What is User-Generated Content & Why Every Brand Should Leverage It

A simple fact that’s easy for even the best of marketers to forget is that, at the end of the day, brands are centered around people. The customers, employees and communities of people who see, consider, buy and/or interact with your brand.

While your products, services and corporate vision may start internally, it’s the experiences everyday consumers have with your brand that ultimately define it. Word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) has always been considered the most effective form of advertising for this reason: nothing beats an organic endorsement from a satisfied customer.

Today, social media has changed the way people not only interact with each other, but also with brands. This evolution of communication has created a new digital (and more visual) form of word-of-mouth called user-generated content (UGC), and the most innovative modern marketers are creatively leveraging it to tell more authentic and effective brand stories.

What is user-generated content?

By definition, user-generated content is any form of content — posts, images, videos, reviews, etc. — created by consumers on an online or social network.

UGC has been around as long as social networks have, with brands taking notice as early as 2005 in the immense potential it had to amplify the reach of positive endorsements. However, the true power of UGC is much deeper than the reach it can afford.

Why is UGC such a powerful marketing tool?

User-generated content has become the most trusted, memorable, influential and freely abundant source of content marketers can get their hands on.

UGC Builds Trust

Trust is one of the hardest and most important things for a brand to cultivate with consumers. Yet, it remains a simple fact that people trust other people more than they trust brands.

Not only can people identify if an image was created by a consumer as opposed to a brand 70 percent of the time, but 92 percent of consumers trust earned media (like UGC) more than any other form of content.

UGC is Memorable

Marketers are constantly battling to cut through the noise to grab and hold people’s attention. You can come up with the best message or imagery, but what is it worth if no one remembers it?

User-generated content has been proven to be more memorable than traditional advertising. Millennials, in particular, find UGC 35 percent more memorable than other media.

UGC’s Influence is Unmatched

Because UGC is widely trusted, more memorable than other media and ubiquitous in people’s everyday lives, it has emerged as one of the most influential forms of content.

Acting as a powerful source of social proof, 79 percent of consumers say their purchasing decisions are highly influenced by user-generated content. (In comparison, only 8 percent of people say that celebrity or social media influencer content highly impacts their purchasing decisions — making UGC 9.8x more influential than social influencers.)

UGC is Abundant and Freely Available

Smartphones and social networks have made everyday consumers the world’s greatest content creators.

At a time when marketers are struggling to produce the personalized and visual content experiences consumers increasingly demand, the quality, quantity and velocity of user-generated has only continued to multiply. Not to mention that this ever-growing wealth of unique, relatable and authentic content is freely available for brands to tap into — and consumers openly welcome its use by the brands they love.

On average, over 56 percent of consumers would grant a brand permission to use their image or video in its marketing and 51 percent said they’d be more likely to engage with and/or purchase from a brand if it shared their social posts in its marketing.

Give consumers the content they want

In an attempt to engage, educate and motivate consumers, marketers have spent countless time and money crafting the perfect messages and images they think consumers want to see. But it turns out consumers don’t want perfect, they want real.

When asked what type of content they most want to see from brands, 56 percent of consumers said consumer-generated content while only 15 percent said brand-created content.

At Stackla, we help marketers surface the best, most relevant UGC for their brands, manage content rights and seamlessly publish them through all their customer touchpoints — from ads and emails to websites and live events.

Here are some of our favorite examples of how brands are tapping into the power of UGC:

Organic Social

Long understanding the value of customer content, Canon has multiple Instagram channels that are completely powered by UGC — most notably their Canon Australia and Canon Collective accounts. As Canon Australia’s Consumer Engagement Manager,  Jensen Baptista, said, “The foundation of our channel strategy has been to introduce people indirectly to our brand through our consumers. Instagram is our fastest growing channel and it’s powered 100 percent by user-generated content.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

#TAKEOVER: “@ladyelliotislandecoresort would have to be one of my favourite locations in the world and a location that has had a huge impact on my photography career. This sunset shot is one of my favourites as it is technically and physically quite a hard photograph to achieve. Firstly, you need to be shooting with both the DSLR and flash in manual mode. You need to keep adjusting the exposure for the setting sun and at the same time adjusting the manual flash to light up underwater. At the same time as making these adjustments, I had to be swimming with my @aquatech_imagingsolutions housing my 5D Mark IV in one hand and my Speedlite 550EX flash in the other, as well looking out for turtles.” – @seanscottphotography, our guest curator this week. Shot on a EOS 5D Mark IV and EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM Lens ISO 800 | f/11 | 1/200s

A post shared by Canon Australia (@canonaustralia) on

And this strategy is paying off. The Canon Australia Instagram account has grown by over 100,000 followers every year for the past two years.

Paid Social

Knowing that authenticity would be the key to reaching their target audience of 18-24 year olds, Toyota turned to user-generated content to fuel their Feeling the Street Facebook ad campaign. Without increasing spend, their ads achieved over 1.2 million engagements (likes, shares, comments) in six weeks — a 440% improvement over the previous year’s campaign.

Websites

Although there are countless great examples of brands effectively showcasing UGC throughout their websites, Outrigger Hotels & Resorts is one of my favorites. Not only do they beautifully display guest images across their homepage and all their individual hotel pages, they also make that content actionable — allowing visitors to quickly jump from the point of inspiration to the point of purchase.

As Outrigger’s Social Media Strategist, Laura Essenberg, said, activating that social proof across their site has “really been a direct driving force to the booking engine. We’ve been able to tie revenue to the Book Now links we have featured.”

Outrigger also has one of the most creative uses of UGC I’ve seen, creating a UGC-powered volcano advisory webpage to so travelers could see first-hand that their hotel locations were safe to visit in the aftermath of the Kilauea Volcano eruption in 2018.

Email

As one of the most trusted names in travel, Expedia is continually working to further personalize their customer communications — and UGC has been the perfect tool to help them do so. To make their personalized travel itineraries more visually engaging and unique, Expedia Hong Kong dynamically displays relevant user-generated images alongside each of the destinations on customers’ tailor- made travel emails.

Live screens

Going all-in on UGC, VisitScotland opened the world’s first Instagram travel agency, featuring floor-to-ceiling digital screens displaying hundreds of Instagram photos taken by real people visiting Scotland. Allowing people to curate their very own Scottish holiday from the vast array of UGC on display, VisitScotland effectively used this social inspiration to grow overnight stays by 34 percent.

Once you have the right tools in place to help you find, manage and display UGC, you’ll find it to be the most cost-effective and scalable way for you to create the visually engaging and personalized content experiences your consumers seek — strengthening customer trust and boosting sales.

Ready to start leveraging UGC? Fill out the form below to schedule a demo with Stackla today!

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