User generated content is an incredibly valuable tool for promoting your business. Today’s shoppers view the marketing industry with extreme skepticism, and just 4 percent believe that it behaves with integrity. Customers simply don’t trust the materials that savvy ad execs put together. They prefer instead to turn to their fellow shoppers for honest reviews and transparent opinions. Utilize your users’ content right, and you can turn these outside perspectives into effective tools for honest and unbiased marketing.

Identify the Best Content for Your Purposes

Image via Flickr by Jason A. Howie

User generated content (UGC) comes in many forms. Here are some examples:

Product reviews

  • Unboxing videos
  • Social media posts
  • Blogs or vlogs

To develop a successful marketing strategy for UGC, you must identify the most effective type of content for your brand. What are your current marketing goals? If prospective customers are unfamiliar with your products, honest reviews and unboxing videos will give them a closer look at what you’re offering and how it works. However, USG is also effective for brands that buyers already know plenty about.

Consider the case of Coca-Cola. Most soda drinkers are already familiar with the product, but this behemoth still utilized USG for catchy marketing with their 2016 Share a Coke and a Song campaign. Coke featured classic song lyrics on their packaging and partnered with Shazam to allow customers to record and share a lip-synced video to the tune. This encouraged fans to put the thought of an ice-cold Coke in their followers’ heads in a playful, inclusive manner.

Encourage UGC Through Smart Campaigns

While much UGC is organic, you can encourage participation with targeted campaigns to drum up a specific type of content. Create a special hashtag for social media posts and encourage customers to share their experiences, enter a video competition, or tackle a special challenge. This invites your customers to spread the word about particular products, services, or events that you’re actively promoting.

Just beware of the potential for a hashtag to backfire, and organize your campaigns accordingly. The #McDStories campaign designed to highlight positive experiences at McDonalds instead unleashed a slew of negative stories. Poor word choice can prove disastrous as well. The #NowThatchersDead hashtag was designed to mourn Margaret Thatcher, but some misread it #NowThatChersDead and began grieving for the famous singer instead.

Highlight Customer Content on Product Pages

Customer photos help potential buyers visualize their purchases in a realistic way. We all know clothing will look fabulous on a professional model, but it speaks volumes when those same items look good on another everyday shopper. Dune London incorporated this strategy by featuring buyers’ Instagram photos on product pages. In just two weeks, they saw an 82 percent increase in sales where shoppers interacted with user generated content.

Jamberry highlights their nail products in a similar manner. Each item has a distinct hashtag that users can incorporate in Instagram posts. These photos are then highlighted on product pages, providing inspiration for shoppers who can use the photos to pick perfect pattern pairings or select the right polish to coordinate with a new wrap. User photos like these give your brand more legitimacy with shoppers who are distrustful of advertising content.

Use Content to Establish Thought Leadership

User generated content that highlights your products, services, or studies in the right light can help you establish thought leadership in your industry. Consider an influencer who lauds your organic approach to skincare on YouTube, or a blogger who heavily references your recent whitepaper in a related post. When users independently evaluate your company and come away with high praises, you have a valuable piece of independently created content that supports your position as an industry leader.

You can encourage this type of content by networking with influencers and other thought leaders in your area. A strong content marketing company can help you identify valuable UGC opportunities and make these types of connections. Always watch for opportunities that spring up on their own as well. You never know when or where your products may pop up online.

Promote Positive Posts

Don’t pass up valuable opportunities to promote UGC when they fall in your lap. Monitor your social media accounts carefully for positive interactions. A whopping 90 percent of respondents in a Sprout Social survey indicated that they’ve used social media to communicate directly with a brand. Listen to what these customers are saying and respond promptly. If the dialogue is positive, look for opportunities to promote and share.

When a customer posts a glowing comment about your service or a smiling photo with your product, capitalize on the power of this content. Ask the user for permission to share their photos or comments and consider using these in your email newsletters, on your website, or in your catalog.

Dig Into the Data

While user generated content is great for promotional purposes, it’s also a valuable source of customer data about your brand. Not all UGC is positive, but those posts with a negative slant are far from being useless. All UGC gives you useful insights into what your customers think and feel about your brand. Analyze these posts carefully and use the data to drive your future marketing efforts and business strategies.

If an overwhelming number of shoppers are complaining about your online checkout process, it’s time to reevaluate the way your website is designed. If buyers repeatedly post photos of a product’s color looking different than it does in your catalog, go back and revisit that photography. Shoppers who are letting you know about legitimate issues with your brand are just as valuable as those with rave reviews. Make sure you’re using this content as you should to identify and act on areas where you can improve.

User generated content is likely to pop up whether you invite it or not. With a mindful marketing strategy in place, you can encourage positive content, respond promptly to negative reviews, and utilize all UGC on your business and brand at its full potential. Approached right, you’ll find that user posts and reviews are some of the most valuable pieces in your arsenal.