In an age ruled by social media and digital marketing, user-generated content (UGC) is a proven, cost-effective, and humanizing tool for businesses to connect with their audience.
At a glance, here’s how UGC can benefit your business:
- Boosts Brand Awareness
- Enhances Engagement
- Builds Trust and Credibility
- Generates Cost-Effective Content
- Provides Valuable Insights
- Creates Authentic Connections
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into these seven key benefits of UGC. You’ll also find some practical tips for how to map out and run your own UGC campaigns.
What Is User-Generated Content?
UGC refers to any content created by users, customers, or fans of a brand. Think of it like this: the goal is to create an engaging venue where voices outside your brand take center stage.
Building a community of shared interests through UGC is a way for you to establish stronger connections with your audience. This messaging can lead to increased loyalty, engagement, and leads — ultimately benefiting your brand’s bottom line.
Basically, UGC is a hands-off marketing approach. This type of content makes people feel less like they’re being sold to and more like they are engaging with a like-minded community. That’s why UGC is often seen as more authentic and trustworthy than traditional brand marketing content.
Common formats of UGC:
- Images and photos on social media
- Videos, Reels, and Stories on social media
- User-generated product demos or tutorials
- User-generated memes or gifs
- Podcasts or audio content
- Live streams or webinars
These are just a few examples of UGC formats. The type of content that works best for your UGC campaign will depend on your audience, goals, and other variables discussed below.
The Benefits of Leveraging UGC
UGC is like having a free marketing team of top-notch social media marketers on your side. Starbucks, GoPro, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, and other top brands all leverage the power of UGC. Not only because it boosts brand awareness, enhances engagement, and generates cost-effective content, but also… well, let’s take a closer look at the many benefits of unleashing your own army of content creators.
1. Boosts Brand Awareness
One of the most significant benefits of UGC is that it helps to increase brand awareness. When other users create content related to your brand and share it on their social media channels or other platforms, it exposes your brand to a wider audience. This UGC can also create a sense of community around your brand, which can help to strengthen both brand loyalty and awareness.
Starbucks’ “White Cup Contest”
Starbucks launched a successful UGC campaign called “White Cup Contest”. Customers were invited to decorate the brand’s white cups and share their designs on social media. The campaign generated over 4,000 submissions in just three weeks and reached over 50 million people. In terms of organic traffic, those are jaw-dropping numbers.
2. Enhances Engagement
The idea here is that users are more likely to interact with a brand using UGC rather than just traditional branded content. This goes back to UGC providing an opportunity for users to express their opinions and connect with other like-minded individuals. If it wasn’t clear yet, you want to foster a sense of community around your brand.
GoPro Stands for UGC
The #GoPro hashtag on Instagram has over 50 million posts. #GoProHero just touched 3 million. Notice how no introduction is required for this action camera behemoth? Highlighting UGC from thrill-seekers using GoPro cameras shows the value of the product in capturing adventures. It also inspires potential customers to purchase and share their own creations.
3. Builds Trust and Credibility
UGC helps build trust and credibility with potential customers. When a user creates content related to your brand, it serves as a testimonial to the quality and value of your products or services. This candid content is perceived as more authentic and trustworthy than branded content as it comes from real people.
TripAdvisor Taps a Billion (Reviews)
TripAdvisor relies heavily on user-generated content. The site features billions of reviews and photos created by users, which help to build trust and credibility with potential travelers. Another instance of people using their voices as a vote of approval (or disapproval) for a brand.
4. Generates Cost-Effective Content
UGC provides a constant stream of organic content that is cheaper to produce. Not only that but organic content is usually seen as more trustworthy than paid ads. This is another significant benefit of UGC. It can help generate cost-effective content for your brand that people actually enjoy, without the expense and time involved in creating high-quality branded content.
#AtTheMoxy by Moxy Hotels
Moxy Hotels’ ongoing Instagram campaign #AtTheMoxy encourages followers to post photos with the branded hashtag for a chance to be featured on the brand’s page, creating a stream of cost-effective UGC. The campaign connects its hotel-stayers with its social media audience, and has generated over 80,000 photos posted so far.
6. Provides Valuable Insights
User-generated content can provide valuable insights into your target audience’s behavior, preferences, and needs. By analyzing the content created by users, you can gain a deeper understanding of what resonates with your audience and tailor your marketing strategy accordingly. You can then repurpose those insights into future UGC marketing campaigns.
Flipping Good UGC at Chipotle
Chipotle’s Lid Flip Challenge on TikTok boosted record-breaking online sales and engaged Gen Z with 111k videos. Insights for future campaigns include targeting this demographic through app and delivery systems and leveraging TikTok’s creative platform. UGC campaigns and social media promotion were successful in driving brand awareness and sales.
7. Creates Authentic Connections
Finally, user-generated content can help to create authentic connections between your brand and your customers. When users create content related to your brand, it creates a sense of ownership and investment in your brand, which can lead to long-term loyalty and advocacy.
Authenticity with Pet-friendly Airbnb
Airbnb’s Instagram feed, featuring beautiful homes offered on its platform, has attracted over 5 million followers. On Facebook, they engage customers with UGC by inviting them to share their experiences, such as the recent “pets in Airbnb” campaign that revealed over 3 million pets visited Airbnbs in the past year.
[Want more user-generated content examples? Get more UGC campaign ideas (and other innovative tactics).]
How to Start a UGC Campaign — 8 Simple Steps
Now that we’ve explored the benefits of user-generated content, let’s discuss some tips for how to launch successful user-generated content campaigns.
- Define Your Goals: Before you launch a UGC campaign, define your goals and what you hope to achieve. Are you looking to increase brand awareness, drive engagement, or generate leads? Knowing your objectives will help you create a UGC campaign that is tailored to your specific goals.
- Monitor Competitor UGC Strategies: Analyze the platforms competitors are using, the type of content they are encouraging, and the level of engagement they are receiving. Use this information to gain insights and inspiration for your own campaign, and to identify gaps in the market that you can fill with your UGC strategy. Don’t copy and paste. Instead, use it to create a unique campaign that differentiates your brand.
- Know Your Audience: Not to state the obvious but too many brands still don’t know their audience. You need to know your target audience — including customer personas — and create a UGC campaign that appeals to them. Use #2 to consider what type of content they are most likely to create and share, and what motivates them to participate.
- Choose the Right Platform: Find out where your target audience is most active and prioritize those social media accounts. Social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok are popular choices for UGC campaigns, but you can also consider creating a dedicated landing page on your website. This is a more personalized and expensive route but one that pays for itself if it drives substantial direct traffic to your website.
- Provide Clear Guidelines: Provide clear guidelines for your UGC campaign, including what type of content you are looking for, any restrictions or rules, and how users can submit their content. Make sure to also include any necessary legal disclaimers or disclosures. You can also use services like TermsFeed to stay in compliance.
- Incentivize Participation: Offering relevant incentives can motivate users to create high-quality UGC and increase engagement. Rewards can be small, such as a social media shoutout, or larger, like a free product or service. Ensure that your incentives align with your brand values and are valuable enough to encourage participation.
- Monitor and Engage: Consistently monitoring your UGC campaign on social media and responding to feedback shows users that their contributions are valued. Sharing UGC on your brand’s channels can help amplify reach and create a sense of community. By engaging with users through comments and shares, you can strengthen your brand’s relationship with your audience and establish a positive brand image.
- Decide Whether to Dedicate Ad Spend: This piece of the UGC puzzle is 100% optional. Once you’ve identified your highest engaged UGC content, consider putting some ad spend behind that content. This can help increase reach and drive even more engagement. A little bit of ad spend tends to go a long way (see: eLoad).
UGC Doesn’t Live in a Vacuum
Try integrating UGC with your current marketing strategies. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here and you can get really creative with how you make them work together. The reality is that UGC plays nice with all kinds of different digital content marketing strategies.
Take traditional paid ad campaigns, for example. UGC can be a powerful complement for humanizing a brand’s paid ads. It provides an authentic, relatable element that paid ads often lack. Keep in mind you can also use UGC as sponsored content!
Another effective approach is to combine an influencer marketing campaign with a user-generated content campaign. By partnering with a trusted voice in the industry or a recognizable celebrity, brands can encourage participation in UGC campaigns and boost engagement. For instance, Chipotle tied its Lid Flip Challenge to David Dobrik’s debut YouTube channel. He grew to fame on Vine (RIP), is well-known by Gen-Z, and just so happens to be a Chipotle superfan.
These are just two ways UGC can be integrated into existing marketing strategies. Think outside the box to create compelling campaigns that will resonate with your customers
UGC is a customer-centric content strategy. Authenticity is a key factor that customers value and seek, and UGC helps businesses leverage the power of authenticity and trust. This makes UGC an effective means of building relationships with customers and creating a loyal following.
By harnessing the creativity and passion of your customers, you wield a powerful tool that you can use to increase brand recognition, drive engagement, and generate leads.
Get Started on Your UGC Journey Today
Ready to put your own army of content creators to work but not sure where to start? Find the right UGC marketing gurus for your brand on the Credo Platform. They can help you map out and run your own campaigns and leverage the many benefits of this modern-day strategy.