What is User-Generated Content (and Why Your Business Needs to Be Using It)

Are you struggling to fill your content calendar with relevant photos of your business?

You're not the only one.

Creating and sourcing content for social media is something many business owners struggle with, but the myth that you can only share professional photos is simply not true.

Imagine if you were able to use photos taken by your customers to fill your content calendar month after month and boost engagement and trust with your audience all at once.

It's possible... with user-generated content! I'll show you what it is, why your business needs it ASAP, how to get it, and how to use it correctly.

User-generated content: what it is and why your businesses needs to start using it today. Includes examples! | SotoSocial.com

What is user-generated content?

User-generated content, or UGC, is the term used to describe any form of content that is created and shared by unpaid contributors, better known as fans of your business. This content can be anything from photos to videos to blog posts.

One of my favorite examples of UGC is Aerie's #AerieREAL campaign. They've asked their fans to share unretouched swim photos of themselves using #AerieREAL for a chance to be featured and to have $1 donated to the National Eating Disorders Association from Aerie on their behalf. It's a simple ask with powerful results.

Aerie empowered their fan base to share photos of themselves in Aerie swimsuits to not only raise money for an incredible organization, but they also benefit by spreading their message of body positivity, making their customers feel included as part of their business and marketing efforts, and creating an endless pool of relevant content that they can then share on their own social media platforms to further their message.

Why your business needs user-generated content ASAP

A study by Crowdtap and Ipsos MediaCT, found that consumers ages 18 to 36 trust UGC 50% more than they do traditional media. Furthermore, the study found that UGC is 20% more influential when it comes to making purchasing decisions and 35% more memorable than other media.

Bottom line: People trust people.

Social media users crave stories and connection with businesses, not product pitches and stale marketing messages. User-generated content helps you achieve your marketing goals while still increasing trust with your audience, exposure for your business, and building a loyal community around your brand.

How can your business get user-generated content?

By now, you're probably dying to know how you can use UGC to benefit your own business. Incorporating UGC into your social media strategy is a powerful way to create a community and uplift your audience. Not to mention: it’s free trusted content!

Before you can use UGC, you'll need to encourage your followers to create it for you.

There are a few ways to obtain user-generated content:

  • Browse your mentions, tags, and existing brand-related hashtags for high-quality content that fits your brand message and the overall look and feel of your feed.
  • Create a campaign accompanied by a branded hashtag that drives followers to share relevant photos using your hashtag.

REI's #OptOutside campaign was born in fall of 2015 when they decided to close their doors on Black Friday. Instead of shopping, they encouraged their customers to spend the day outside. Within 24 hours of sharing the campaign with their audiences across social media, their mentions increased by 7,000% and the hashtag is still being used today!

Of course, it helped that REI was already a very well-known outdoors company when they launched this campaign. However, the key takeaway here is that you can create a branded hashtag just as impactful for your business, as long as it aligns with your overall message and what your audience wants to see from you.

In this case, REI knew their audience — outdoor enthusiasts always happy for an excuse to go on an adventure — and used that to their advantage to surprise and delight them by closing their doors on the biggest shopping day of the year and encouraging them to #OptOutside instead.

How can your business use user-generated content?

As a business, you can use UGC to:⠀

  • create a community around your brand
  • connect with your audience on a deeper level⠀
  • encourage your fans to share about your business, essentially creating online word of mouth

Incorporate user-generated content into your social media marketing strategy. Not only is it effective, but it drives followers to take action more than any other type of media.

Before you share user-generated content on your social pages, make sure you have permission from the original poster or creator. Depending on the rules you set for your campaign, simply using a branded hashtag could be permission for you to use it across your channels. Just make sure that's listed explicitly on your website or social platforms.

Once you have permission, you want to make sure you're regramming correctly. This means giving proper credit to the original poster and/or creator by tagging them in the photo AND in your caption, and not altering the image in any way.

Read more: How to Regram an Instagram Post

Examples of businesses using user-generated content

Inspiration for user-generated content is everywhere. Take a look at how your favorite brands are doing it and make it your own. Give your fan base a platform to share all about why they love your business! Show them some love, and they'll show you love back.⠀

Why your business needs to start using user-generated content today. | SotoSocial.com

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