Wish your posts were more engaging? Wondering how to take advantage of the content from your biggest fans?
In this article, you'll learn where to find user-generated content (UGC) and how to share it effectively. You'll also find out how UGC can benefit your business and discover why it's so important to source and publish this type of content in the right way.
Why Use User-Generated Content?
UGC is essentially the opposite of branded content. Whether it features images, videos, or text, UGC always comes from people who aren't affiliated with your company such as customers, social media followers, or even influencers.
You can source this type of content on almost any social channel. Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are some of the most popular channels for UGC but you can also find it on Facebook and Twitter. With permission from the original creator, you can share UGC on your social channels or website.
For example, this @insomniacookies Facebook post shares a fan-made photo of the brand's cookie milkshakes. Using UGC allows the brand to promote an exclusive in-store offering and generate engagement with fun, authentic content that doesn't look like an ad.
UGC may sound pretty simple but the benefits it provides are more impressive than you might think. If you aren't convinced to start sharing UGC yet, take a look at these perks.
Be More Authentic
Do you sense that the social media content you publish isn't really resonating with your audience? You're probably right. Even if you create lifestyle content that has a homemade aesthetic, most consumers can still tell that it's branded, prompting a lukewarm response.
UGC is the ideal counterpart to branded content. Because UGC comes from people just like your customers and social media followers, they naturally consider it more authentic.
Build Trust and Credibility
UGC can generate more likes and comments, but for most businesses, the benefits go beyond an engagement boost. Sharing consumer-created content can also improve your business' credibility and make it appear more trustworthy.
That's because customers tend to view UGC much like they do reviews. Many consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from people they know personally. As a result, great UGC can help your business build a more credible image.
This @DaiyaFoods tweet features a video of the brand's plant-based products in action. The UGC acts as a sort of endorsement, which can increase consumers' trust in the brand.
Connect With Customers
Sharing UGC gives you a unique opportunity to connect with the people who created it. By republishing consumer-created content, you can put your biggest fans in the spotlight and forge more meaningful relationships with them. Because UGC doesn't require a production budget, your team can publish it without added expense or significant resources.
For example, this @CholulaHotSauce tweet features UGC from Plan Burrito, a popular restaurant. Reposting this photo allows the brand to drive engagement on Twitter while reinforcing a relationship with the original creator.
Now that you know how consumer-created content can boost your business, here's how you can incorporate it into your social media strategy so you can realize those benefits.
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#1: 4 Ways to Use UGC
Start by identifying what your business wants to get from using UGC. Do you want to improve engagement, drive sales, increase loyalty, or achieve another goal? Use the ideas below to fuel your creative process.
Feature Your Products
As organic reach continues to drop, getting social media followers to engage with organic content isn't always easy. If your branded content isn't meeting engagement goals, leveraging the authenticity of UGC can be a smart move. High-quality UGC can add new energy to your brand's feed while giving your team new opportunities to ask questions and encourage comments.
In the Instagram post below, @followyourheart shares a reel that features several of the brand's products. The caption prompts followers to comment with their own favorite product, resulting in a lot of positive engagement and brand reinforcement.
Show Consumers How to Do Something
Do your products or services have a bit of a learning curve? UGC is great for showing social media followers how to use products and services successfully. As a result, you can encourage customers to get more value from their purchase.
In this context, UGC can be much more convincing than branded content. That can have the added effect of driving sales, creating a win-win situation for your business and your customers.
For example, this @hotforfood Instagram post shares a series of meals that fans made using the brand's cookbook. The photos reinforce the quality of the recipes and provide proof that the cookbook actually works—and customers can use it to make delicious meals.
Give a Shout-Out to Fans
Getting customers to make their first purchase is a big win. But encouraging them to purchase more or to buy repeatedly is a major accomplishment.
Building a strong community around your business can be incredibly beneficial for loyalty and retention. With a thoughtful UGC campaign, your brand can help that community thrive and develop a life of its own.
For example, this @GoPro YouTube video showcases some of the brand's most experienced users. The creators featured in the video have won GoPro Awards, which include monetary prizes and branded equipment. The concept encourages continued loyalty to the brand while giving the winning creators both exposure and tangible rewards.
Share Styling Ideas
Would a little style inspiration help your followers make a purchase or resolve a difficult buying decision? Fashion, beauty, and even home décor brands often use UGC to share styling ideas and demonstrate the versatility of their products.
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In the Facebook post below, @Fabletics shows followers how to pair the brand's separates, complete with a splash of seasonal inspiration. The link in the caption leads to the brand's eCommerce store, enabling customers to start shopping instantly.
#2: Source UGC to Share on Social Media
Finding UGC for your brand can be incredibly easy. In many cases, it doesn't have to cost anything. Here are some ways to source consumer-created content.
Check Your Social Media Mentions
First, review your mentions on social channels like Instagram and Facebook. If you're lucky, you'll find a slew of lifestyle photos and product reviews that mention your brand or products.
Search Branded Hashtags
If you rely on mentions alone, you'll miss a lot of shareworthy UGC. To collect even more fan-made content, search your branded hashtags on channels like TikTok and Twitter. Remember to search for your official hashtags along with alternate versions and misspellings.
Although happy customers and loyal fans often share unsolicited UGC, you can always invite them to create content featuring your brand. Ask them to include your hashtag in the caption so you can find it easily, no matter what social channel they use.
Create a Campaign Hashtag
Keep in mind you aren't limited to using branded hashtags only. Are you planning a seasonal promotion or a new marketing campaign? Create a unique hashtag that customers can use to participate and share relevant UGC.
To find UGC with your campaign hashtag, type it into the search bar of any social media app. Alternatively, use a third-party tool for social media listening or brand monitoring. Most third-party tools require a paid plan, but in exchange for a monthly subscription, you can streamline UGC collection.
Run a Contest With a Prize
In some cases, customers need no prompting to create UGC that features your brand. But in other cases, you may need to incentivize creators—especially if you need a specific topic or want to increase UGC drastically.
In that case, consider running a contest with a prize like free products and services or a monetary award. Not only can a giveaway reward creators for their time, but it can also increase exposure and generate more interest—often resulting in more UGC.
A giveaway doesn't necessarily have to be big or overly expensive. For example, you might send a customer an array of free products and invite them to share their haul on social media.
But if you set ambitious goals for your social media contest, consider increasing the scope of the prize. For example, this @americaneagle TikTok shows the winner of the brand's #AEJeansHaveFun hashtag challenge. The prize? A lifetime of American Eagle jeans, a reward big enough to generate a pretty incredible response from fans.
Thanks to the substantial prize at stake, this TikTok hashtag challenge generated significant interest. According to American Eagle, 740,000 creators submitted 1.3 million videos on TikTok and Twitter, which received 4.4 billion views.
If you plan to run a contest, keep in mind that some social channels have strict rules regarding how businesses can run UGC contests. To ensure that your contest complies, always read the rules carefully.
Because social media captions provide limited space, it's often best to link to a separate landing page with contest guidelines. Below, a @petco TikTok includes a panel with a list of terms for the brand's Halloween contest. The company's website has a dedicated landing page with a full list of official rules.
Pro Tip: To simplify the process of running a contest, it's a good idea to use a contest app that can clarify the rules, help you avoid missing a single entry, and even let you download content and creator details easily.
#3: Share UGC on Your Social Channels
Finding UGC is relatively easy and publishing it can offer tons of benefits. So what's the catch? To avoid generating negative feedback or encountering legal issues, following these best practices is essential.
Ask for Permission to Share
It's easy to share UGC on social media but that doesn't mean you can republish just anyone's photos or videos. The original creator owns the copyright to the content so it's critical to get permission before reposting.
The easiest way to get permission is to comment on the original post, stating that you'd like to share the content. Alternatively, you can send a DM or a private message to request permission.
To clarify exactly what content you want to share, include a link or a screenshot of the post or send it directly via a DM. To increase your chances of getting an affirmative response, consider adding a positive note to your message or explaining exactly how you plan to feature the photo or video.
In some cases, you can also get permission via your campaign hashtag. If you go this route, clarify exactly what creators are agreeing to or what permissions they're granting when they use your brand's hashtag.
For example, this @canva Instagram post highlights winners of the design app's weekly challenge. The brand invites designers to participate by using the #CanvaDesignChallenge hashtag, which has clearly defined terms and permissions. In exchange, winners receive a social media shout-out, a subscription to the app, and a credit for the brand's services.
Give Credit to the Creator
Creating high-quality social media content takes talent, time, and resources. Whether the UGC you publish comes from a new customer, loyal follower, or popular influencer, you should always acknowledge the person who created the original content.
At a minimum, give credit by mentioning the creator in the caption. If the platform you choose has additional tagging capabilities, use them too.
In the Instagram post below, @ommushrooms mentions the creator in the caption and tags them in the image.
Whether you want to reward your most loyal fans, attract new customers, or increase engagement, UGC can help your business achieve impressive goals. With an efficient workflow for finding and sharing content and attention to best practices and platform guidelines, you can make UGC a key component of your digital marketing strategy.
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