The Marketer’s Guide to User-Generated Content

user-generated contentToday’s digital marketplace has become increasingly customer-centric. Modern customers demand authentic, valuable content over more traditional marketing content that resembles a sales pitch. So, how can marketers deliver the content buyers crave? We say, embrace user-generated content.

If you’re new to user-generated content, keep reading! Today’s blog post will tell you everything you need to know.

What is user-generated content?

As you may have guessed, user-generated content (UGC) refers to content created by users or customers who are not professionally affiliated with your brand. Here’s how it works: A user creates content featuring your company or products and shares that content on their personal channels, review websites, and social media platforms.

UGC can take many forms including videos, testimonials, blog posts, or a single post on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Social media platforms are particularly popular channels for UGC, as they allow users to share quick content to large audiences.

Why is user-generated content valuable?

There’s a certain disconnect between the marketer and customer when it comes to traditional marketing content – the customer knows you want to sell them something. User-generated content, on the other hand, is created by customers, for customers. It removes all bias from the equation and offers thoughts and opinions other customers can relate to and trust.

Let’s review the primary benefits of UGC:

1. User-generated content is efficient and inexpensive.

There’s nothing quick or simple about content marketing. Marketers must plan, create, schedule, and distribute a variety of content that fits their overall strategy and reaches their target audience. If you want to publish a high volume of content on a consistent basis, you’ll need to devote a significant amount of time and manpower to your content strategy.

UGC is the opposite of traditional content – it requires very little work from your content marketing team, as the content is already made and ready to share. Not to mention, UGC is free!

Learn more about content marketing in our recent blog post: 90+ Important Content Marketing Statistics.

2. Customers trust user-generated content.

Trust is vital to your business strategy. Prospects who trust your brand are much more likely to develop a lasting relationship with your company and products.  And, research shows UGC is far more effective at building trust than traditional marketing content (source):

  • Two-thirds of consumers say they trust customer opinions posted online.
  • Customer reviews are trusted 12 times more than marketing that comes directly from the organization.
  • 92% of consumers trust word of mouth more than any type of advertising.

As you can see, customers are wary of traditional marketing content. After all, marketers have a motive—to sell and promote a product. UGC, on the other hand, is created by your followers willingly– so their content appears more genuine and trustworthy.

3. User-generated content is engaging.

UGC has proven to boost engagement rates more effectively than most traditional content types. In fact, brand engagement increases by an average of 28% when UGC content is combined with professional content (source).

When you share a piece of UGC, you show your audience you value their opinions and the content they create. This creates a domino effect: Other users will begin to engage with your posts so that you notice them and share their content as well. As a result, UGC really improves your social media engagement rate.

4. UGC drives more sales than traditional content.

We know these benefits sound great, but the real question you’re wondering is – does UGC convert leads to paying customers. Luckily, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Research shows UGC converts prospects to customers at a higher rate than marketing content created by a brand. Check out these statistics:

  • 93% of consumers find UGC to be helpful when making a purchase decision (source).
  • Placing user-generated content directly on product pages can improve conversions by up to 64% (source).
  • Conversion rates increase by 4.6% when buyers are presented with UGC during the buying journey (source). 

Now that you understand the benefits of UGC, let’s get into the specifics. Next up we discuss how to leverage UGC for your content marketing strategy.

Best practices for user-generated content.

1. Run contests or giveaways.

User-generated content may be free, but there are many viable ways to encourage users to create and contribute meaningful content. For example, organize a contest or giveaway where users must contribute specific content in exchange for a small prize– or even the chance to win a larger prize. No matter what industry you’re in, people love to win prizes. Not to mention, users will be motivated to create high-quality content so they can win the contest.

2. Turn survey results into customer testimonials.

Marketers primarily conduct surveys to gather important insights about their audience and to fine-tune their business decisions. But, survey results can also be useful when it comes to content creation. For example, you can create testimonials using the responses you receive from customers.

Testimonials are effective forms of UGC because they provide firsthand accounts of customer experiences. As we discussed earlier, prospects trust recommendations and peer opinions far more than branded content.

Tailor your customer surveys to fit the content you want to create. For example, if you want to add testimonials to your product page, survey customers who purchased from you in the past. Ask questions about how your product improved workflows, the most helpful features, and specific metrics demonstrating improvement. Then, turn positive responses into testimonials on your site.

Always remember, it’s important to ask for permission before using someone else’s words within your marketing materials.

3. Practice social listening.

Before you look for users to create content, consider the user-generated content already available. Think about it: Your audience is already voicing their thoughts and opinions about your brand on social media. Now it’s up to you to find their posts and leverage them for content marketing purposes. That’s where social listening comes in.

For those unfamiliar with the term, social listening is the process of listening to conversations your customers and prospects are having online. This strategy helps you gain brand and audience insights, but also will lead you to an abundance of shareable content.

Here’s how to practice social listening: Track target keywords, hashtags, and tagged photos across all social media channels. Share and engage with posts that favorably mention your brand. As always, make sure you ask for permission before including a user’s content into your own marketing materials.

Learn more about effective social listening tactics here: Social Listening Best Practices for B2B Marketers.

User-Generated Content Examples

Before we go, let’s review a few examples of brands using UGC to improve their overall marketing strategy.

1. Buffer

Buffer is a social media management platform that frequently shares UGC on its Instagram page. These posts refer to users as members of “The Buffer Community”, strengthening the bond Buffer has with its followers. And, Buffer responds to comments on all of their posts to interact with their audience and further boost engagement.

user-generated content

2. The UPS Store

You may not expect a shipping and logistics company to post great UGC– but the UPS Store does just that. They use the hashtag, #UnexpectedPackAndShip to keep track of odd packing requests. These photos add an engaging human element to the typically mundane world of shipping and handling. Check it out:

user-generated content

3. Hootsuite

The social media management company Hootsuite created a UGC campaign last year using the hashtag #IWorkFromHere. Users submitted creative photos that showed the unique places they do their social media work, all thanks to Hootsuite. Through this campaign, Hootsuite collected visually engaging content that also highlighted the impact their tool can have for users.

user-generated content

4. ZoomInfo

We couldn’t not include ourselves in this list—what kind of marketers would that make us? Here at ZoomInfo, we love including UGC in our website copy, social media strategy, and across multiple other channels.

Check out this example from our Growth Acceleration Summit! We leveraged the “National Selfie Day” hashtag in conjunction with selfies taken at our annual event to create the following social media post:

user-generated content

5. Adobe

The computer software company Adobe often shares content that its customers created using Photoshop, InDesign or other Adobe tools. This is a very effective form of user-generated content – as it shows other users exactly what is possible when they purchase Adobe products. Check out this stunning example:

user-generated content

Key Takeaways about User-Generated Content

No matter what type of content you create, you must strive for authenticity if you want to engage modern buyers. And, it doesn’t get any more authentic than content created by your customers themselves. If you’re struggling to engage your audience, user-generated content may just be the missing piece of your content strategy.

Remember, UGC and traditional content both have their benefits. One shouldn’t replace the other– but if you combine the two, you’ll build a complete content strategy that engages and satisfies your customers. So, don’t wait any longer – make user-generated content part of your strategy today!

For more information about scaling marketing campaign success, contact ZoomInfo. We are the leading people information database equipped with the tools to help you succeed faster.