While there are many tools marketers can use to promote their brand, one of the most potent is certainly user-generated content (UGC).
Boiled down to its essence, user-generated content is a vote of confidence. Your brand’s biggest fans are snapping photos, writing reviews, and publishing blog posts promoting your products or services — often without any prompting.
But how can user-generated content specifically benefit your brand? Don’t worry — we’ve got your back. We’ve done the research and found some solid facts and stats around UGC to unearth the benefits of user-generated content in marketing.
Benefits of User-Generated Content Every Marketer Should Know
1 | User-generated content puts your customers front and center
One of the best benefits of user-generated content is kind of a win-win for both you and your fans.
When you use the content they produce in your marketing:
- You’re letting their voices tell your story for you
- Your marketing messages come from individuals instead of not brands
- You’re not marketing at your audience any more, you’re marketing with them
- You get to spotlight the people who have helped shape your brand!
“In our approach, visuals are one of the biggest keys to our success. We are not looking for a transaction between visitors. We want to inspire people to want to visit and ultimately develop a relationship with them.”
2 | User-generated content provides social proof
One of the top benefits of user-generated content is that it serves as excellent social proof. Seeing content from real customers increases your credibility and brings your brand’s promises into perspective.
Brands make certain promises to their customers or audience. In Ovolo’s case, it’s that their Sydney hotel would be perfect photo-fodder for the social platform. And the user-generated content that resulted (i.e. all the guests Instagramming gorgeous shots from the hotel) was their social proof that they followed through on that promise.
As the folks at Hootsuite say in this article:
“User-generated content is one of the most powerful tools in today’s marketing arsenal. It’s proof that you have dedicated fans, products worth talking about, and a social network that will appreciate great content.”
3 | Consumers find user-generated content more trustworthy
This second benefit of user-generated content is clear and compelling: people across ages and demographics just trust UGC more.
And that’s because it’s created by people who just love your brand. These opinions are seen as unbiased and genuine. In fact, almost half (47%) of millennials and 36% of baby boomers trust UGC whereas only 25% of both demographics say they trust branded content.
People also trust user-generated visuals over any other type of content. The numbers speak for themselves: More than two-thirds (72%) of shoppers are influenced by Instagram photos of a product. User-generated videos on YouTube get 10x more views than branded content. And that’s a boon for travel marketers, whose brands lend themselves well to visual content.
The bottom line here is this: When it comes to content, consumers trust UGC more than regular branded content. It’s more honest, there’s not a sales pitch to wade through, and it’s more — well, human.
4 | User-generated visuals can supplement branded content (and stretch your budget!)
Marketing budgets are often stretched thin. Resources (and cash) are often limited, so many marketers have to get creative when it comes to getting more visual content.
Fortunately, user-generated content won’t leave a dent in your department budget. Because you’re sourcing images directly from your fans on social media, there’s little to no cost involved.
Not only that, but with millions of people sharing photos and videos on social media, marketers can tap into these resources at scale. UGC is the biggest growing source of visual content that marketers have at their fingertips.
So, marketers can use user-generated content alongside branded or commissioned content. And this combo works well: Brand engagement increased an average of 28% when user-generated visuals and professional content are both used for promotion.
For example, here Love Beverly Hills (the destination marketing organization for Beverly Hills) features a gallery of authentic user-generated photos right underneath their professional photo header:
5 | Using UGC signals that your brand is open to conversation with your audience
Besides prompting conversation among your advocates, brands who highlight UGC from their supporters can build a deeper, more authentic relationship with their customer base.
Your audience wants to be heard — a Bazaar Voice study showed that 64% of millennials and 53% of baby boomers want more ways to share their opinions about brands.
Using user-generated content in your marketing, or simply sharing it on branded social channels, can make the people you’re marketing to feel seen and heard. You’re acknowledging them and their crucial role in your brand’s success — like in Tim Hortons’ “We heard you Canada” campaign:
— Tim Hortons (@TimHortons) March 8, 2017
When marketers encourage customers to share UGC, it provides another forum for customers to share their authentic experience with your brand. And you come off as accountable, open, and authentic.
6 | User-generated content marketing is a way to cut through the noise
Because customers are bombarded daily by various ads and promoted content, it can be difficult for a brand to cut through the noise. People adopt what’s commonly referred to as banner blindness — in other words, we learn to shut out the ads.
However, UGC is one tactic to help re-engage your audience without causing their eyes to glaze over. User-generated content isn’t a traditional ad — it isn’t salesy, and is created by a select member of your own target audience. Because UGC isn’t purely promotional content, customers find it more genuine.
Another added benefit of UGC is that it can actually boost the effectiveness of your ads. CrowdRiff customers have found that using user-generated photos in their ads gets them three times the click-through rate.
The numbers don’t lie — a proven method and benefit of user-generated content is to cut through the clutter of other digital ads and information.
More user-generated content resources
Interested in learning more about user-generated content, and the way that other brands are successfully using it?
Read our Guide to UGC for Travel and Tourism Brands, an eBook created in partnership with Skift. It’s full of actionable ideas, tips on getting rights to photos, and examples from global museum, airline, resort, and destination brands.