The success of any user-generated, content-related project should be judged in the long term. Try not to use it as a one-off campaign activation idea. Think of it instead as the beginning or continuation of an ongoing dialogue with your consumers.” – Damian Thompson

You’ve probably heard the term ‘user-generated content’ (UGC) thrown around a lot over the past few years. UGC is a form of content like video, blogs, digital image, audio file, and others, created by customers on publicly accessible platforms like social media, forums and websites.

Not just another shiny object, UGC marketing is currently one of the hottest trends in content marketing. Digital advertising based on user-generated content receives 4 times higher click-through rates and a 50% drop in cost-per-click compared to average advertising.

If you’re looking to grow your business with an effective user-generated content marketing strategy, however, you need to make the effort to understand the process. The name itself should be a hint to you that it’s not about you and your brand—it’s about giving power to the people.

User-Generated Content, In the Beginning

User-generated content marketing began in the year 2005.

In the beginning, it was hugely compelling for users who were able to upload all of the details of their experience with a product or service and seamlessly and immediately distribute their content on Facebook. The quick broadcast content, just like text, video, and audio, started working as viral content among the users. At its core, UGC marketing is an organic content production and promotion process. While it happens easily on social media, you need to do proper SEO of your blog to get the user-generated strategy right. But many brands tried to hire influencers to promote their brand image, and that did not always evoke the true brand experience among users. Naturally active posts about a brand could not make it popular.

Only a real experience with a brand can create an impact on the customers. So brands started crafting the user-generated content marketing strategy in a way that regained trust.

This strategy is the most beneficial when the customer finds transparency with UGC. It’s not always the real promotional chemistry that attracts customers. A true transparency of opinion, plus high quality in the service of the product, creates the right vibe.

Big brands like Amazon or Netflix combine all these efforts in permitting customer reviews, once the service is experienced by users. According to A. C. Nielsen, online consumer reviews are the most significant source for generating potential customer credibility about the product or the service.

Twenty-five percent of search results for the world’s top 20 largest brands are links to user generated content and thirty-four percent of bloggers post opinions about products and brands.” – Erik Qualman

Content marketing and brand communication experts are searching for social influencers who are powerful enough to draw millions of consumers’ attention with their expertise on brand quality analysis. After all, content marketing is not only about the content itself—it requires real communication too. In today’s world, it’s a two-way communication between brand and consumer that works.

Diving Deeper into the Customer’s Mind

Here are some questions you can start asking yourself when it comes to UGC:

  • Do you want your UGC to inform the people, or entertain them?
  • What is the media your customers like most?
  • And why do you want to create content for your customers?

Focus on Quality of Content to Engage Customers

When you begin to apply UGC, you should never compromise with the quality of the information. The best way to go is to walk a mile in the customers’ shoes and try to understand their experience first.

Always try to showcase the brand’s pros and cons. This always helps brand image, but you will have to be tactical when showcasing the cons, of course. To ensure that the cons don’t impact your buyer’s decision, the best thing to do is let the data do the talking. This will prove the integrity of your service and your brand, and give the potential customer the best information to make their own decisions. Often, the strong dose of integrity that comes with being totally transparent is worth it.

Let the Customer be the Hero of Your Brand Story

Integrating UGC with your social media improves communication with potential customers. Even viral content is beneficial and helps spread the word. When you start by making your customer the hero, you have to take all available channels under consideration. As most of us know, different social media have different strengths and weaknesses. Plan accordingly. For example, using the right hashtag or visual will be essential to building the brand personality, depending on the platform.

Make the customer the hero of your story” – Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs

No UGC marketing strategy will work if you don’t have a fully functional website capable of executing your strategy with ruthless consistency, so work with expert website designers and content marketing strategists to guarantee success.

The Takeaway

Remember that user-generated content will be the fun part of your marketing strategy! By making your customer the hero, they will not only enjoy their engagement with your brand but they’ll buy more of your products. But always be authentic! If a customer thinks you’re trying to manipulate them or trick them into engaging with you, they’ll drop you, and probably tell five or six of their friends about. And you know what? If you didn’t take the right steps regarding transparency and UGC, you might deserve it.

If you’re looking for more tips on the power of UGC or how to make it part of your content marketing strategy, check out this amazing infographic.