The Power of User Generated Content: Turning Customers Into Brand Advocates

What Is User Generated Content?

User generated content is any piece of content that is created and distributed — whether via social media, a blog post, a review site, or another online channel — by people unassociated with the brand being represented.

For example, if you were to take a picture of your Starbucks coffee cup and post the image to Instagram, that would be considered a piece of user generated content.

A quick scroll through any of the major social media networks; Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and you’ll see that these kinds of posts are an everyday occurrence, which is great news for companies! Why? Let’s talk about that.

Why User Generated Content Should Be a Priority

Why is user generated content so valuable to businesses? There are multiple reasons. Some of them are obvious; others less so.

Free Promotion

If you can get your customers talking about your business of their own free will, it’s free promotion for your brand! You don’t have to pay your fans to create user generated content (though you may decide to offer small rewards and incentives to entice them to do so.)

This is the most obvious benefit of USG. In the cut-throat business world we live in, cost-effective (or free!) promotion is always a good thing.

It Builds Trust

User generated content also builds trust between a company and its prospective customers. Let’s say you operate a small, local bakery, selling sweets and pastries. It may be difficult, at least at first, to convince people to come to your store and purchase cookies. Especially since so many other stores sell cookies too.

But what if one of your customers decides to tweet about your bakery and how much she enjoys your cookies? A bunch of her followers might see that glowing testimonial and decide that they’ll give your bakery a try. After all, if other people are trying it, it must be good, right?

We tend to trust the recommendations of others, especially those we know, much more than the advertisements of a brand.

It Builds Community

Finally, user generated content brings companies and their customers together. The fans of your business want to feel engaged with your organization. By encouraging the creation of user generated content, you’ll make your customers feel valued, they’ll become more loyal to your brand, and they’ll tell the friends about your products.

On your end, you’ll get free promotion, gain more customers, and grow your business. It’s a win-win scenario for everyone involved!

5 Steps to Start Using User Generated Content

There’s a lot to love about user generated content, but making it work for your brand takes a bit of effort and planning. Follow the five steps outlined below to build a solid USG strategy and reap the benefits of this marketing approach.

1. Choose Your Channels

The first mistake many businesses make in regards to user generated content is choosing the wrong channel. You need to know where your audience lives online — do they prefer Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube? Know where your customers are and focus on those channels.

Once you’ve done that, you can start to think about what kind of content you want your brand advocates to generate. Each social platform has its own strengths.

Facebook and YouTube are great for videos, Twitter and (of course) Instagram are perfect for images, and LinkedIn can be useful for posting exceptional user generated content for B2B brands.

So, if you don’t already know, find out where your audience spends time online. Then aim your user generated content efforts at those channels.

2. Identify Your Goals

Next, you need to determine what you hope to achieve via a user generated content campaign. Unfortunately, only 27% of companies utilizing USG in their marketing efforts have strategic goals in place.

User generated content can quickly help your brand engage its customers, increase conversion rates, build trust, and create more social content without spending unhealthy amounts of hours locked away in the office.

The goals you choose for your company are completely up to you. The key is to simply determine what those goals are and gear all of your user generated content efforts to achieve them.

3. Set Specific Content Parameters

You need to tell your audience that you’d love for them to engage with your brand and craft social posts about the way they use your products or how your products make them feel. More than that, you need to tell them the kind of content you’d like them to produce.

What kind of user generated content are you looking for? By combining the channels your audience uses and the goals you’ve identified, you should be able to come up with specific content parameters with relative ease.

For example, if your audience tends to use Facebook the most and your top goal is to build trust with prospects, asking your current customers to create videos of themselves explaining why they love your products is a great idea.

If you happen to be running a specific user generated content marketing campaign, you also need to be crystal clear about what’s considered acceptable content, how customers should submit their posts, and any prizes you plan to offer.

For instance, perhaps you run an information product business and plan to give away your flagship course to one lucky winner. Participants need to know exactly how to enter the competition. What kind of content do they need to submit, should they tag your brand on social media or simply use a specific hashtag, and when is the submission deadline?

Answer these questions for your audience as clearly as possible.

4. Reward Customers for Their Submissions

One of the amazing benefits of user generated content is the community it can build between your brand and its customers. The more you can engage them, the better. One of the best ways to build engagement is to reward folks for posting about your company.

This doesn’t always need to be a large cash prize or one of your flagship products. In fact, you may never offer a reward of this magnitude. If you ever do, it will likely be a rare occurrence. But perhaps you could send coupon codes or company swag instead from time to time.

Even a simple repost will be appreciated by your audience. They’ll feel valued when you recognize them in this way. Plus, it gives you more content to post to your social feeds as well!

Now, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the main “rule” when reposting other people’s content: get permission. The social network you’re using will determine the extent to which you need to follow this rule. Retweeting on Twitter, for example, doesn’t require permission.

But when reposting images and videos on other social sites, we recommend getting creator approval first. Most people, especially if they’re normal users and customers, won’t require any payment. They’ll probably just be excited that you want to use their work.

Professional photographers and other influencers, though, may require some sort of fee. That’s why it’s always a good idea to get permission before reposting anything — even if you plan to give credit in the description.

5. Optimize Your User Generated Content Campaigns

The final piece of the puzzle is optimization. All of your user generated content efforts should be monitored and measured. How else can you expect to improve your results? Answer: you can’t.

So pay attention to the analytics. What’s working and what isn’t? Which campaigns did exceptionally well? Why do you think this is? If you’re not able to glean this information from the analytics platforms included with each social media network, you may need to invest in a third-party social media tool. There’s plenty of them out there.

Make User Generated Content Work for Your Company

User generated content is an important component of modern marketing. It can help your business acquire free publicity, build trust, and maintain a healthy stream of social posts. It may take considerable effort, especially at first, but it’s definitely worth it!

To make your user generated content efforts easier and potentially improve your chances of using this tactic successfully, we recommend using CleanPix.

Our digital asset management tool is a great way to store and organize the photos your customers create. One of our newest features, tiered sub-accounts, will even allow your fans to upload their content directly to your company’s CleanPix account.

The process is incredibly simple and secure. To learn more about this unique feature, contact our team today!

– Jacob Thomas

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