People trust customers more than they trust companies. They’re the authentic voice that goes unheard coming from a corporate mouthpiece. We’re long past the Mad-Men era of advertising, when creative hot shots were cooped up in a swanky office crafting the perfect marketing message to clueless yet convinced consumers. People don’t (and won’t) buy it anymore. They want real people telling them about their experiences with a product or service. In the online era, user-generated content, or UGC, is the best way to bring that authenticity to customers.

User-generated content sees a company taking the photo, video, or blog content that its customers are creating and using it as part of its marketing efforts. If you’re not using user generated content, you’re missing the opportunity to amplify your marketing efforts and reach a more engaged and trusting audience.

According to data from users of content marketing platform Yotpo, ads that use user-generated content get four times more click-through and have a 50 percent drop in cost-per-click compared to those that don’t. Add to that the 92 percent of consumers who trust UGC more than they trust traditional advertising, and you’d be remiss not to start using user-generated content.

In this article, I’ll go through:

  • Different types of user-generated content
  • Benefits of user generated content
  • Examples of user-generated content in practice.

Types of user-generated content

User-generated content comes in many different forms. The right type of UGC for your company will depend on the product or service on offer, and the platform being used to promote it.

Photos

Photos are one of the most popular and sought-after types of user-generated content to leverage. Instagram is the platform for photo sharing, and it’s one of best places to find photos from real people using a product. It’s become even more useful with the trend towards professional photos and fancy filters being used by average users. By encouraging users to tag your brand, location, and use hashtags, you’ll be able to find great photos to use in your campaigns.

Videos

Video reviews and vlogs are another great source of UGC. Effective videos can range anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. YouTube is the go-to platform for video content, but other platforms like Facebook and Instagram are starting to gravitate towards this bite-sized media type. Videos of people using your products, giving demos, or even reviewing your product can be great for social media sharing or as testimonials on your website.

Reviews

User reviews on third-party sites like Amazon, TripAdvisor, and of course, GetApp are a great source for product reviews and testimonials that you can showcase on your website and on social media. They’re also proven to be an invaluable resource for customers. A recent survey from GetApp shows that consumers value reviews above all other factors during the online shopping experience.

Blog posts

Taking UGC one step further, building relationships with your customers can help you create bigger pieces of content. Leveraging popular blogs and working with its publishers to create content around your product based on their experiences is one way to showcase your brand. You can also connect with your loyal brand advocates to create blog posts for your own website, highlighting your customer’s use of your product or service.

The benefits of user-generated content

Aside from being a free source of content, user-generated content has other benefits that help a company build trust in its brand, target the right users, and provide more opportunities for engagement.

Authenticity

UGC brings the authenticity to a brand’s voice that a company’s corporate messaging just can’t match. It’s the voice of real people using a product or service and enjoying it enough to want to share their experiences with it. According to content marketing platform Olapic:

  • 76 percent of consumers find content that’s shared by average people more honest than content created and shared by a company.
  • 47 percent of millenials and 36 percent of baby boomers trust UGC, compared to 25 and 24 percent of millenials and boomers, respectively, who trust company-created content.
  • 27 percent of consumers will look at UGC instead of traditional ads before purchasing a product.

Engagement

Another big benefit of user-generated content is an increase in brand interactivity and the engagement metrics of your content.This engagement reflects itself in shares, views, and even conversions.

  • YouTube videos created by users get 10 times more views than branded content videos.
  • ComScore research shows that brand engagement increases 28 percent when UGC is used in combination with company-created content.
  • According to Shopify, ads based on user-generated content see 4 times higher click-through rates than those that don’t use any UGC.

Influence

User-generated content means getting your content in front of more of the right people. You’re not limiting your audience to only your followers and fans; in contrast, you’re expanding it to the loyal followers of your biggest brand advocates and influencers. These advocates, as trusted sources of info, bring both authenticity, engagement, and conversions to your brand.

  • A study by Experticity shows that 82 percent of consumers are likely to follow a recommendation made by a micro-influencer (influencers who are popular among a specific demographic or audience group).
  • A survey from Nielsen shows that 67 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase a product if a friend or family member shared it on social media.
  • According to report from Social Media Link, 41 percent of consumers only need to see between one and four user reviews before making a purchase.

User-generated content in practice

For all of the different types of user generated content and its benefits, there are just as many ways of leveraging it as part of your marketing and branding efforts. Here are just a few examples.

Hashtag campaigns

Hashtags are a great way to source UGC. Hashtags (represented by the symbol ‘#’) help others find similar content, and creating a unique hashtag for your brand or a specific campaign will encourage users to participate while providing you with a great source of marketing material.

Furniture company Wayfair uses the hashtag #WayfairAtHome to encourage users to show off their interior designs featuring Wayfair products on Instagram. It features the best ones on its own Instagram page while adding a link in its profile encouraging consumers to shop for those specific products.

Wayfair was able to kill two birds with one stone by having both high quality photos for its own use, as well as customer testimonials of people using their products in their own homes.

Content contests

If you’re looking to create a bigger pool of UGC, contests can help get more people buzzing online about your brand. Contests encourage people to create content in exchange for a prize, which is sometimes the extra push that people need to participate. This can be anything from writing reviews for a gift card, to making videos for a cash prize.

This is what GoPro does with its content challenge videos, encouraging GoPro users to upload their best GoPro videos showcasing their adventures and rewarding the best videos in categories like “Back to Basics” or “Anything Awesome” with cash.

GoPro rewards its users for their creative videos, but it also gets to use these videos in its own marketing campaigns, making it a win-win for both consumer and company.

Featured reviews

Collecting reviews for your product or service is never a bad idea. A better idea, however, is using those reviews as UGC. This can be in the form of tweets, Instagram posts, as testimonials on your website, or even featured in your ad campaigns.

Blenders Eyewear leveraged its user reviews and star ratings as part of its Facebook ads, showcasing some of the positive opinions that its users gave about its product.

The results speak for themselves: the company increased its return on ad spend by 62 percent, and decreased cost per click by 40 percent.

Storytelling blog posts

Whether your customers are writing about you or you’re writing about them, blog posts are a way to dive deeper into the details of your customer’s relationships with your brand. Showcasing how a customer uses your product on your blog or having them do a write-up about your product on theirs can give more detail than a simple user review.

Urban Outfitters has a blog called UO style, which interviews some of its fashion-savvy customers about their style inspiration and urban lifestyle.

These fashions influencers then share these features to their own followers, further promoting the UO brand while adding the authenticity of real fashion-forward customers.

Getting started with UGC

Even small brands can make use of their biggest brand advocates and turn their customers’ positive experiences into marketing material. If you’re not already using UGC, now is the time to start. But where to begin?

  • Decide which strategy will work best for your company. Do your customers love Instagram? Are you all over review sites? Do a bit of research to find out where your customers are saying the nicest things about you.
  • Find the customers who are talking about your product online. The platform which you’re planning to leverage most should be the place you go in order to source more customers. Search for existing customers using hashtags, or start your own and see which customers jump on board.
  • Find creative ways to use UGC. Don’t limit yourself to retweeting reviews (although that’s a great place to start).
  • Track your campaigns. You’ll be able to see the benefits of user generated content as it relates directly to your business goals.

The benefits, different types, and various implementations of UGC mean that there’s a strategy for nearly any business looking to make use of its customers public declaration of love of its product or service.

If you’re ready to get started with UGC, check out our catalogue of referral marketing software to get you off on the right foot.