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The Power of User Generated Content (UGC) for Growing Your Business

If you haven't heard about the 17 ft tall ‘Cheetle’ Hand Statue by Cheetos yet, we need to talk. Just Kidding! Cheetle was one of the most talked-about campaigns in 2022. The brand officially named the Cheetos orange dust residue "Cheetle" and placed a giant, mischievous hand statue holding a Cheetos chip to celebrate it with its Canadian fans.

The Cheetle Hand Statue, by Cheetos
The Cheetle Hand Statue, by Cheetos

The marketing tactic blew up and generated a lot of buzz among the media and Cheetos fans. People from all over Canada visited the statue to take photos with it and share their opinions on social media using the #CheetleinCheadle and #ItsaCheetosThing hashtags. This is one of the best examples of how UGC works.

So what is UGC?

User-generated content (UGC) is the term used to describe any original content that regular consumers create and share on social media or other platforms in relation to a brand or a product, such as images, videos, reviews, or comments. It's basically a more fancy term for ‘word of mouth’ marketing.

Why is it so important?

It is more authentic: People trust real people, especially when they know that there’s no bias in their opinion. UGC has become more and more popular in recent years with the rise of social media platforms like TikTok, where people share their reviews and opinions very openly. It is considered the most honest and authentic content type in comparison to other branded content and influencer marketing tactics.

Easy conversion: UGC works as social proof and a testimonial for other customers to influence their purchases. Do you remember going through reviews before you bought the product because you wanted to know if it worked for other people? Yes, exactly that. It Instills confidence in consumers' buying decisions and can serve as a source of encouragement and validation.

Cost-effective: One great aspect of this content type is that the brands don’t have to incur any expenses for the buzz being generated around them. People share their views voluntarily to offer authentic feedback to their followers, friends, or family. Compared to spending millions of dollars on sponsored influencer campaigns that are increasingly losing their authenticity and effectiveness, UGC content can be a really powerful tool for brands and marketers to win over the consumers.

How to drive UGC for your brand?

To generate UGC, it's important to create a clear plan for the type of content you desire and the objectives you hope to achieve through it. Look at your current marketing strategy. Do you want to generate more brand awareness, are you looking for conversion, or do you want to retain your existing customers and strengthen your relationship?

You also have to look at what platforms are more important to you for UGC content to be shared on. If you’re looking to grow your Instagram presence - hashtags, images, and reels can be effective UGC generators. If you're more focused on building a community, reddit forums, tweets and Facebook groups can be good options. You'll also want to identify important rules and guidelines for the content to ensure it aligns with your brand values and messaging.

While brands don’t have control over what users create, there are some strategic actions the brand can take to encourage its audience to behave in accordance with what it wants to achieve. Apple’s #Shotoniphone is a great example of this.

iPhone 6
Photo credit

With this campaign, Apple invited users to capture and share some of their best images and videos using the hashtag #ShotOniPhone on social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter. Out of which a few were selected and displayed on billboards, in Apple's stores, and online. This initiative generated substantial free advertising for the iPhones, highlighting the exceptional camera quality, building social proof, fostering a community, and building trust in Apple products and its cameras—a key differentiating factor.

Take permission: Before reposting or utilizing content from others, it is also important to obtain permission. The brand can reach out to the creator through a direct message or email to confirm their approval. Although UGC is typically informal, it is important for brands to act with integrity to avoid any potential issues when acquiring content generated by consumers. When reposting, proper credits need to be given. This helps to establish a positive relationship with the creator by acknowledging and appreciating their contribution to the brand's image and marketing efforts.

UGC for a NEW brand

If you’re a new brand just starting out, here are some recommendations to encourage user-generated content:

Rewards: One effective method is to offer rewards such as discounts, free products, or exclusive access to events in exchange for customer feedback on their purchases. Referral and loyalty programs can also be implemented to reward repeat purchases and referrals.

Start a trend or a contest: Brands can also create trends, games, or challenges related to their products. This is an effective way to promote UGC, as it creates excitement and motivates users to participate actively. For instance, brands can run photo or video contests, challenges, or quizzes that ask users to submit their content related to a particular theme or product.

Personalization: Offering customized rewards based on customers' interests or purchase history is another great way. This creates a sense of exclusivity and encourages customers to share their experiences with others. For example, a clothing brand could offer personalized styling tips or outfit recommendations based on a customer's preferences and then encourage them to share photos of their outfits on social media using a branded hashtag. Additionally, by offering personalized rewards, customers are more likely to become repeat purchasers and advocates for the brand, leading to even more positive word-of-mouth.

Engagement: Lastly, engaging with your audience is key. Be sure to respond to customer feedback and comments to strengthen brand loyalty. When customers feel seen and heard, they're more likely to engage with your brand and create content for you. It's a great way to build relationships with your audience while encouraging them to generate content that promotes your brand.

It's crucial to keep in mind that creating hype around a product depends less on your popularity and more on the quality of your product or service, as well as the level of dedication your existing customer base has towards your brand. Providing exceptional customer experiences, delivering high-quality products, and constantly innovating to meet the evolving needs of your audience are all critical factors in generating user-generated content. By consistently meeting or exceeding customer expectations, you can build a loyal following that is excited to share their positive experiences with your brand on social media and other platforms. This, in turn, can create a ripple effect, attracting new customers and further enhancing your brand's reputation.

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