We've witnessed the social media era where celebrities and influencers showcased their lavish lifestyles in meticulously crafted photoshoots while everyone and their dog Facetuned themselves to perfection. That time has come and gone, and it's now being roundly rejected by social media users worldwide. Aspirational portrayals have fallen out of favour, and authenticity is king.
In a social media landscape dominated by demand for authenticity, user-generated content (UGC) emerges as the ultimate game-changer. But what exactly is UGC? It encompasses a wide range of content, including photos, videos, reviews, testimonials, and social media posts - really anything created by your customers, fans, clients, or users. Simply put, it's any positive content about your brand shared by anyone other than your brand.
Here's why it matters:
It's Relatable, Real, and Relevant
UGC is the real deal. It's authentic, unfiltered, and genuine. Sometimes it's a perfectly curated product shot, but more often than not, it's a selfie snapped with a Starbucks cup. It's not a professional photoshoot - in a lot of ways, its better. When your audience sees content created by fellow consumers, it resonates on a deeper level. It feels relatable because it comes from real people, facing real challenges, and enjoying real benefits from your products or services.
It's the difference between getting a recommendation from a friend and searching for 'restaurants near me' when you're on a trip. Who do you trust more? Google, or your friend? Your friend. Because they know you and your tastes, and they'll give you an honest, unfiltered review. UGC taps into that same psychology, and that's why it works.
UGC is the embodiment of social proof. It tells your audience that others have tried and loved your offerings. This creates a sense of safety and reassurance, making potential customers more likely to take the plunge.
So, now you want UGC. How do you get it, and what do you do with it?
1. Create Shareable Experiences
Creating products, services, or experiences that naturally inspire customers to share sounds like a daunting task, but it's easier than you think. Unique packaging, surprise extras, or exceptional service can all become UGC goldmines.
We've all seen people making enthusiastic unboxing videos and loving the products or being thrilled that a small business took the time to include a handwritten note or an unexpected surprise. Packaging is part of the purchasing experience, and it goes a long way!
If you're more on the experiential side of business, then having the best possible experience is paramount - though a thoughtfully chosen photo op helps too. Think about including a particularly aesthetic spot (with good lighting) at your business or event for that express purpose. Faux greenery walls and murals are both popular options because they create visually appealing images and do double duty as decor. Extra points for including props.
2. Leverage Hashtags: Create and promote branded hashtags that encourage users to share their experiences. This lets you track UGC by simply searching the hashtag and also fosters a sense of community.
You might remember one particularly fantastic example from early in the pandemic when the Getty challenged people to recreate famous works of art with household items. They garnered tens of thousands of submissions using the hashtags #betweenartandquarantine and #tussenkunstenquarataine. #betweenartandquarantine has almost 60 000 submissions on Instagram alone. The museum may have been closed due to Covid, but they kept their brand presence alive and created an amazing sense of community with this UGC campaign.
3. Engage and Share: When users create content about your brand, acknowledge it and engage with them. People get really excited when brands they love respond to them on social media. They'll share their excitement in their group chats with their friends, which spreads brand awareness and may prompt new people to join the fun.
If the UGC being created is aligned with your social media strategy, share their content on your brand's social media channels, giving credit where it's due. Giving credit is good etiquette and will avoid having your comment section filled with people accusing you of content theft.
4. Encourage Reviews: Encourage customers to leave reviews on platforms like Yelp, Google, or Trustpilot. Positive reviews are a potent form of UGC that can boost brand trust. Think about it: if you're going to eat out, you check the reviews. If you're going to try a new service, you check the reviews. Buying something on Amazon? You know you're checking the reviews.
5. Success Stories: Feature user stories on your website or social media! Highlight the journey, challenges, and successes of real customers to inspire trust. This could look like you telling the story of someone your product or service helped, building a case study, or having the person in question tell their story in their own words.
6. Contests and Challenges: Run UGC contests or challenges that incentivize users to create content. This can be a fun way to engage your audience, generate UGC, and raise brand awareness. If you're on the hunt for some contest inspo, check out this article on the 15 Best UGC Campaigns Examples You Can Steal.
UGC - Your Brand's Trustworthy Sidekick
Starbucks relies on UGC for a ton of its short-form video content on Tiktok. Supernatural star Misha Collins used UGC to promote his poetry book, Some Things I Still Can't Tell You. Renowned makeup brand Anastasia Beverly Hills creates a stir every time they start posting UGC because so many people in the makeup community want to be featured. User-generated content is about building genuine connections and fostering trust. If big brands and celebrities are using it as a part of their marketing strategy, you can too.