By Ideas Collide
Ever have that moment where you’re so excited about a new product you found or incredible service you received, and you’re buzzing to tell everyone you know? While that used to mean mentioning it to a few friends over lunch, today the number of people you can reach is limited only by your number of followers. For an influencer, that number can be in the tens of thousands — or more.
And while influencer partnerships and campaigns have great benefits, they can also be expensive and more suited for bigger goals and initiatives. User-generated content, commonly know as UGC, is a great alternative and way to get organic, trustworthy content surrounding your product without the hefty fees.
So get it on your feed.
Just what is considered UGC? At its simplest, UGC is modern day word-of-mouth marketing, such as someone showing and/or talking about your product or service online: a mother gushing about a moment where her daughter’s daycare team went above and beyond; a grad student remarking how they’d never get by without XYZ coffee; your niece sharing Instagram stories of her besties at a new local hangout. The common denominator, though, is that it’s organic. No one’s paying them to do this and it’s not sponsored.
In other words, your brand now has access to content it didn’t have to pay for or use company resources/time to make. Awesome! Let’s download it and start getting that sweet, sweet UGC on the feed ASAP — right?
Not so fast.
Just because it didn’t cost you anything doesn’t mean you can use it for free. Even if someone tagged you in their post, it’s crucial to build trust with the person creating content on your behalf. For starters, if you don’t, it can have severe consequences in brand perception (like when Crocs used an image of a child without the parent’s permission). If that’s not enough incentive, it’s also your legal responsibility.
No matter how you plan to use someone’s content, make sure you always ask them for permission. Not only does it keep your brand standards and safety top of mind, but it’s a great way to establish and build a trusting relationship. This can be done through a simple comment or direct message, and we recommend being specific about your intentions. Some users may be fine with reposting on social media, but opposed to it being used for other digital media. Alternatively, they might ask you for compensation, and you might decide not to move forward — but you always need to ask first.
So you got permission to use an incredible piece of content created by a follower. Now what?
When incorporating UGC into your social media strategy, it’s important to consider not only what platform is best suited for that particular type of post, but also where the majority of your audience will see it. Getting this right can pay big dividends for your brand: The 2021 Sprout Social Index, Edition XVII: Accelerate found 86% of consumers look to the brand they follow on social media over a competitor. A Sprout Social puts it, “Thoughtfully selecting a network and crafting a social environment to not only deliver content, but to meaningfully engage with your customers there, helps you stand out from the competition and nurture long-term relationships.”
Think first about what format the UGC is in. Video works well on platforms like Facebook and YouTube. Twitter can be useful for sharing images. And TikTok is, of course, taking off with younger demos and short-form video. Instagram, though, is the pinnacle platform for UGC as it supports multiple content options; from photos to videos to Stories and Reels, it’s easy to collect and share UGC there.
But what if the type of UGC you want can’t be found?
As the old saying goes, “If you build it, they will come.” Or, in this case, if you create a hashtag, they may use it.
The premium example is Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign which started in Australia before expanding worldwide. It fostered more than 600,000 uses of the hashtag on Instagram alone, and helped the legacy brand transition its target audience from baby boomers to millennials. Another example is our very own client Best Western® Hotels & Resorts’ #BWsmiles, which guests can use to share their remarkable experiences at the company’s locations worldwide.
If you create a hashtag encouraging brand advocates to share UGC — with the near guarantee it’ll get their profile in front of you, the brand — it can be a strong incentive for them to create shareable content. Plus, it helps them understand what type of UGC you want. A recent Offerpop survey states 80% of customers want brands to tell them what types of content to create and share, but only 16% actually do so.
"Give the people what they want, by telling them what you want."
If you want to quickly bulk up your brand hashtag, try running a corresponding contest. Even better? Structure it so entries require buying one of your products in the first place, like Starbucks’ #RedCupContest.
But it takes more than asking people to use your brand hashtag, you also need to interact and engage with posts that use it – whether you plan to reuse it or no – to begin building trust and a community around it. Additionally, you can source content through tagged photos, searching your brand name as a keyword and hashtag.
Whether you want your hashtag for a single promotion or as an evergreen method for brand advocates to pledge their love (kidding, mostly), this strategy can provide ample content with limited effort.
Maybe it’s all well and good that UGC means authentic, quality content at your fingertips without your brand doing the heavy lifting. But perhaps this process of using UGC sounds like it would overwhelm your resources. We get that. After all, you’re looking at sifting through your brand’s existing UGC, finding the diamonds in the rough, getting permission to use the content, outlining the best way to use it and where, developing a catchy hashtag to start collecting more of what you like — and finally, rinse and repeat. It can be enough to make your head spin.
You don’t have to go it alone. At Ideas Collide, we’ve successfully developed UGC campaigns and incorporated UGC into overarching social media strategies for clients big and small. One great example is our recent “Find the Golden Lid” campaign for Fresh Cravings, America’s #1 family-owned salsa brand. The treasure hunt campaign drove Fresh Cravings customers to Walmart to find the limited-time, golden lid hummus packaging. This campaign brought in over 600 quality UGC images. Fresh Cravings loved this concept so much that it’s reprising it again for the second straight year, this time with salsa products. (Coming Soon: Check out our case study to learn how this campaign left Fresh Cravings coming back for seconds — and thirds!)
We can help you, too. Our team of digital marketing experts is eager to help you incorporate UGC into your social media strategy, so you can reap the benefits of the brand advocates you already have. Drop us a line today, and see how we can be an extension of your own team.