’ll love us too.
So how do you use UGC authentically to connect with your customers, grow your brand and attract more people? Let’s take a look.
So what is user-generated content?
UGC comes in all shapes and sizes.
We’ve got Instagram posts.
Then there are unboxings. Reviews. Facebook posts. As long as it’s created by users and you haven’t paid for it or influenced it in any way, it’s UGC. We touched briefly on why this type of content works but let’s dig a little deeper.
1. Trust for official marketing can run thin
The ads we make and content we create are designed to persuade people to take a specific action. Some brands use less than ethical practices to make that happen. One survey found that 42% of Americans find advertisers and brands less trustworthy today than 20 years ago. UGC is a way to show our human side and connect with customers in a real way.
2. It’s authentic
A tagged instagram photo taken by a customer didn’t go through several rounds of approval by three different department heads. It doesn’t tie into a bigger marketing goal. It’s a shared experience captured by a person just because they wanted to. This makes us trust it a lot more than a staged picture-perfect moment.
3. It supports brand loyalty
How would you feel if your favorite brand acknowledged you officially and shared your content? Pretty psyched, right!? By sharing great user content you invite them into the fold. It sends the message, We are in this together.
4. It reminds your customers why they picked you
Your customers have a lot of choice. Easy online delivery and digital products means they can afford to be picky. User content can help you connect over shared experiences.
Run a campaign about something that matters to both of you. It can be as simple as snapping a pic during your favorite time of day or showing how the product actively helps you work toward a common goal. Get creative.
A lot of brands, especially small businesses, can be wary of UGC. How do you know when it’s ok to use UGC content? What are the unwritten rules everyone else seems to know already? What about permissions? It’s a minefield.
To help us navigate it without stepping on any legal landmines, the Online News Association came up with an ethics code. While the guide is for journalists, some of these practices are great for marketers as well.
- Make sure the content is authentic: Make sure the content is real. We don’t need fake UGC out there.
- Be transparent: Let your audience know where the content came from and be upfront with the creator when you ask for permission
- Get consent: Always.
Let’s take a look at the two most common types of UGC and how you can use it.
According to BrightLocal, 74% of consumers trust a business more after reading positive online reviews and 7 out of 10 will happily leave a review if you asked them to.
Reviews generate business, increase trust and are pretty easy to get. It’s a triple win. The reviewer doesn’t care whether you make more sales. They care about sharing their unique experience and helping other people make an educated choice. That’s why we trust them.
Reviews are also the easiest type of UGC to navigate from a legal point of view. Create a space for reviews on your site and include an explanation that you may use them in marketing content in your Terms and Conditions.
Sparking social media posts
Did someone tag you on Twitter? Post using your hashtag on Instagram? Write an epic FB post? This is social media user content at its finest. This stuff is gold.
So how do you use this type of content? Ask permission. Let’s say you want to use an Instagram post you were tagged in. Go over to the photo and ask the content creator for permission to use the pic. If you want to use it for an ad and there are multiple people in the photo, it’s a good idea to ask them for permission as well.
But it’s not all about the user. Check the social platform’s T&C as well and make sure they allow brands to use UGC. Some platforms only extend that privilege to affiliates and partners.
Reach more customers
At MavSocial, we understand the power of UCG. That’s why we’ve been working hard on building a new feature that will help you find great content and get permissions all in the same place.
Log into your dashboard and search for your UGC campaign hashtag or hashtags related to your business. You’ll see all the Instagram images with that hashtag. You can even filter them by engagement.
When you’ve picked your image, comment on the photo using our canned message or personalize your own and ask for permission to use it. This is the best part. Responses are automatically detected so we’ll let you know which images you got permission for. It’s a quick, easy way to use UGC the right way.
Adweek reported that 85% of people find UGC more compelling than brand content yet only 65% of brands believe that’s the case. This is an opportunity. By making UGC a solid part of your marketing strategy, you can reach more people.