What Is User-Generated Content?
User-generated content, or UGC as the acronym goes, is exactly as it sounds—content, written or otherwise, that your customers (or other members of your audience) create about your brand. It’s often the result of a branded contest or call for submissions, but sometimes, users will create something simply as a result of having a great (or terrible, more on that later) experience with your business.
Why Is User-Generated Content Effective?
User-generated content is effective because it draws on the power of social proof. Because the content is created by independent users who have no inherent loyalty to the company (like employees would, for example), it’s easier for the general public to trust that the message of the content is authentic.
This is usually a good thing. Often, users will share positive experiences, reviews, or other expressions of satisfaction with a brand they want to support. Video content is especially effective here because it combines the authenticity of social proof with the authenticity of video, making a doubly compelling argument for your products or services.
Other times, though, user-generated content is a way for frustrated customers to air their grievances with a company or warn others against buying in the future. Obviously, this is not the type of user-generated content you want! It should go without saying, but before you begin to intentionally encourage user-generated content from your audience, make sure you’re delivering great experiences that you’d be proud for people to share publicly.
How Can I Encourage User-Generated Content?
If you want your audience to share user-generated content, there are a couple of things you can do to encourage them. Here are our top five tips:
1. Check Out What’s Already Out There
Are you sure your audience isn’t already sharing about your brand online? Even if you haven’t explicitly been asking for content submissions, it’s very possible your customers are already talking about you. Do some research to see what’s already out there.
There are many tools that can help you assess what people are saying about your brand. These types of tools are typically referred to as social listening tools, as the process of monitoring the places you’re mentioned online is called social listening. One of the most popular options is HootSuite, which brings everything you’re tracking together into a central dashboard for easy access. Other options include Mention, Agorapulse, and Keyhole. Each platform has slightly different features, but they all offer the benefit of being able to track the ways your brand is being talked about online.
After going through this process, for better or for worse, you’ll have an idea about the sentiment surrounding your brand and what type of content people are creating. For example, if people are sharing written content but not videos, you’ll know that you just need to encourage video as a specific medium. If not much is being shared in general, your task will be more broad in terms of encouraging participation in the first place. If most of the content you find is negative rather than positive, you may need to rethink the experiences you’re giving customers before you ask people to share their perspectives.
Note that if you do find something great that you’d like to reshare, you need to ask for permission from the original content creator. This is critically important. Just because someone mentions your brand in a post doesn’t mean that they consent to it being republished publicly, so make sure to get explicit approval before you use the content for your own branding purposes.
2. Create Experiences Worth Sharing
Next, as you prepare to ask customers to create content about your brand, it’s time to look internally. How can you make your experience more exciting? If you sell a product, could you make the packaging more fun to open to encourage people to want to capture that moment? If you hold events, could you have a stage set up for people to record themselves interacting with your setup?
Get creative here. The key is to take a look at what you’re currently providing in terms of experience, and then add a “wow factor” wherever possible. If you genuinely delight your customers, they’re much more likely to want to share.
3. Reach Out to Your Top Customers
If you need to convince people to start sharing experiences, your top customers are the perfect candidates. They already know and love your brand, and are probably sharing it informally with others already. Consider developing an email segment (if you don’t already have one) of who you consider to be your most loyal customers, and then reach out and ask them if they would be willing to share their experiences.
Note that if you have other content needs, these are the people you’d want to ask. For example, if you’re producing an internal video and need testimonials, you could ask your top customers if they would be willing to participate. Or, if you’re considering starting a brand ambassador program, these individuals are probably perfect for the job. Narrow down these types of opportunities before you start reaching out to make sure that you’re asking for the right content.
4. Offer an Incentive
Many companies offer incentives to consumers who create user-generated content, so you may need to sweeten the deal to get people to want to engage. If you’re open to offering an incentive, there are many directions you could take.
The most common option is to run a contest or promotion. You create some sort of video prompt, ask for submissions, and then treat the winner (or multiple winners) to a perk or prize. This could be a pre-release of a new product, dinner with your CEO, a cash prize—the options are endless. The benefit of this approach is that you can ask for very specific types of content by tailoring the submission guidelines to your exact needs, and you get to choose the prize that makes the most sense for your business. You’ll almost certainly have more content to choose from with this approach than if you didn’t offer an incentive, so many brands go this route.
Alternatively, you could offer different types of incentives that don’t rely on a contest. For example, you could send out a coupon to anyone who posts something about your brand. At the end of the day, people are busy and like to know that they’re getting something in return for their content creation efforts, so anything you can offer to give back is likely to increase your odds of getting great videos.
5. Make an Example Video
Finally, make an example video! Video production doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and some people just need a little inspiration to get them started. If you provide an example of the type of content you’re looking for, you might spark the perfect idea for someone else.
This is also a great way to ensure you actually get the type of content you’re looking for, as viewers are less likely to misinterpret your ask or take the content in an entirely different direction. Allowing people to take creative liberty can be great if you don’t have super specific guidelines in mind, but if your content is going to serve a unique purpose, your best bet is to give an example of exactly what you want.
These five tips should give you everything you need to encourage your customers to generate the perfect content. So get started, wait for the submissions to roll in, and share away!