The rules of marketing are different in the online world. Almost anyone can gain exposure, so what can businesses and brands do to stay ahead of the competition?
User Generated Content (UGC) is what we call content that’s been created and published, or even submitted, by the people. Usually, it’s people who use that brand. Important note, none of those people can be employees or those affiliated with said brand. Sometimes businesses compensate them for this, often they don’t. It all depends on the strategy. This content could be in almost any form, it’s frequently images as social media posts, but you’ll also get videos, reviews, or testimonials. Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” where customers were asked to share pictures of themselves with the can that had their name on it, or the Apple “Shot on iPhone” campaign that was put out to redeem the iPhone camera are examples of this. Even Netflix, Starbucks, and large fashion brands like Burberry get in on this type of action.
What Is User Generated Content?
But, let’s take a step back. UGC isn’t just a recent development. The definition, above, states that it is content that’s been created by people. Usually these people are customers or consumers. Newspapers and periodicals, almost ever since their creation, have been printing and publishing letters that are sent to them. Some scientific journals, back in the day, received letters and published them in order to announce discoveries or scientific observations. By definition, that is user generated content. The ones we’re familiar with though are the blog posts, twitter tweets, and videos uploaded to Youtube, TikTok, or whatever social media platform is the current hit. It’s essentially the same thing, it’s just easier to spread about now that we’re living in the internet age.
It isn’t just that. Have you ever been on holiday and tagged or hashtagged the name of the hotel you’re staying at? That’s UGC! Checking in to a restaurant or bar on a night out is UGC. Sometimes a business or brand will cheat on the definition a bit by offering incentives for you to take a picture and check in, tag, or hashtag their name or campaign. Technically that’s still user generated content since it’s taken by and uploaded by users who have no affiliation with them.
It doesn’t matter the size of your business, you can make use of UGC. In the age of social media and selfies, if you’re not taking advantage of this then you’re missing out. People love to take pictures of themselves, their food, the view, anything you name it, they’ll take a picture and they’ll post it. So, why does it work? Let’s take a look at a few reasons.
Customer Oriented and Trustworthy
Hold up. Am I saying that content created by businesses is not trustworthy? No, I’m not. It’s just that consumers don’t believe that businesses and brands always have their best interests at heart. They think that they only want to make a profit. So when you have real users sharing their experiences, it’s a lot more believable. It gives a feeling of transparency and legitimacy.
Hmm, how about a little example. When trying a new restaurant, customers are more likely to give it a shot if they have a social media presence that shows other diners posting and sharing their experiences and reviews there rather than official, formal, and maybe edited photos just advertising the place. Also, people don’t like sales being pushed on them. They want to feel a connection or have a story told. It’s easier to buy into something if you’re dealing with people rather than just advertisements.
Authenticity and Community
On another level, consumers would rather make a purchase from a company that they felt was authentic. Consumers have more power in that we have more choice and more ways to find information nowadays. So we can make the decision to spend our time and our money on companies that we feel that real people are using. It’s no longer just about the celebrity and brand ambassador on a huge billboard beaming or smoldering down at us. Everyone is, or can be, a brand ambassador now.
People like feeling like they’re a part of something, or a part of a community. That’s why there used to be clubs and organizations back in the day, and now there are social media groups for everything under the sun. Humans are social animals and we crave emotional connection, membership of a group (belonging), and even influence.
Cost Effectiveness and High ROI
It doesn’t cost much to make all this happen. People, users and consumers, will create content whether you ask them to, or oftentimes even if you don’t ask. Maybe they just want to share their experience, maybe they want to make connections with others who had the same experience or are like-minded, or maybe they want the incentive or reward being offered. You don’t have to pay millions for advertisement segments on TV or for billboards.
The Starbucks campaign is a good example of how beneficial to a brand to use user generated content. The “White Cup Contest” encouraged customers to doodle on their white Starbucks cups and post the images on social media. What was on offer? The winning submission would be made into a limited edition Starbucks cup. In 3 weeks, about 4,000 entries were submitted. How much would it normally cost to get that much reach and engagement? In that short amount of time!
It’s a brave new digital world out there and user generated content gives power to the people like they’ve never had before. But, it can also give power to businesses and brands. For more information or to find out how you jump on the UGC train, contact us and consult with our Enablers.