User-generated content (UGC) is a great way to keep posting branded content on your marketing channels while also boosting customers’ perception of your brand.
So how exactly do you start a user-generated content campaign? In this post, we’ll show you why you should consider using more UGC in your next marketing efforts, then show you a step-by-step process to help you plan your own UGC campaign.
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Benefits of Using User-Generated Content
Want to know why you should be using more user-generated content? We’ve compiled a few reasons.
Can increase conversions
This study Reevoo tells us that people consider content created by peers or “people like them” is more influential than any kind of content a brand may create.
Image source: Reevoo
Of course, you shouldn’t consider that finding as a sign to stop creating your own branded content, but instead, consider user-generated content as content that supplements your original content.
For instance, your brand may promise different benefits and features from a particular product or service. But when a user sees that these claims are backed up by reviews or stories from real-life customers like them, then they are more likely to convert.
Makes customers feel part of a community
Another benefit of user-generated content is you’re able to create a community around your brand. By giving users and customers the space to create content around your brand – from your products to your values – you can create deeper ties that will help encourage customers to stick around longer.
In a Community Roundtable report, they found that the majority of brands who try to foster online communities empowers customers “frequently or all of the time” in the following ways: posting questions, delivering solutions, networking, voicing thoughts, getting noticed, and leading.
Steps to Start a User-Generated Content Campaign for Your Brand
Define your goals
Is this UGC campaign going to be an evergreen campaign? Or will it only run for a limited time, e.g. a contest? Depending on the type of campaign you want to run, you can then set campaign-specific goals for each.
For example, if you want to run a contest to get more user-generated content, then you might set goals for the number of entries you want to get.
If you want a more evergreen campaign, think about the number of curated posts you want to publish each week or month. This way, you know how often to promote your UGC campaign efforts to encourage users to create and submit branded content.
Say your goal for an evergreen UGC campaign was to curate one fan- or customer-made post per week on Instagram. This goal then informs the rest of your campaign: how will you encourage fans and customers to post to get featured on your feed? How will you collect their posts? How often will you post about your UGC campaign?
Identify your channels
Next, identify any marketing channels you can use to help you implement and promote your campaign.
Here are a few channels you might already have, as well as channels you might consider adding into your marketing mix for a UGC campaign:
Your website can have key areas that let users submit any user-generated content. For example, you can use forms to let users submit links or photos and videos that feature your brand.
If you’re trying to get more UGC for a specific promotional campaign, you might even consider creating a subdomain for the said campaign. Volusion was able to break down the average cost of maintaining a website and domain and found that this can go from $300 to $12,000 a year, depending on the size of the business.
You can always register for a free domain to help you save on cost while still having a dedicated space to curate user-generated content. And if your goal is to start a new content hub for your UGC campaign, then you’ll likely need fewer tools and features to keep it up and running, unlike your main website.
Long-running UGC campaign by OfficeMax called ElfYourself has existed since 2006. Image source: ElfYourself
You can make the most of your email marketing to reach users for your UGC campaign. Send broadcasts and emails about any new contests or ways they can submit branded content that you might feature.
Update your newsletter templates to include a section on your UGC campaigns, especially if it’s more long-running and evergreen.
For instance, you can place a Share Your Experience section at the bottom of each email, to encourage customers and users to leave a review about their brand experience. Or create a section that reminds customers to use your brand-specific hashtags when posting about your products.
Image source: Shopify
You can create social media ads that retarget existing customers to answer a survey or leave feedback or use social media to promote campaigns like contests.
Social media is also a popular place to post curated content that will help visitors see social proof from real customers and fans.
Influencers and thought leaders in your niche are also great channels to help you promote your UGC campaigns and even get more user-generated content in the long run.
Fans and followers feel closer to these influencers when they purchase products and services that they promote, so build relationships with quality influencers whom you know have an engaged following.
Create mechanics for your campaign
You’ll have to iron out exactly how users can contribute content to your campaign, so you can communicate these to them.
Your mechanics for gathering more user-generated content could be a simple brand-hashtag that gives users of the hashtag a chance to be featured, like how Blavity does this on their Instagram. But you might need to put more thought into more complex UGC campaigns, like contests.
Revisit those goals you had for your UGC campaign. This not only helps you craft your mechanics better but may even help you identify creative ways to get more user-generated content into your campaign.
Consider incentivizing users
Aside from a UGC social media contest with a prize at the end, there are other ways you can offer great incentives and perks for customers who contribute content like reviews, testimonials, or curation-worthy social media posts.
Sometimes the chance to be featured on your marketing channels is incentive enough for some people, but it doesn’t hurt to get creative and really rake in more engaged users.
Offer a discount code for users who successfully complete a survey that will help you inform your next content marketing strategy. Send free gifts to users who often create social media content featuring your products.
Want to use your existing customers as a case study or success story? Invite them for an interview and give them gifts at the end.
In a campaign by Thrive Themes, for example, they invited some of their active members to become case studies that they would later turn into video content and blog posts to promote their products.
As a big incentive for participating and completing the case study process, they offered users a free lifetime membership for their existing product suite.
Display CTAs on major brand touchpoints
Be sure to display call-to-actions across major brand touchpoints where you’d want to generate more UGC.
One simple application of this can be leaving a CTA on your social media posts and bios asking people to either tag you or use your brand-specific hashtag for a chance to be curated on your feed.
If you sell products on an eCommerce store, add a Leave a Review section on your product pages, and be sure to have the same CTA in any Order Update emails you might send.
In the example below, we also see a unique way that a company encourages users to leave reviews on their website to help make their content more valuable.
Image source: coschedule
This is a fantastic way for them to give readers and users the chance to rate their own experiences to their product.
Keep it legal
Last but not least, be sure to read up on any regulations that may limit or affect your user-generated content campaigns.
Curate content responsibly and respect other people’s privacy. For example, if a user has a private account on Instagram – and even if you’re following them – and they post a product photo you want to curate, it’s best to ask for their consent to repost their photo.
While we can assume that people who publicly tag our social media accounts and use our brand-specific hashtags generally consent to our brands reposting their content, the same isn’t true for users on a private account.
If you also have contests or campaigns that require people to submit content that you may later use in promotional content, be sure to highlight these terms where users can see.
Create a separate Terms and Conditions page, or list down any disclosures at the bottom of submission forms.
Image Source: FreePrivacyPolicy
Additional Tips for a Successful UGC Campaign
Here are a few extra tips to help you execute a successful UGC campaign for your brand:
Make it easy for your customers to contribute
If you’re relying on customers and users to create content for you – from simple reviews to even bigger projects like fan-made videos – then you’ll want to make things as easy as possible for them.
Make sure your mechanics are clear and simple and don’t take too much effort to understand.
Also, use tools that will help you streamline and monitor your user-generated content easier. Use customer review software to help you collect and manage customers leaving feedback about your products and services, and make the most of your social media analytics dashboards to track branded hashtags and ongoing contests.
Give credit where credit is due
A good rule of thumb when curating or sharing user-generated content is always giving credit where credit is due. After all, your users and customers own their content – you’re simply reposting or sharing them.
Tag users in their own photos and videos. Make it clear that these content pieces were originally created by somebody else.
One good practice is also to always ask for permission before using UGC for major brand collateral, i.e. a website header or paid commercial. In these cases, you will need to compensate users for their content because you’d be doing more than simple curation.
Also, if a user requests your page to take down their content, then promptly honour that request.
Take negative reviews as an opportunity
Sometimes in your UGC campaign, you might solicit negative reviews and feedback from unhappy customers.
This actually becomes a good opportunity for your brand to do some outreach and deliver exceptional customer service that will change their brand perception.
A Salesforce report tells us that 62% of surveyed customers will share a negative brand experience with others – so if you aren’t manoeuvring to fix bad experiences, you might just be getting bad press.
By actively soliciting user-generated content, you’re able to encourage users to leave reviews and offer feedback. These are valuable insights: customers are essentially telling you what they love and don’t love about your brand.
Be sure to mitigate negative reviews by reaching out individually to these customers, so you can begin the process of turning their negative experience into a small moment and not a lasting impression.
User-generated content campaigns help you deliver better brand experiences for existing customers while inviting new users to be part of the community you’ve built. Follow the steps above to help you plan out your own campaign, and soon you’ll start seeing the social proof and new content to curate for your brand and business.