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Five ways to get user-generated content to tell your brand’s story

8th Aug 2014
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Brands are swiftly shifting gears from content creation to content curation. In an era where billions of camera-equipped mobile devices stream photos and video to social sites, every consumer is a content creator. Brands have recognised the power of user-generated content in creating authentic campaigns and are jockeying to harness its power across major marketing initiatives.

Filemobile reports that 51% of Americans trust UGC more than content on a company website or news articles about the company when looking for information or making a purchase decision.

User-generated content (UGC) can come in the form of Instagram photos, Facebook posts, Twitpics, and more. Sometimes it’s content asked for by a brand in exchange for a contest entry. Other times it’s simply a consumer’s way of sharing their favourite things with their social following. This content is powerful. It’s the most trusted advertisement because it’s coming from a genuine source — friends, family, and other influencers.

But the truth is, many brands are still learning how to leverage user-generated content.

Only 3.3% of today’s top 500 retailers are incorporating user-generated photos into their ecommerce presence. UGC can speak volumes on a brand’s behalf and create a tighter connection between consumers and companies. Here are five ways content managers can harness the power of UGC.

  1. Give incentives: Incentives motivate content sharing and organise that content around a marketing campaign. Fans and followers love showing off their stuff, but prizes or discounts keep them captivated for the entire campaign, and will encourage them to post and spread these messages to their followers. Incentives give brands valuable content to repurpose, and fans have the opportunity to continue patronising a company with gift certificates, shopping sprees, coupons, exclusive offers, and more.
  2. Capture data: When connecting with fans to collect UGC take the opportunity to also find out who they are and what they like. This data can help companies craft brand messaging, ad campaigns and social campaigns. Targeting is key, and being able to craft the right kind of message to your ideal audience cannot be done well without the support of data. A simple example of this would be offering a discount code in return for campaign participation. At the end of your campaign, count the discount codes and see who participated to get them. Even simple results like this will offer tons of insight into who is looking at your brand, and how many consumers are coming back for more. 
  3. Re-purpose UGC: Social media content has a very short lifecycle. It appears one moment in a Facebook newsfeed or Twitter feed and then quickly disappears. But this user-generated content tells stories that you want continually associated with your brand, and using it in traditional forms of advertising and marketing is key to creating lasting effects. Feature the content on your website with a dedicated page or a stream on the homepage. Use it in company blog posts, share on other social channels, or even consider integrating it into TV and billboard ads. An important factor to remember, though, is that you should get permission from the content creator in order to reuse their items to represent a brand.
  4. Keep your brand's voice consistent: If you’re going to offer an interactive campaign, your brand needs to be consistent. If your campaign is colourful and visual, make sure everything else is the same way. This will keep your audience from becoming disorientated when jumping from one medium to the other. Your brand should be easily recognisable throughout the campaign, and, no matter how users are participating; the same message should be conveyed. 
  5. Connect campaigns: This is probably the most essential tactics for brands during campaigns geared toward UGC. It will help brand managers find content and keep track of the success of the campaign, and additionally, it helps promote the campaign to various audiences to increase participation. Share your campaign everywhere you reach your consumers. Promote it in your physical locations, on your website, across social media networks, or anywhere else possible. Unite the cross-channel initiative with a single, easy-to-remember URL or hashtag to prompt audiences to engage and increase participation. In particular, hashtags make your campaign easily accessible and enhance discoverability with their role as a search term on social networks; they also provide an opportunity to enhance your brand identity with a pithy phrase. 

Brands have a sea of content creators publishing unique photos and product recommendations every day on social channels that can drive both brand recognition and sales. UGC comes from real people enjoying real products, and brands can benefit from using that content to tell the stories that website copy, product descriptions, and polished ads can never tell. 

Colleen Horan is director of product marketing at Offerpop, a digital marketing software company that helps audiences connect with brands.

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