In a world where there is no such thing as too much content, it can sometimes be hard for brands to continuously be creating and promoting things that your fan base wants to engage with. But not to fear, because you have an army of people that are waiting to help you, and some of them have likely already started.
Welcome to the world of user-generated content.
What Is User-Generated Content?
User-generated content has a pretty broad definition. According to Wikipedia:
User-generated content (UGC) is defined as any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats, tweets, podcasts, digital images, video, audio files, advertisements and other forms of media that was created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media websites.
So how does that relate to your brand and goals for boosting engagement? Well, any time a person creates a piece of content that features your brand, or one of your products, they are showing you off to their networks. This is more commonly known as word-of-mouth, except it’s happening in the digital space and not with people talking to one another.
For example, when I tweeted the other day that I was excited to learn that one of my favorite restaurant chains was opening a location near me, I was essentially creating a piece of marketing content for them, telling my network that I support the brand.
I just found out they’re opening a @NandosPeriPeri near my house! This is the best news EVER!
— Sheldon Levine (@40deuce) May 3, 2016
Sometimes, these pieces of content that are being created by your audience are so great you may want to use them yourself. Here’s a picture that I posted during a visit to a local restaurant that they liked so much they used the image on their own Instagram channel, but gave me the credit for the photo:
In both instances, I created the content, but the companies I featured in that content get to reap the benefits.
Why Is User-Generated Content So Powerful?
Many companies like user-generated content because it helps them to get the word out about them without having to do the work themselves. This is 100% one of the benefits that comes from user generated content, but it’s not where the real power is.
The power of user-generated content actually comes from the power of people. Year after year Edelman shows in their Trust Barometer that people trust their peers (or those perceived to be their peers) more than they trust official messages that come from companies themselves. This means that you may not go buy a product because of a company’s commercial, but you might if you knew that your friend loved that product.
The more that you encourage your audience to create great content, or reward them for doing so, the more they will and the more their own networks will see how much and why they love your brand.
So, How Do You Encourage User-Generated Content?
With so much power behind user generated content it’s likely in your best interest to encourage your audience, or even help them, to create as much content as possible. There’s many ways that you can do this, but here’s a few ideas to help get you started:
Re-share and praise the content your audiences create about your brand
People are going to talk about and share pictures related to your brand all the time. Showing them that you see their content and appreciate their efforts is one of the easiest ways to encourage people to create more. For example, we use our own Sysomos Heartbeat, Expion, and Gaze to monitor when people say something nice about our company, which we can then “like” and respond to or re-share to show them that we appreciate what they said.
Starbucks has a good habit of re-gramming their audiences’ pictures on their Instagram account. When they find great pictures featuring their cups, they re-share those pictures on their own account, and give the originator a shoutout. This is a way to not only thank that person, but also encourages the rest of their audience to create great pictures with Starbucks cups in hopes of getting re-grammed themselves.
A photo posted by Starbucks Coffee ☕ (@starbucks) on
Create a movement that encourages user-generated content
Giving your audience a way to feel part of something bigger can spur some great user-generated content. Things like this can usually be achieved by using a hashtag that will link all of this user generated content together. Right now, as the NBA playoffs are happening, my mind wanders towards the #WeTheNorth hashtag that most of Canada is using to support the Toronto Raptors playoff run.
But perhaps a better example of this would be the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that went around two summers ago. The movement started as an idea for some friends to help raise money for charity, but the videos were so fun to watch that everyone wanted to get in on the action from celebrities to your next door neighbor (yes, technically people were challenged to do it, but if they didn’t want to be part of this greater movement they wouldn’t have actually done it). By the end of it all, the campaign had created millions of media impressions, most of which were created by everyday people but benefited ALS charities around the world.
Work with your audience to create content
User-generated content can also be something that you work in tandem with specific people to create, such as customers or influencers. Most of the content can come directly from these people, but your company can help in the production and distribution of it. For example, Instagram or Snapchat takeovers are becoming quite popular.
In these instances, brands are giving control of their Instagram or Snapchat channels to customers or influencers for a short period of time. When they do this, people not only help the brand to create fresh new content, but they also attract the attention of key audiences to watch it all happen. People love to show off what they’re doing, so if they can show off things they’ve done with your brand, it’s a win for both you and them.
These are just a few ideas to think about using to spawn engagement using user-generated content. We’re curious to know what you’re doing to encourage your audience to create content. Let us know in the comments.