User-generated content as a powerful promotional force.
As a retail or eCommerce business owner, getting through to your customers can be a real challenge.
While once upon a time, targeting consumers with generic sales messaging and throwing out a discount or two would work wonders. Now, growth depends on your ability to connect with your audience on a deeper level.
In addition to creative campaigns and thought-leading content, user-generated content (UGC) will boost your brand authority in a way that builds trust, inspires loyalty, and results in more revenue.
But what is UGC, and how do you use it? Let’s find out.
What is user-generated content (UGC), and why is it important?
UGC is any form of content—from reviews and testimonials to social media content, videos, and beyond—created by your customers.
The majority of UGC is organic (unpaid or sponsored), which is what makes it such a powerful promotional force. If a customer is compelled to create and share a piece of content that shines your brand in a glowing light, they mean it.
We live in an age where customers trust the opinions of their peers over traditional marketing—and the more authentic your content or communications are, the more engagement you will earn.
User-generated content is:
- Authentic and impactful
- Creative and varied
- Growth-, loyalty-, revenue-driving
How to get ahead with the power of user-generated content
Let’s take a look at some impactful ways you can leverage the business-boosting power of user-generated content—starting with a little insight on channels and touchpoints.
Explore your channels
As a modern business owner, it’s likely that you work with a number of channels and touchpoints, including your website, landing pages, social media platforms, and third-party eCommerce platforms.
By searching for relevant hashtags in your niche and looking for any social media-based brand mentions, you’re likely to uncover UGC content you can use to your advantage. If you offer opportunities for customers to share content or leave a review across channels or throughout the user journey, you will give yourself plenty to work with.
Review platforms like Trustpilot or Feefo are magnets for testimonials. Sign up to a review platform that suits your business, and you will connect with a treasure trove of UGC that you can share with your audience and earn the kind of kudos that will grow your business.
Once you connect with brand mentions or UGC content on social media and earn a healthy amount of reviews or testimonials, you can amplify it to your advantage. Here’s how:
- Connect with consumers that have shared UGC via social media publicly to show your appreciation and highlight it further.
- Share & repurpose social media testimonials, images, posts, videos, and brand mentions by adding them to your Instagram Stories, branded blog posts, or marketing emails and creating images with quotes, reviews, and testimonials to post on social media.
- Publish reviews and testimonials on your product pages and appropriate places on your website.
Inspire & incentivize your customers
Now that you know how to mine for UGC and share it with your audience, let’s look at how you can incentivize consumers to create or share user-generated content without being intrusive or pushy.
Personalized deals & offers
Reach out to specific segments of your audience through email with a personalized deal or offer (discounts on a relevant product category or early bird access to new products that they’re likely to be interested in, for example) in exchange for a review, testimonial, or social post on your customers’ experience with your brand.
Challenges & competitions
Most consumers love a social media challenge, competition, or giveaway. By running a challenge or competition with a decent prize, you will earn droves of engagement and a wealth of valuable user-generated content you can use to your advantage.
You could, for instance, run a contest asking your customers to create a TikTok video based on a seasonal theme like Easter, Groundhog Day, Oscar’s, Halloween, or Thanksgiving. After creating the video, you can ask them to share it with your brand using a certain hashtag that you can use to build a library of UGC while measuring engagement.
As part of your user or buyer journey, you could direct your customers to a post-purchase landing page, asking them to offer feedback on their experience in return for a discount the next time they shop with you.
Run UGC-based paid ads
Once you’ve started to connect with inspiring pieces of branded UGC, you can expand their reach while making your promotions more impactful by using customer reviews, blog or social post excerpts, and images in your paid Google, Facebook, or Instagram ads.
Once you’ve gained permission to use your customers’ UGC in your paid advertising campaign, make it the centerpiece of your content. Whether it’s an image, video, or text, you can take your UGC of choice and build your ad headline and call to action around it. This increases your chances of interaction, engagement, and conversion.
Our guide to effective paid advertising techniques for eCommerce or retail business owners will give you all of the insights you need to create powerful (and profitable) UGC-based paid ads.
Amplify with influencers
Earlier, we mentioned that people prefer user-generated content to influencer content—but that doesn’t mean you can’t use influencer content to complement your UGC.
By working with the right influencers to share your UGC, you will not only expand the reach of your content significantly but also benefit from extra brand authority. Influencers can also request UGC on your behalf, serving as a powerful incentive.
Inspiring user-generated content marketing campaigns
We established the importance of user-generated content and how to use it to grow your business. Now, let’s explore two inspirational user-generated content marketing campaigns.
Both of these clever campaigns place user-generated content at the heart of the narrative, offering customers a clear incentive to create content and share it with their followers with a catchy concept or hook.
Coca-Cola is a brand that needs little introduction. In addition to its renowned carbonated product, the brand is also known for its innovative approach to marketing—its ‘Share a Coke’ campaign is no exception.
To prompt a wave of user-generated content, the brand personalized its cans and bottles with popular names (the names were slightly different according to country, based on data) and asked its fans to share their personally branded containers via social media using the hashtag #ShareaCoke.
This quirky yet effective campaign sparked countless pieces of creative UGC, with celebrities and influencers getting involved without being paid or incentivized. Not only did the campaign increase sales, but it also increased Coca-Cola’s Facebook traffic by 870%.
GoPro is a brand with its roots firmly planted in adventure, endurance, and the great outdoors. Using its innovative, ergonomic, hardwearing POV camera equipment to its advantage, GoPro benefits from a continual flow of UGC by interacting with its consumers via social media and encouraging them to share their adventures using the hashtag #GoPro.
Because the footage is aspirational, inspirational, and often stunning by nature, GoPro uses its flow of UGC in its marketing campaigns frequently. By placing its fans at the heart of the story and placing UGC at the heart of its marketing strategy, GoPro always shines its products in their best, most authentic light. This lean on UGC is one of the reasons why the brand’s sales doubled during the pandemic.
“Every person is defined by the communities she belongs to.”—Orson Scott Card
There’s no doubt about it: user-generated content is one of the most powerful promotional content you have at your fingertips. By taking the time to search for any valuable UGC you can use, offering your audience ample opportunities or incentives to create content or share testimonials, and sharing everything you find valuable across channels, you will set yourself apart from the pack.
If you’re looking for more creative ways to attract consumers to your eCommerce or retail business, check out our practical guide to grow your audience using cognitive bias.