UGC, user generated content, user-generated content, brands, brand ambassadors, advocate, advocates, Influencer marketing, ReadyPulse You probably noticed that sometime in the last year, your social media sites began flooding with pictures of friends and acquaintances posing with personalized cans and bottles of the world’s most famous beverage – Coca Cola. Last June, Coke rolled out its “Share a Coke” campaign, which featured names like Adam and Melissa to colloquialisms like “Bro” and “BFF”, and customers were hooked. As a result, Coke saw a 2 percent jump in sales after introducing the campaign.

The “Share a Coke” campaign is an excellent example of how companies are employing user generated content — basically any content (Tweets, blog posts, Snapchats, etc.) created by customers. Today, businesses must have a strong brand presence on all the channels their customers use, like Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube and an ever-growing list of other social media platforms. Smart brands realize that tapping into the content their customers are creating on these very sites is a great way to gain brand exposure and ramp up their own marketing efforts.

Here are three big reasons brands should embrace user-generated content in their marketing strategies.

It’s Abundant

The beautiful thing about user-generated content is that customers provide a nearly endless stream of content that brands can use in their own marketing efforts. Coke, for instance, reported more than 125,000 social media posts mentioning “Share a Coke” in the first six weeks of launching the campaign. With more and more channels demanding the attention of digital marketers, it just makes sense to take advantage of what’s already out there with respect to your brand.

Plus, customers are eager to provide user generated content, so take them up on it! Millennials in particular are itching to make their voices heard — according to a study by Bazaar Voice, 64 percent of Millennials feel strongly that companies should provide more ways for them to share their opinions online.

It’s Authentic

Scroll down any social media newsfeed and you’ll notice a huge amount of stock photography and images.. While stock content has its merits, brands have become so reliant on staged photos of a happy, collaborative group or a frustrated businessman at his desk or women laughing alone with salad that the images don’t really communicate anything. They’ve become meaningless space fillers for brands that need a quick image fix.

User generated content, on the other hand, is naturally authentic because it’s being produced by real people in real situations. There’s nothing better than having a strong recommendation of your product from an actual customer — this is every marketer’s dream. And content straight from your users also builds trust with potential customers. In fact, Bazaar Voice found that 51 percent of Americans trust user-generated content over content on a company’s website or news articles about the company.

It’s Scalable

A brand’s customers (especially high profile influencers) command huge, trusting audiences who are tuned into every word that user says about anything and everything. This built-in audience is what makes user-generated content so easy to scale, because your customers’ social reach is always going to be wider and more diverse than your own. By letting your customers tell your brand’s story through their own user-generated content, you’ll be reaching a far bigger audience than you could by yourself. Their followers will pass on the content to other followers, and the chain reaction of spreading that content is invaluable for your business.

Marketing your brand has never been more challenging than today, when there are so many places that brands must have a presence. But today, there’s also more opportunity than ever to harness the voices of your own users and turn their opinions into powerful, compelling and trustworthy content.