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Social media is more ubiquitous than ever, with Facebook alone passing the milestone of 2 billion active monthly users, which means it’s critical that successful brands maintain a personable and authentic social presence. Many users, but especially the millennial demographic, are put off by paid content from brands, which they perceive as fake and forced. Being able to connect with brands in an honest and real way turns customers into brand evangelists, and the best way for users to make that connection is through user-generated content (UGC).

User-generated content is any content that a customer produces for a brand. This could be product photos, reviews, or social shares. Many users freely share UGC with brands on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, but many more still will do so with a nudge of encouragement. Here’s how businesses, especially in retail, can take advantage of UGC to drive sales.

How To Encourage The Creation Of UGC

Incentivizing users to create UGC is one of the best ways to receive a lot of customer-created content. Social contests are a great way to encourage customers to post product photos. Setting up a post-purchase email campaign which encourages the buyer to review their purchase will also often result in users leaving a comment or photo, especially when they might receive something in return, such as a coupon or their photo being featured on the brand social media channels.

This tactic can also work in-store. When a customer makes a purchase at a physical location, you can set up your point of sale to ask for the customer’s email and subscribe them to your newsletter. Offer a coupon that can be redeemed on the spot and many customers will offer their email address willingly.

You can also add to an existing YouTube channel or create an entirely new one by featuring user-created video reviews. Entice customers to submit a video review to your website or social channels through contests and promotions. Videos receive priority in Facebook’s algorithms and are more popular than Tweets that have text alone, so cross-posting video content can lead to much higher social engagement. Video reviews can build your brand’s credibility with audiences who want to see real folks just like themselves using your products.

What To Do With UGC Once You Have it

Once you’ve started to build a collection of UGC in the form of photos, reviews, and videos, you should start putting that content out on all your social media channels right away, using hashtags associated with your business and tagging (if possible) the user who created the content. While their content offers your brand authenticity, your platforms can offer users visibility, a tradeoff that’s enticing to many social media users.

UGC can also be featured via product reviews right on product pages. Even the homepage of your website can play host to UGC by featuring a feed of user content from Instagram. Another option is to have a dedicated customer gallery page, although this shouldn’t replace having UGC on product pages where it’s more likely to be seen.

Ultimately, the uses of UGC are limited only by your imagination. Feature it boldly and involve your customers in your brand story, giving them ownership of your brand voice, generating good will towards your brand, and (free promotion?)

Why UGC Is Important

It’s a fair question to ask: why go to all this trouble in the first place? Is UGC really that potent?

The answer is emphatically yes. According to Stackla’s 2017 Consumer Content Report, UGC is critical for brands because:

  • 86% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support
  • More than half (57%) of consumers think that less than half of brands create content that resonates as authentic
  • Consumers are 3x more likely to say content created by a consumer is authentic compared to content created by a brand
  • On average, 60% of consumers say content from friends or family influence their purchases decisions
  • 56% of millennials have decided to eat at a restaurant because of a friend’s post on social media

UGC serves a number of important functions for brands, such as:

  • Building brand trust, loyalty, and recognition
  • Enticing customers to convert by leveraging how highly they value the opinions of family and friends when marking purchase decisions
  • Involving customers in your brand story, helping them feel as if they own a piece of it and personally investing them in seeing your brand succeed

No etail marketing strategy is complete without UGC. In a crowded digital marketplace, UGC sets your brand apart, encourages customers to shop on your brand website instead of through third-party sellers like Amazon, and helps build positive word of mouth that can have a measurable impact on sales. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start building your UGC!


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