How Brands Are Using User Generated Content to Drive Sales — And How You Can Too
If you’ve been reading our blog for any length of time you know we’re big on two things — content creation, and genuine interactions with your customers. We’re big on these things because we know the time and effort it takes to do them both well. Thankfully, for brands looking to keep their marketing efforts lean without sacrificing the quality of their content and customer engagement, there’s UGC. UGC, or user-generated content, is content that promotes a brand that was created by an end user and not the brand itself. UGC is an extremely powerful way to build trust among prospective customers and drive conversions. In fact, consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic compared to content created by brands.
Think of the Coca Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign. You’ve probably seen those personalized Coke bottles staring out at you on store shelves. Branded with your name on it like it was created just for you. This was Coke’s way of generating UGC — and damn did it work. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at #shareacoke for a campaign that launched 5 years ago, it’s still getting UGC fed to it daily.
But how can you use UGC to drive sales, and how can you foster the creation of UGC amongst your customers? As always, the expert marketers at GenM are here to help guide you through the process, starting with real-world examples of how others are using UGC to generate conversions and measures you can begin implementing today to start getting UGC of your own.
How to Use UGC
Try as you might to put out content that makes your brand seem genuine, the unfortunate reality is that content coming directly from brands will always have a hint of disingenuousness to them. Your customers aren’t dumb and they can see right through a post trying to get them to buy something. That’s where UGC in its most basic form can play a big role in making your social feeds seem authentic and demonstrate social proof.
Take a look at how BMW does UGC. Rather than just fill up their Instagram with perfectly edited, meticulously crafted photos of their cars, they created the hashtag #BMWrepost, which encourages their customers to share pictures of their product out in the wild. They then curate the best photos and repost them on their Instagram. The result is an Instagram feed that has a dash of authenticity splashed in amongst their promotional content, compelling users to make a purchase and live the lifestyle portrayed in the UGC.
In life, and in business, building trust takes time and is hard to get back once it’s lost. If you’re like me, you’ve been burned by companies in the past who portray their product one way in photos only to have the reality be drastically different once you’ve already made a purchase. UGC can be a great way of eliminating any hesitation in the mind of the consumer that your product might not be as advertised. By having users post their own content of them using your product, your potential customers can be sure that what they see is what they get.
Airbnb has had its fair share of horror stories posted online about their service. In an attempt to mitigate this, their Instagram is full of UGC from guests taken during their Airbnb stay. By having content directly from guests, potential customers can see firsthand how others are satisfied from using their product and will be more inclined to use their service in the future.
For many, purchasing a product online without being able to try it out firsthand is a tough sell. Many customers want to be able to feel a product, try it on, or test it out themselves before they make a purchase. UGC can help a potential customer visualize what their experience would be using a product by seeing someone else use that product.
Zenni Optical tries to overcome the friction of purchasing glasses online by showcasing users using particular frames right on the product page. It helps potential customers get an idea of the size, shape, color, etc. of the frame before they buy it themselves.
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How to Foster UGC
Start a hashtag
You’ve probably noticed a theme around all these examples so far — hashtags. Hashtags are not only a great way of encouraging users to share their content with the world, but they’re also a perfect way for you to find all your UGC in one convenient place. By creating a hashtag you will inform your customers that they should be creating and sharing UGC and will give it a home where you can pick through, curate, and repost the best content.
A perfect example of this is #wayfairathome. Furniture company Wayfair encourages UGC through their hashtag, allowing potential customers to see their products in the homes of real people, and in turn, Wayfair is able to find great content to share themselves.
Give early access
Got a new product or a new feature for an existing product? Trying giving an influencer early access. If you can identify an influencer in your niche (and you should be able to after reading our article on the subject) they will most likely be eager to get their hands on it and you can strike up a deal (or let them do it organically) to create content reviewing and ultimately promoting your product. 87% of consumers still trust reviews and recommendations from family and friends who received a free brand experience, and 71% still trust influencers who have received a free product.
Reward your top contributors
In the same vein as pushing out new products to influencers, keeping your top contributors happy is a great way to keep them posting and encourage others to do the same. Once you have a bit of traction with users creating UGC, try sending some freebies to those who are contributing regularly. It will increase their loyalty to your brand, and ensure they continue creating UGC for you.
Not getting enough UGC? A little incentive can go a long way. Holding a contest or giving out a small freebie or coupon code to those who share UGC can really jumpstart a cold hashtag, revive a dying campaign, or get the word out there about your brand in the first place.
Take the Starbucks Red Cup Contest for example. They encouraged posts to their hashtag by offering a $500 coupon to 9 customers who shared their photos of Starbucks iconic red holiday cup in the wild.
Be authentic yourself
If you want your fans to share authentic content, you have to be authentic yourself. These people took the time to create UGC for your brand, be sure to give them a like, or drop a comment or personal message letting them know you appreciate the effort they put in. It will make them feel good about what they did and show others that they will be recognized if they contribute themselves.
UGC is a great way to generate social proof, build trust, and fill up a content calendar. 92% of consumers trust word of mouth more than any kind of advertising. That UGC can then be used in turn to drive sales. It’s not always easy getting your customers engaged enough to create UGC but with the right strategy and maybe a little incentive, you will have the content flowing in no time.