If there’s a topic that attracts nearly as much buzz as influencer marketing, it’s user-generated content (UGC). Wikipedia defines UGC as "any form of content, such as images, videos, text and audio, that have been posted by users on online platforms." But when we’re viewing this topic through a marketing lens, we can think of UGC as any content related to a brand that is voluntarily produced by its customers.
An example of brand-focused user-generated content is the amazing collection of visual content shared by GoPro owners. Millions of customers are continually uploading jaw-dropping images and video that have the side benefit of promoting GoPro’s products and features. These consumers aren’t being compensated for their enthusiasm; they’re true brand advocates who love what GoPro allows them to create.
User-generated content provides credible word-of-mouth recommendations that consumers respond to. In fact, 60% of consumers say user-generated content is the most authentic form of content. According to one study, 90% of shoppers report that UGC influences their decisions to make purchases, outranking all other forms of marketing.
At our agency, we often see how influencer campaigns spark an influx of UGC for our clients, thanks to influencers’ ability to connect with their (highly targeted) audiences. Here are some tips for using influencer marketing to encourage UGC on behalf of your brand:
While user-generated content is free, brands don’t have a say in who’s sharing it or how it’s presented. With influencer marketing, brands can align with influencers whose aesthetic, message and audience are perfectly suited for optimal reach and engagement.
Influencers know what resonates with their audiences; they can share brand messages in the style their followers have come to love. Audiences are often inspired by influencers and go on to share their own images and stories as a result of something an influencer posts. Brands can support this by designing campaigns with inspiration in mind: recipes, DIY tips, tutorials, etc. With a little upfront strategy, influencer content can help foster more targeted and useful user-generated content over time.
Run a contest.
Contests and giveaways are a popular option for gaining exposure and driving engagement, and a contest can be specifically designed to pull in more user-generated content. For instance, influencers could ask their followers to enter a contest by sharing their own brand-related images and content along with a hashtag.
Influencer-run content hashtag contests aren’t just popular with audiences; they also offer an easy way for brands to collect and promote UGC. A great example of a brand leveraging user content in a creative and compelling way is #WayfairAtHome on Instagram, where consumers can post their home designs featuring Wayfair products.
It sounds almost too simple, but encouraging user-generated content for your brand can be as easy as asking a question. Influencers can ask their audiences to join the discussion with brand-related prompts, such as, "How would you style this sweater?" or "What are your favorite ways to serve this food?" Even broader category discussions, such as, "What are your go-to summer cocktails?" can boost engagement and showcase how your brand fits into the lifestyle of your targeted communities. The best, most interesting comments can be highlighted on brand websites, social media accounts, email marketing and more.
Run holiday, event or seasonal campaigns.
If you run a business and wish more people were sharing recommendations and images of, say, your backpack line, an influencer campaign timed with back-to-school shopping might be just the ticket. A spice brand can use influencers to drive holiday associations, and a chip brand can partner with influencers during the Super Bowl.
By tapping into the power of influencers to help build brand connections during times of peak consumer interest, you’re encouraging a wealth of UGC -- just when it will be most useful.
Ideally, user-generated content will give you a variety of free resources from customers who genuinely love your product. The best UGC comes from a place of authenticity, which is why influencer marketing is so well-suited to encourage consumers to share their own stories, images, videos and reviews. By seeding your market with influencer-driven content, you’re likely to see more and more users becoming a vibrant part of the overall brand conversation.