User-generated content (UGC) is anything created by people, or individual users, rather than brands. It becomes UGC when borrowed and shared by brands on their own social media channels, website or other marketing materials. In a landscape in which we’re seeing more people create fun and engaging content, brands across industries are leaning in on UGC for their social media strategies to help with engagement, growth and approachability. Here, we’ll dive into why UGC is important and how you can incorporate it into your social media marketing.
#TevaTuesday allows Teva to showcase real people in their shoes, amplifying user generated content while accessing the benefits of UGC. Keep reading for more!
First off, why UGC?
The relationship you have with your audience is always going to be unique to your brand. Some brands encourage daily interaction with their followers, responding to questions, creating memes and contributing to the zeitgeist of whatever subcultures are associated with their brands, while others on the other end of the continuum rarely interact with their following (if at all). What every brand does have in common is the desire to grow their audience in organic ways that remain authentic to who they are and who they’ve always been — and UGC has become a huge driver of that kind of organic growth.
In the early years of social media, brands did everything they could to look and feel as polished as possible. Every photo pristine, every video elevated. We’ve learned over the course of the last decade that this isn’t always what audiences are looking for. We’re fed polished advertising through TV, OTT, OOH, pamphlets and brochures, but sometimes audiences just want to see your product, your ideologies and the essence of your brand presented in just regular, everyday scenarios.
A great UGC strategy lends itself to providing some authenticity to your brand and marketing efforts. Regular, everyday people aren’t always looking to take the perfect photo, but one just good enough to share on their social channels. It’s these moments and events that people are more likely to engage with when shared from brand channels. UGC has become more trustworthy to audiences because it’s coming from a real person who believes in your product.
This authenticity often leads to trust. A regular stream of UGC from your social marketing channels shows consumers that people aren’t just using your products, but they’re enjoying your product enough to share what they’re using with the world. Word of mouth has always been the best form of recommendation to a new product, and with people sharing your product online, that word of mouth is spread exponentially.
How To Work UGC Into Your Strategy
It is impossible to really know what drives your audience to engage with social media posts unless you spend some time in their shoes. You can do all of the qualitative research in the world, but that will still only tell a portion of the story. Your audience is made of real people who are looking to interact with, laugh with or even argue with other real people online. Who they are and what their habits consist of are not numbers on a spreadsheet. Find out where they are online (do you have an Instagram or Twitter audience, are they on TikTok or reddit?). And after you find out where they are, find out how they talk to each other. What are the memes they’re sharing and how do they interact with your product in real life? This is going to give you so much insight into their online behaviors and, in turn, should help parse out the kind of UGC that they’re going to respond to on your social channels.
The Santa Barbara Zoo knows how to connect with their followers on Instagram and Facebook, finding them where they spend their time with short, comedic captions. This is a stunning UGC photo from one of their fans paired with their signature tone in the copy.
Once you find out who they are and what moves them, pulling the right kind of UGC is going to help showcase and, in some ways, create brand loyalty. If you post Jennifer on October 2 and then again in mid-December, a portion of your audience is going to recognize that and understand two things about this: a) Jennifer was featured twice on your brand page and b) Jennifer’s loyalty has created a relationship between her and your brand. People who create and share UGC are among your biggest fans, and more often than not there is a level of excitement for them when they see their purchase, their photo, their video shared from the brand account. This kind of symbiotic relationship is invaluable.
As you’re building out social calendars, spend a considerable amount of time sourcing potential photos and videos for future UGC posts. Consistency is maybe the biggest challenge in any UGC strategy, but taking the time to build a backlog of photos and videos to pull from at any point will make your calendar building so much easier. Leave weekly slots for UGC posts in your calendars and ensure that you have the volume to both fill those slots, but also be flexible to move or change those posts if necessary.
Consider Your Community
The last thing to consider when pulling UGC for your content calendars is to ensure that you’re being a good partner to the community. There are a lot of brands and publishers that take content created by others and present it as their own. This is the easiest way to tank any kind of social media goodwill that you have with your audience. When possible, ask to use the content that you feel might be great for your channels. Jump in their DMs and just shoot over a quick message asking if it’ll be okay for your brand to feature the user’s photo or video on your social media channels. More often than not, you’ll get an enthusiastic yes -- and if the answer is no for whatever reason, thank them for their time and move on.
A simple example of how you can easily be a good partner, amplify a fan's content and utilize UGC to build community around your brand.
There are some brands that create shows out of the UGC they find (Instagram Reels and TikTok have been huge in creating this form of social media content) and in these kinds of situations, it may be worth it to create some sort of contract between the brand and the user if these shows are monetized in any way. This protects your brand and allows you to be as transparent with your audience on how their content will be used.
Also, a huge part of being a great partner is crediting the content creator. Just adding their username to the end of the caption for your post will usually suffice, but there are some brands that add a CTA asking their audience to follow the user they sourced their UGC from. Again, this is a way to build goodwill with your audience and a way to show them that there is value in sharing with your brand.
Buffer used a fan favorite for this UGC post: puppies. You can see they tagged the content creator and had high engagement on this post.
You will run into challenges in building your UGC strategy, but with all things social media, it’s the best marketing arm that you have to test what’s working with your audience. If one avenue does not work after a few tries, this isn’t going to tank anything you’re trying to build within your overall social media strategy. Make adjustments and try again. You’re going to find that connection between your brand and your followers and it will eventually pay dividends with organic growth and engagement.
Bring your UGC questions to us. We’re here to help you with a free consultation to figure out the best social media strategy that includes UGC for your brand. Give us a call at 323.596.0606 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.