Top ways brands can obtain quality UGC and connect with influencers and creators
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Remember the old adage that word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising?
Well, social media is officially the new word of mouth. Social media allows consumers to share your brand, and it helps you connect with consumers, build trust, and develop a community.
And, now there’s a way you can leverage the power of digital word of mouth marketing to also produce more impactful content at a reduced cost.
Enter user generated content (UGC).
UGC is exactly what it says on the tin—content created by the users, customers, and fans of your brand.
And UGC is powerful. 72% of consumers believe reviews and testimonials from customers are more credible than the brand talking about its own products, and website visitors spend a whopping 90% more time on a site when UGC is present.
Getting high-quality UGC from people who love your brand can be tricky, but here are some tips on how you can be successful.
What’s so special about user-generated content?
Consumers overwhelmingly trust reviews and testimonials from other customers more than branded content. That’s why UGC is so valuable. It’s authentic content straight from the people who are using your products.
“Its contribution to the trust factor is what makes user generated content extremely valuable for any business,” says Stacey Kane, business development lead at EasyMerchant.
“Even the most basic customer review or testimonial serves as a vote of confidence which is invaluable for brand building, especially for an e-commerce business like ours. Experience and research taught us that customers are more likely to trust and purchase from us if they see others (especially their connections) doing the same.”
User-generated also helps ease the burden on your own content teams. “UGC provides a steady stream of new content for your website with very little effort,” says Ilija Sekulov, digital marketer for Mailbutler.
Kane concurs. “User generated content is also helpful in powering our content calendars because the internal team’s ideas tend to get limited,” she says.
“Some of our website blogs come up based on customer reviews. When one testimonial informed us that guiding the customer to get the order the correct product size for their gutters was a big help, we knew we needed to develop a gutter compatibility chart. The resulting post was one of the most viewed blogs on our site.”
As the cherry on top, UGC is often much more cost-effective than creating your own social media content. It can reduce the cost-per-click (CPC) of social media ads by as much as 50%.
Plus, consumers are often the ones who know your brand the best. Building long-term relationships with these consumers can result in tons of authentic content and expand your brand’s reach.
7 ways to capture UGC for your brand
1. Take advantage of the TikTok Creator Marketplace and Snapchat Creator Marketplace
Some social networks have marketplaces or platforms designed to connect brands with creators. The TikTok Creator Marketplace and Snapchat Creator Marketplace are two of the best examples.
These marketplaces offer several ways of connecting brands and creators, and TikTok expert Jessie Jacobson considers them “absolute game changers.”
"Every brand should be using the TikTok or Snapchat Creator Marketplace for UGC,” she says.
The marketplaces offer two types of campaigns: open application and direct invitation.
- Open application campaign management is where “your brand can create a paid or unpaid campaign that creators can apply to, rather than getting invited. This means the creator wants to try your product and work with you.”
- Direct invitation campaign management is “where your brand uses the creator search bar to create a short-list of creators in your niche, to subsequently send them a direct invite to work with your brand/product for a specific campaign. The direct invitation campaigns expire after 7 days from when the creator is invited, and you can invite 50 creators at a time, with about 3-4 campaigns that can get live weekly.”
These tools, along with powerful search, make it easy to find creators. You can then drill down with analytics on creators and campaigns.
You can also gather data on “things like average views, average shares, average comments, engagement rates, completion rates, follower rates, growth rates, audience demographics on things like gender and age, performance trends, and—believe it or not—a lot more,” says Jacobson.
“There is so much that I love about the TikTok and Snapchat Creator Marketplaces. I've seen a lot of success for brands utilizing these tools. They’re able to create meaningful, sustainable, long-term relationships with creators and obtain incredible pieces of UGC.”
2. Reach out directly to creators you admire
Reach out directly and pitch creators you love. You never know who’s open to new partnerships. To increase your odds (and make the process less nerve-wracking), put together a short pitch deck.
In particular, highlight how the partnership benefits the creator. This becomes more necessary the bigger the creator is. Someone with millions of followers may be receiving constant offers like yours, so make your pitch appealing to them.
This is a common strategy in the consumer tech world. Brands reach out to creators—particularly YouTubers—and offer to send them free products or sponsor a video in exchange for coverage of new products.
For example, smartphone case and accessory maker dbrand has an ongoing partnership with YouTuber Marques Brownlee. The company sponsors his channel, and he frequently includes dbrand products in his videos, though they’re rarely the main focus.
3. Look at who is already organically sharing your content and support them
If you have an established brand, there’s a chance people are already talking about you. Whether they’re posting about your products on social media or faithfully retweeting you, there’s an opportunity for a partnership.
Check your retweets, shares, mentions, and hashtags, and reach out to the people who are talking about you. These folks are already fans and supporters of your brand, so why not look for opportunities to reuse content or partner on future campaigns?
Here’s a fun example where recycling brand Terracycle has an incredible potential opportunity. I recently attended a conference in Salt Lake City where Kristen Bell was the keynote speaker.
Bell talked about how she is huge into recycling and, while she isn’t a brand representative for TerraCycle, she went on and on about how much she loves their company.
Imagine what could happen if TerraCycle knew this, reached out to the conference, and asked for the video footage?
A little UGC from Kristen Bell would probably go a long way on TerraCycle’s website.
4. Leverage creator marketing platforms to match with creators
If you like the idea of the TikTok and Snapchat Creator Marketplaces, but prefer something a little more platform-agnostic, you’re in luck.
There are a number of excellent services that can connect your brand with top creators (like, you know, #paid).
These platforms help centralize your communications and campaigns with creators, so you can find everything in one place.
They also give you insights into performance at every step of your funnel. The best platforms will match your campaign to available creators and pre-qualify them, so you don’t have to wade through hundreds of potential matches.
Another fantastic benefit of these platforms is how fast they make setting up a campaign. It’s not unheard of to be up and running in less than 10-15 minutes, which certainly beats the weeks or months it can take to get a hashtag or other campaign rolling organically.
This is especially useful for smaller brands still building their audience online and may not have the reach for a successful organic campaign.
5. Run a contest for your customers
Contests can be fun, engaging ways to generate UGC while also giving back to your community. Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls, is a fan of this method.
“Brands like Lays, Trivago, and Doritos have successfully driven traffic through contests, prizes, and providing tools that create fans and connection beyond traditional advertising,” says Arnof-Fenn.
“It’s a cost-efficient way to boost your social media presence, improve conversion rates, enhance loyalty, create brand advocates/champions, grow your community, and ultimately build trust when done well.”
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when running a contest to generate UGC. Arnof-Fenn emphasizes, “it must be monitored for quality, accuracy, and tone for best results. While participants should be free to create their content, you also don’t want them eroding your brand image by sending the wrong message.”
Finally, be crystal clear on the kind of content you want and how you want your customers to post it.
Fewer than 20% of brands give clear instructions or guidelines on the type of content they want, making this an easy way to get a leg up. This can be accomplished by providing easy-to-follow instructions for entering the contest. The less ambiguity, the better.
6. Ask your audience directly
Naturally, one of the best (and simplest) ways to get user-generated content from your customers is to ask for it. This seems almost too easy, but it does work. In fact, many brands consider it a core part of their social media marketing strategy, including children’s multivitamin company, Hiya Health.
Co-founder Darren Litt says, “Influencer marketing is a core component of our social media strategy. We play up the features of our product design by posting flattering pictures on Instagram and encouraging our customers to post their own photos, too.”
Post-interaction messaging is an easy way to ask for content. You may already be using this type of messaging by sending thank you emails after a purchase. This is a perfect time to ask customers to share a photo, video, review, or testimonial.
And, as with the contests, be crystal clear on what you want. It might seem demanding on the surface, but in reality, it helps creators know how to contribute to the brand without needing to do any guesswork.
7. Create a hashtag for your brand
Another way to generate large amounts of user-generated content is to create a hashtag for your brand. There are a lot of options here. You can go with something simple and straightforward, or clever and memorable, like Yeti’s #BuiltForTheWild or LuluLemon’s #thesweatlife.
It can be tough to build traction for a hashtag if your brand is small. If you find yourself in this situation, consider adding it to your website or packaging. You can also create an email or other messaging campaign built around getting the word out.
Previously-mentioned Hiya Health has its hashtag, #hiyalife, displayed prominently on its website.
Finally, make sure you have permission from posters to use their content, and always give credit to the original creator.
For example, Yeti credits the original creator of this video, likely giving them a boost in traffic.
While most users accept the request and are happy to have their material used, not everyone does. You don’t want what’s supposed to be a brand- and trust-building strategy to turn into a PR nightmare.
Don’t miss out on the benefits of UGC
The numbers don’t lie—user-generated content is powerful, efficient, and cost-effective. It can also help your customers feel like part of your brand’s family. What’s not to love?
Focus on building long-term relationships and making creators feel like partners. With that mindset, you’ll get a never ending stream of authentic content to help skyrocket your brand awareness.