Digital marketing

What is user-generated content and why should you care?

- September 10, 2021 6 MIN READ
user-generated content

As one of the most important aspects of marketing, user-generated content or UGC refers to content created by a person who is not the official representative of your business. Depending on the type, it may be a social media update, a review, a video, a podcast, or any other kind. If your brand is involved but no employees or affiliates created it, it’s user-generated content, writes digital marketing expert Adam Stewart.

User-generated content explained

Consider this scenario, you’re having an adventurous weekend in a nice hotel. As you share pictures of your stay there with your Facebook friends and Instagram followers, you also tag and geotag the hotel to show what a cool place it is. Those photos are great examples of user-generated content. Suppose that a hotel finds your content on social media, contacts you, and asks if they can share your photos on their corporate channels. As part of their marketing strategy, that brand is utilising user-generated content.

Since social networks and customer review sites were first developed, user-generated content has been around. Several brands began paying attention to visual UGC as early as 2005, when social networks became mainstream, realising its tremendous potential as a source of social proof and an engaging audience. 

Types of user-generated content

User-generated content can range from blog comments and product reviews to high-quality images and videos created by users. In general, it can be divided into two groups: visual, and customer reviews or ratings.

Visual User-generated Content 

Images and videos that are colourful and appealing to consumers are essential for buyers when they shop online. People invest a great deal of time looking at visuals or videos to see if a product they are considering is something they would want to use, such as a pair of shoes or an experience, such as a restaurant or hotel. Younger generations tend to make purchasing decisions primarily from images and videos. In fact, 53%of Gen Z and 49% of Millennials have this perception.

Visual UGC can come from 3 main groups of people:

Customers – some of the best UGC your brand will ever get comes from your customers or those who post images of your product online. By highlighting posts from real people using your product in real life, you can offer shoppers inspiration and help influence their buying decisions.

Advocates – these people have great passion and excitement for your brand, are highly engaged and enthusiastic about it, and may even be active members of your brand community or loyal repeat customers. Oftentimes, since advocates are deeply passionate about a brand, you can directly request that they create specific UGC around campaigns and products.

Employees – UGC can also come from those representing your brand on a daily basis. Employee generated content, or EGC, is a form of content that is created by employees. It gives a glimpse into the culture of your business. Furthermore, your audience will gain a unique, compelling, and expert perspective of your business.

Customer Reviews and Ratings

Since the late 1990s, sites like Amazon, Tripadvisor, and Yelp have allowed customers to post publicly reviewed products or services. Even if it is not as visually appealing as visual content, user-generated content in the form of customer ratings and reviews is extremely important. Reviews play a significant role in online shopping decisions for more than 88% of customers. Customers’ reviews and product ratings add to the confidence of prospective customers before they decide to purchase, which helps to further build brand loyalty and your business’ reputation.

The impact of user-generated content on branding

UGC was initially treated cautiously by businesses and for good reason. For a while, it was difficult to justify exchanging professional-looking content for unpolished consumer content. But now that phones have developed exponentially better cameras and social networks have made UGC easy to access, brands can no longer turn their back on it.

Content creation has shifted to the fingertips of everyday people. Approximately 350 million photos and 95 million videos are uploaded to Facebook every day, while over 500 million tweets are shared on Twitter. 

Let’s get into more details as to why user-generated content has become marketing’s most reliable, memorable, influential, and freely abundant content source. 

Consumers love user-generated content’s authenticity

The average consumer simply connects more with individuals who are similar to themselves or someone they know. It is also impossible to fake the authenticity of UGC. A study found that 70% of people could determine if an image had been created by a brand or a consumer.

Compared to a brand, people are more likely to trust a personal recommendation. Only 15% of consumers said they wanted to see brand-created content more than consumer-generated content.

While marketers invest many hours and dollars into crafting the perfect message and professional imagery they believe consumers want to see. Consumers, however, don’t want perfection, they want real. Consumers are most concerned with authenticity when they are deciding which brands to like and support. UGC has become their most preferred form of authentic content.

It helps build customer trust

Many brands are actively working on gaining trust from their audiences which is one of the most difficult things to do. Consumers tend to trust user-generated content more, it’s authentic, and it allows for more engagement between consumers and businesses. Consumers are able to determine whether an image was created by a consumer or a brand by looking at its origin, and 92% of them trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends, family or peers, more than any other form of content.

UGC has emerged as one of the most influential types of content due to its wide trust, greater recall than other media, and widespread presence in people’s daily lives.

It inspires brand loyalty

When brands leverage readily available natural user-generated content, they engage with their audience rather than talking at them. Therefore, UGC has the potential to strengthen the connection between brands and consumers. By using user-generated content, your brand allows your consumers to feel as if they are participants, instead of mere observers. Also, having more user-generated content in your marketing means higher levels of brand enthusiasm and greater loyalty towards the brand.

It leaves a lasting impression

The marketing world is always struggling to separate itself from the noise and grab the attention of consumers. Despite the best imagery or message, it’s useless if no one remembers it. According to the study, UGC is 35% more memorable than other forms of media, especially among millennials. It clearly confirms that user-generated content is more memorable than traditional advertising in this generation.

UGC impacts consumers and helps improve conversion rates

Brands that use more UGC generate more conversions and the numbers speak for themselves. User-generated content influences the purchasing decisions of 79% of consumers as a powerful source of social proof. Compared to celebrities and social media influencers, only 8% of consumers cite celebrity content as highly influencing their purchasing decisions, thus making user-generated content nine times more influential than social influencers.

UGC is scalable

It is impossible to keep up with so many digital channels and so much demand for fresh content. With all the demands placed on today’s brands to fill their digital platforms with great content, brands are finding it hard to keep up. There is more pressure than ever on marketers to produce more content than ever before, including landing pages, social feeds, digital ads, and billboards. However, those who can keep up with it will see a steady increase in conversions. According to Facebook, advertisers with the fastest growth generate 11 times more creative assets than their competitors.

User-generated content has become ever more important and rapidly growing in quality, quantity and speed. Not only does UGC offer marketing teams an inexpensive source of content, but it is also the way to deliver the personalised, visual experiences consumers want. Consumers generally grant 56% of brands permission to use their image or video in their marketing and 51% say they will more likely engage with and/or purchase from a brand if its social posts are shared in its marketing.

With a robust platform for curating and publishing content, brands can scale up their content initiatives easily and seamlessly by leveraging user-generated content.

UGC is highly cost-effective

The use of user-generated content is not only beneficial but also cost-effective. Rather than hiring teams of creatives to create a limited number of content assets, only to have to start all over again in a month or two, this work can be outsourced to regular employees who are already enthusiastically talking and posting about your brand online.

Brands facing a lack of content can turn to crowdsourced assets for the assets they need, rather than paying professionals and studios. Considering people are already out there creating positive content without asking them or doing it for free, UGC as a marketing strategy is definitely a no-brainer. In addition, by switching most of your online visuals over to UGC, you can drastically reduce the amount you spend on content.

Additional tips on utilising collected UGCs for your brand.

User-generated content is not just a fantastic marketing tool, but also an excellent way to gather information about your customers. If you are looking to improve your social marketing campaigns, spend some time analyzing the UGC your supporters create.

It may surprise you to learn how customers use your products or services in new ways. In some cases, you may find that they like to use your products in combination with another item. Partnering with another brand could be a great opportunity for you.

On the other side, think about the images you expected to see but that fans did not create. Make use of this information for testing your assumptions about the way people feel about your brand and your products.

You may also want to examine the hashtags people use together with your branded hashtag. It’s possible that you’ll discover some emerging hashtag communities that you hadn’t seen before.

Lastly, check out how people use language when they create user-generated content. How do they describe your products and services? You may discover innovative ways of thinking about your brand that better align with consumer perception.

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