A Guide to User-Generated Content (UGC)Jesse Sumrak
Know what’s better than spending thousands of dollars on new content? Getting your audience to create it for you for free.
User-generated content (UGC), or consumer-generated content, is an up-and-coming marketing tactic gaining traction. In the history of the internet (and, really, the entire world), it’s never been easier to create content—and it’s also never been easier to share it.
Brands capitalize on this phenomenon to empower and encourage customers to create original content and share it with their friends. And it’s working:
- 90% of shoppers say UGC influences their decisions to make a purchase
- 39% of all media consumption is UGC instead of traditional media or brand content
- Millennials cite family (75%) and friends (72%) as the biggest influencers on their shopping habits.
- 24% of female shoppers consider UGC the most influential marketing tool brands can use
- 93% of marketers agree that consumers trust content from friends and family more than content from brands
- 81% of shoppers say they’ll pay more and wait longer for UGC-associated products
But what is user-generated content, and how should your business use it? Great questions. We have answers.
Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about user-generated content and how to incorporate it into your email marketing campaigns.
What is user-generated content?
User-generated content is customer-created content published in social media posts, blog articles, reviews, videos, testimonials, or even podcasts. Customers, brand ambassadors, affiliate marketers, employees, and even executives create this content to showcase a brand or product.
When fans snap a picture of their snazzy new shoes, they’re creating UGC. Or, when a customer posts an unboxing video on their YouTube channel, they’re creating UGC. Even when your CEO tweets about their cool coding gloves, they’re creating UGC, too.
The best part about user-generated content is that it costs your business nothing—no time, no money. Your fans do all the work. However, you do need to ask for permission and credit the creator when using any UGC.
Plus, it takes authenticity to a whole new level. Consumers trust friends and family much more than they trust brands. They even trust reviews from strangers more than claims from brands. When your customers talk about your products, it’s worth much more than an expensive, fancy ad tooting your horn.
User-generated content usually happens organically, but you can capitalize on this movement by acting as a catalyst and putting that content to good use. For example, more than 50% of consumers want brands to tell them what type of content to create and share—sometimes, they just want a little more direction.
Types of user-generated content
UGC comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Here are a few common examples of how you’ll see it show up in the digital wild.
Social media content
Anytime someone tweets, posts a TikTok video, or shares a picture on Instagram about your brand, it’s UGC. Often, people want to share experiences engaging with your brand. It might be a photo of them wearing your brand’s T-shirt or a reel of them dancing beside your hotel’s pool. You’ll often find this content using your brand’s hashtags.
Reviews and testimonials
Consumers love to share their experiences with the world in official reviews. This might be on Google, Yelp, Tripadvisor, G2, Facebook, or TrustRadius. Reviews are great places to collect sound bites, quotes, and testimonials for your website. Again, always get permission before using anyone’s content—even their positive review.
Sometimes, UGC comes in a longer form, such as a short blog post or a long, in-depth article. These blog posts could be anecdotal experiences with your products or services or could take more of a review style. Your brand might show up as a brief mention, a how-to guide, or a top spot in a listicle.
When individuals have questions, your brand might just be the answer. Capitalize on the fact that people will sometimes mention your brand in Q&A forums on other websites like Quora or Stack Overflow. Check these sites to see if anyone gives your business some love.
UGC often takes the form of videos published on YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, or Instagram. You can repurpose this content into product highlight reels and powerful customer testimonials.
How to use user-generated content in email campaigns
Here are the top ways to boost your email campaigns with user-generated content.
1. Feature customer testimonials
Sometimes, your potential buyers just need a bit of social proof to push them over the purchasing line. Featuring your customers and their experiences using your products in your emails is a surefire way to do so. Also, consider highlighting a snippet, then directing your customers to where they can read a complete review or case study.
2. Launch a hashtag campaign
Customers who post UGC content often tag your brand or use a generic brand hashtag, such as #Nike or #JustDoIt. While this is fine and dandy, consider launching dedicated campaigns with a specific hashtag.
For example, when you release a new product, tell your customers to create UGC highlighting how they use the product using a hashtag. This will make it easier for you to find the exact content you’re looking for when you repurpose the UGC in your campaigns.
3. Retarget with abandoned cart emails
Add UGC to your abandoned cart emails to show your potential buyers they’re missing out. For example, if a customer doesn’t complete a purchase for new earrings, show them a few buyers who love the product. Seeing them wearing the product (and their authentic reviews) could be enough to get your potential buyer to return to your site and complete the purchase.
4. Start a UGC weekly newsletter
Why not feature the best-of-the-best UGC weekly or monthly? This markets your brand and gets your audience excited about potentially being featured in your emails, encouraging them to share more.
Start with a monthly cadence until you get a steady stream of UGC. Once you see some consistency, consider bumping up the frequency to feature more content.
5. Incorporate UGC into all campaigns
Whether you’re launching a new product or announcing an upcoming webinar, there’s a place for UGC images and videos. You might even include a short quote or testimonial in all your emails in a featured spot.
Your customers say it best when it comes to highlighting your product, so give them a spotlight whenever you can. Consider using a snippet from a customer’s review rather than bullet-point features of your product’s benefits.
User-generated content examples
Brands use user-generated content to execute downright impressive campaigns. Here are a few of our favorite real-life, user-generated content examples:
GoPro is the master of user-generated content. Customers use GoPro cameras to create amazing videos, and GoPro uses those videos for marketing its product. Almost all of GoPro’s content comes from users—and these customers range from recreational weekend warriors to professional-level athletes and everything in between.
LEGO inspires people to build some pretty incredible things—things so far out of the box that LEGO can’t help but share them with its millions (yes, millions!) of followers. When your product inspires creativity and ingenuity, UGC takes care of itself.
Airbnb uses user-generated content across its social media profiles, video profiles, and even traditional TV commercials. It features customers’ journeys and stories as they use Airbnb to travel and create brand-new, lifelong memories—and it works.
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