How to make use of User-Generated Content
What is user-generated content?
User-generated content is anything from text, reviews, videos and photos that have been created by real users, not the brand behind the product or service. Whether you’ve shared a snap of your morning coffee and tagged the café, written a review for a product on their website or made a little video on Instagram showing off your latest purchase, you’ve contributed to the brands' user-generated content. This is most commonly found on social media sites such as Instagram, but you can gather this content from your website too if you put the functionality in place to do so.
1. Gathering content
The first step is to gather user-generated content that you can start to use elsewhere. There are many different ways this can be done, but for the purpose of this article we're just going to highlight some of the most common and effective.
The most obvious place to start is social media, particularly Instagram. Keep an eye on posts you are being tagged in, and check on hashtags relating to your brand or products too. People like to share their lives and show off new purchases or talk about services they've received. Sometimes users do this because they want to associate themselves with a brand or catch the brand's attention to increase their own influence and audience; for this reason, encouraging indivudals that have done this is generally a win-win scenario for everyone.
Staying with social media – you could also start a hashtag campaign to encourage your customers to share content with you. For example, the supermarket chain Whole Foods started a campaign called #WholeFoodsHaul, to get people to take a picture of all the goodies they had grabbed from their store. This gives the user something to post on their page to flaunt their shop and gives the brand some images and videos to use across all their marketing. You could also simply ask your followers to take photos of a specific product and to tag you in them. This could be part of a competition to encourage users to take part and send you images or videos, or just to gain engagement with your audience. It’s important to ask the user if you can use their content however, and most are usually very happy for you to share their uploads.
If your website has a review system, this is another great way to grab people’s content and help build trust amongst your users. Reviews have been found to increase a sense authenticity towards your business by up to 60% in some cases. If you are able to include a photo upload option with your reviews, this can not only boost levels of trust for prospective customers, but also enable visitors to see your product in use with real people.
Importantly, we recommend cataloguing this content in a library that is organised by content type and source, and also stores a record of whether you have been given permission to use the content by the user. That way, if there is ever an issue, you can easily refer back to your records to check.
2. How to use it
Once you've begun gathering user-generated content, you will likely start to appreciate that there are endless creative ways you can use these to effect!
There are some fairly immediate and obvious uses, such as simply sharing users' content on your own social media channels or email communications. Utilising user-generated content in official communications like these will noticeably change the tone of what you publish and add credibility to what you say. In fact, 79% of people from a study said that user-generated content highly impacts their decision making when it comes to spending their hard-earned cash, so it's definitely a worthwhile exercise.
Outside of social media and marketing communications however, there are many other things you can do; for example, you could add user-generated content to your website where customers will see your products and services in more detail. This can help to build trust in both your brand and the quality of your products or services. As an example, if you sold paint, you could add a carousel of customer images on your website product pages showing your products in real homes. This might be especially important when you sell products that benefit from being seen in real life. It can also sometimes reduce the amount of customer service queries you receive prior to purchase by answering questions about how a product is used. Similarly, if you provide a service to customers rather than tangible products, you could use written customer testimonials, or even better – customer videos – on your website to reinforce your key messaging.
3. Building relationships
Working with user-generated content can help deepen your business's relationship with customers and encourage greater communication with them. For example, if you find content someone has posted about your business that you'd like permission to use, you can use that opportunity to start a public conversation with the user, both to garner permission to use the content and also to obtain valuable market research. 1-2-1 communication with existing customers like this can provide incredibly useful insight to how you can improve your business and what their experience of using you was like. As well as hopefully building trust with the individual, engaging with them publically can help prospective customers feel that you listen to your eager to listen and care deeply about the experience they come away with.
4. Learn from the content
Carefully analysing user-generated content can help your business to grow in ways you might not otherwise grow in without it. The insight you can obtain from reviews and how customers talk about your business (especially with negative reviews!) can help you answer high-level questions such as "Are my customers enjoying my products or services?", as well as more in-depth questions you may have, such as "How can I improve my business?" or "How does my business need to evolve this year?".
Analysing user-generated content can also provide you with valuable data about your customer base: demographics, location, what's important to them, what hobbies and interests they have etc. This data can be used to make your marketing endeavours even more targeted and strategic, reducing wasted time and energy. In fact, it could be argued that there is no data of greater value than that which can be obtained from user-generated content since it is completely independent from your business and provides a true reflection of how your customers see you.