User-Generated Content: A marketing gold mine

Imagine if you could double, triple, or even quadruple your branded content and simultaneously improve your brand’s reputation without spending a single dollar. That would be amazing, right?

No, this isn’t a sleazy sales pitch for snake oil, and it’s not a fairy tale. There’s a ready gold mine of brand content out there just waiting for you to use. It’s content that’s been created by a volunteer workforce of passionate brand advocates. Content that validates your brand in a way that’s even more believable than your own marketing messages – because it comes from a source people trust completely: happy customers.

People trust brand recommendations from people who they believe are “just like them.”

What is this magical treasure trove of brand goodness? It’s called UGC—User-Generated Content. Users are posting content about your brand continually, and you have the opportunity to ride their wave of brand loyalty.

Two decades ago got the UGC ball rolling with product reviews, and it’s still the world’s leading authority. But today UGC is so much more than 3-star ratings. It’s photos, videos, tweets, posts, likes, comments, pins, and selfies. Every social media platform is an untapped well of brand content. In 2014, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram users posted more than three million pieces of content every minute—much of it about the brands and products they interact with.1 UGC is 50% more trusted than other media2 and the most trusted brands, like Apple,3 leverage UGC in inspiring ways.

Apple has always been known for creating exceptional brand photography shot with extremely high production values. But Apple recognized the authentic marketing power of UGC, and in early 2015 launched the “Shot on iPhone 6” campaign with a web page and urban out-of-home billboards. The wildly popular campaign features images captured with an iPhone 6 by Apple customers around the world. By featuring UGC photos in dramatic scale, Apple was effectively letting regular people promote their product for them. Not only did it speak to the high quality of the camera, it sent an aspirational message from the photographer: “If you get an iPhone 6, you too can shoot amazing photography just like me!”

Of all consumer age segments, millennials (ages 18-34) are the most influenced by UGC. This generation has never known a time when they couldn’t capture, share, and view thoughts about products and experiences with the phone/camera combo in their pocket. They trust real-world content from their friends more than over-produced media such as TV, radio, and print, and they trust UGC as much as expert reviewers2.

There’s even something in it for the content creators.

When millennials’ friends like their post, tweet, or selfie about a brand or product, it means they’ve been validated as a curator of good content. Millennials are looking for high quality products and experiences to give them something worth sharing. These shareable items help them provide value to their audience and build their own social currency. They have something of value to broadcast to their network and the brands they support get free marketing. It’s a win-win!

UGC about your brand is powerful because of its quantity and authenticity. It’s especially great because the cost is negligible. And because I’m certain that I’ve convinced you to rush out and begin using UGC today, let’s close with a few do’s and don’ts for great UGC use:

  1. DO obtain permission from fans and credit their work when using their content
  1. DON’T try to fake UGC with professionally-shot lifestyle imagery
  1. DO check that fans are influencers with “safe” social media personas before using their content
  1. DON’T over-moderate UGC and stifle the authenticity of your audience

It’s a tricky balancing act but one that can pay off exponentially when done right. If you’re interested in harnessing the power of UGC for your brand, reach out – we’re always here to help.