According to research by DataReportal, people spent an average of 6+ hours online in 2022. And the majority of that time was dedicated to content consumption — streaming video and audio, playing games, and reading press media. But while it may be evident that one of the best ways of capturing consumer attention and converting leads into customers is to invest in content marketing, marketers must come to terms with the fact that not all content is created equal.
Consumer surveys reveal that people want brands to deliver more genuine experiences. And one of the ways to do this could be to use more user-generated content, which is considered more authentic (and effective at engaging and converting prospects) than any of its brand-created alternatives. According to Stackla, user generated content impacts consumer purchasing decisions 8.7x more than influencer content and 6.6x more than branded content.
So, if you're looking to maximize your marketing efforts, you must start employing user-submitted content. The following are the user-generated content best practices to adhere to, along with a few great examples to inspire you.
Know Your Goals
As with any other content marketing strategy, the only way to get great results by utilizing UGC is to have clearly defined goals. And the thing about this content format is that it offers multiple high-value benefits to marketers willing to do the required work.
User-generated content can be a great way to present your audience with authentic content they genuinely care about. It can encourage brand loyalty, consequently maximizing customer lifetime value. It can help build trust in a world divided by differing opinions. And perhaps most importantly, UGC can boost conversion rates, seeing that it's a format of social proof with a high potential for influencing buyers' purchasing decisions.
But, the one thing you must remember when sourcing and sharing UGC is that you can't expect a single post to do all of these things (though some instances do have the potential to check multiple boxes). Instead, you need to have a crystal clear idea of what you want to accomplish.
For example, if your goal is to position your business as an industry authority, you need UGC that underlines quality and expertise. And ideally, this content needs to come from someone with a reputation for knowing what they're talking about. If you check out brands like GoPro, you'll see they regularly share UGC created by professional athletes, which is one of the best ways to prove that the brand's products have what it takes to withstand the demands of any extreme sports enthusiast (or adventure-oriented filmmaker for that matter).
Don't Fake It 'Till You Make It
Although consumers are more likely to perceive a piece of content as credible if it's user-submitted, you mustn't try to fake UGC.
Not only do 78% of shoppers say they can feel when a brand is trying to advertise to them. But you also have to remember that 39% don't trust influencer marketing, making it evident that solely relying on UGC creators to procure customer-submitted content isn't all that smart.
Of course, this doesn't mean there's no room for collaboration when producing and distributing high-value content. But, one of the user-generated content best practices you must remember is that faking UGC is an absolute no-no if what you're after are trust and authenticity.
So, instead of trying to pass off perfectly produced posts as UGC, give yourself the freedom to work with less-than-perfect material.
For instance, if you check out Gili Sports on Instagram, you'll see that most of the brand's posts consist of user-submitted images. And though not all of them show off the products in 4K resolution or are perfectly timed to make use of the golden hour in Bali, the images and videos show a level of authenticity that's simply unattainable with branded content (and which perfectly works towards the business' goal of positioning its solutions as ones that can help prospects attain an aspirational lifestyle).
Show Off UGC in More Than One Way
So far, we've pointed towards examples of brands re-posting UGC on their social media feeds. But if you're trying to get the absolute most out of user-submitted videos, images, and feedback, you need to know that there's more than one way of successfully leveraging this content format.
For example, while most people associate UGC with user-submitted images and videos, it's important to remember that customer reviews and testimonials also count as user-generated content. So, by doing something as simple as incorporating a reviews section on your homepage, as done by Pumpkin below, you'll be able to spotlight a highly-convincing instance of UGC that will positively impact your target audience's purchase intent.
Or, knowing that consumers actively search for social proof before deciding whether to invest in an item, why not enrich product pages with more than just reviews and star ratings and encourage existing customers to upload images and videos along with their feedback, as done on the ATH website below?
Employ Social Listening to Find Hidden Gems
One of the best strategies for sourcing user-generated content is to encourage your audience to post about your products, which you can do in several ways.
For instance, incentives and rewards are an excellent method of getting people to contribute to your UGC library. Just check out how Typeform does it with a contest, inviting customers to create templates for other users to download. The prizes include a year's subscription to the brand's product, a shoutout on social media, a feature on the brand's blog (along with a link to the winner's website), and a coveted spot on Typeform's public gallery.
Or, if giving out rewards is not your thing, you can encourage user-generated submissions by making them a way for your customers to join a community. Makeup brands like MAC regularly do this, asking users to share their creative looks, offering them recognition and a chance to join a group of like-minded individuals they can swap inspiration with.
However, one of the user-generated content best practices that many brands forget is that employing UGC doesn't necessarily require your customers to tag your brand (or use a dedicated hashtag).
More often than not, the most authentic and convincing user-generated content is given freely, without any attached expectations. And the great thing is that you can source it by employing social listening.
For a great example of this strategy in practice, check out the Taco Bell Twitter feed. You'll notice that the brand regularly interacts with customers who tag it in their tweets. However, by using social listening tools and following conversations around relevant keywords, Taco Bell is also able to interact with buyers who aren't that communicative, unlocking an excellent opportunity to engage more people as well as to identify instances of UGC that can be retweeted or transformed into product improvement opportunities.
Only Re-Share UGC That Aligns with Your Brand Values
User-submitted content can be a great addition to your marketing efforts. But not all instances of UGC have the potential to serve your brand.
When it comes to UGC best practices, you must ensure that the content you repost on your distribution channels aligns with your brand's values. After all, research shows that 82% of buyers make purchasing decisions with purpose in mind. Moreover, 55% of consumers say they're much more likely to support brands that share their values.
With this in mind, do your best to identify instances of UGC that highlight your company's purpose.
For example, if you check out the Aura homepage, you'll see that it features a review that points out the impact the brand's community posts have had on the user's success with running an Amazon business.
Or, if you look at Dr. Bronner's Instagram feed, you'll see that the brand regularly re-posts UGC discussing natural cleaning hacks, seeing that the business is centered entirely around the idea of eco-friendly, pure castile soap products.
There you have it, the user-generated content best practices to incorporate in your marketing strategies. As you can see, employing user-generated content doesn't necessarily have to be difficult. However, it does require you to know what you're trying to achieve, be proactive about sourcing, and be selective about choosing what posts to re-share and which to leave behind.And, of course, as you start playing around with user-submitted images, videos, and reviews, don't forget to always ask for permission before re-posting and double-check whether you've tagged the creator. Because that's just plain common courtesy (and an opportunity to communicate that your brand is user-oriented, not a self-centered organization only trying to make more profits).