What is user-generated content?
As a marketer, you may have heard this term a lot lately.
Here's a simple definition:
As mentioned, UGC is unbiased and created without an agenda. As a result, people perceive this kind of content to be more trustworthy, truthful, and authentic.
Here’s everything we’ll cover in this guide:
Table of Contents: UGC
- Types of User-Generated Content
- The Benefits of User-Generated Content
- UGC vs Brand and Influencer-Generated Content
- User-Generated Content Marketing Examples
- How to Inspire More UGC for Your Brand
- Getting Rights To User-Generated Content
- How UGC Affects Website Performance
All user-generated content falls under three categories: text, pictures or videos. UGC can be any of the following:
- Social media content
- Reviews and testimonials
- Blog posts
- Video content (including live streaming and AR lenses/filters)
- Q&A Forums (including comments)
- Case studies
Let’s take a closer look at some common types of UGC.
Social Media Content
When it comes to products, seeing is believing—especially when it’s people you know and trust doing the showing. People are taking and sharing thousands of photos and videos daily on social platforms, and a huge portion of those are interacting with some sort of brand, ranging from hotels, destinations, and tour operators. This type of organic visual UGC is taking the online world by storm.
Any time someone posts a social message about you, whether it’s a Tweet or an Instagram post, that's UGC.
Reviews & Testimonials
Whether your customers write reviews on a section of your website, or whether they use third-party sites (such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, G2Crowd, Google, etc.) this kind of feedback is also UGC.
If, for example, you make lipsticks, any time a beauty blogger (that you didn't pay for) uses your product in a tutorial or in a review, whether it’s in a blog post or a video, this is UGC.
And while you might think that blog posts are more relevant for B2C companies, that’s not actually true! In the B2B world, marketers love reading and writing blog content. If your product or brand is featured as an example in round-up content, or as a key tool in a “how-to” blog post, that counts as user-generated content too.
GoPro videos, Instagram Stories, natively shot video—these all qualify as UGC, so long as you're not paying someone to create the content for you. This also includes AR lenses or filters or live video streams on Facebook, Instagram or other platforms.
How Do I Know What Kind of UGC To Use?
Knowing what type of UGC is right for your marketing strategy depends on your audience. Are they active on social media? Do they trust review websites? This will determine the type of content that’s best to use.
For instance, it’s no secret that visuals are highly influential to potential travelers. In fact, 85 percent of consumers find visual UGC more influential than brand photos or videos. If you want to generate more brand awareness, conversions, and engagement, focus on visual content.
There are many advantages to UGC:
UGC Is Social Proof for Your Brand's Message
Every brand has its own story and promises something to its target audience. However, people tend to take branded messages with a grain of salt, wary that companies want their business. When people see that other consumers are confirming your brand message through UGC, it acts as a second opinion reinforcing how your brand delivers on its promises.
UGC Is More Influential On Purchasing Decisions vs Traditional Marketing
Because UGC is produced by individuals who don’t have anything to gain by singing your praises, it is perceived as being more authentic and more trustworthy. In fact, it’s been found to be 20% more influential than branded content alone.
UGC Gives You A Larger Pool of Visuals
In addition to commissioned and stock photography, UGC is a whole new source of visuals you can tap into for your marketing. Did you know that almost 100 million posts a day are uploaded to Instagram? Think of all the content being created you haven’t tapped into yet!
UGC Helps Stretch Your Budget
According to some estimates, a professional photo shoot can cost anywhere between $500 - $10,000. UGC gives you a cost-effective way of acquiring original and impactful photos that can supplement the owned content you already have. With user-generated visuals, there’s no more need for actors, equipment, or waiting for a day with perfect weather to get your shot.
What's the difference between user-generated, influencer-generated and brand-generated content? Here's a simple way of looking at it.
Owned visuals are visuals that your organization pays to have created for you, whether done internally, or commissioned by an agency, photographer, or videographer. These also include images that you purchase the rights to like stock photography.
Example: You commission a video of your hotel or resort for the homepage header.
Are photos and videos that other people— ie, your visitors—are posting online via social media. If you wish to use these visuals in your marketing, you need to get explicit permission from the user.
Example: You tap into already existing content on social media and curate a highlight reel video of guests enjoying your destination, resort or attraction.
Refer to content where the focus is placed on particular people who others look up to for inspiration and influence. Influencers create their own content based on their experiences with your product or service.
Example: You partner with a popular influencer to drive awareness and ticket sales within a particular audience segment.
Just one more flight away - next stop India!!🇮🇳 Can’t wait to dive into what I know will be an awesome and overwhelming experience. I tend to love quiet places so spending the rest of the month amongst the crowds, splendor, smog, and chaos of India feels a bit daunting. It’s a place in my mind that seems very paradoxical and I hope to share the experience in a way that feels respectful and true :) - Photo by @emmett_sparling from a great trip to the Philippines earlier this year. Emmett is always so intrigued by culture and backroads and people that I think this will be a fun one. #Philippines
Here are 3 great examples of UGC content campaigns:
1| User-Generated Content for Video: Destination Canada’s Found in Canada
Destination Canada (the organization charged with promoting Canadian tourism) launched a huge video campaign to target the U.S. travel market. But instead of sending videographers to capture b-roll from all over the country, they decided to tap into the visual content Canadians and international visitors were already sharing online.
Within 2 weeks, they’d acquired rights to over 2500 photos and videos from social media and turned them into a series of short, fun, and exciting videos. These videos went viral, reaching over 3 million views within a week.
2| Showcasing The Authentic Customer Experience: Columbus Museum of Art
The Columbus Museum of Art, located in Ohio, curates more than just fine art—on their digital channels, the Columbus Museum curates the best visitor photos too. They encourage users to take photos while they’re there and use the hashtag #myCMA.
They then choose the best photos and transform them into website galleries, such as this one from their homepage:
And it doesn’t stop there! This museum’s Instagram feed is also bursting with tons of great content shared by all their guests.
Celebrate Valentine’s Day week with the return of #HeartsforArt. Join Columbus Museum of Art and museums around the country & show off your art crush. Through February 17 pick up a heart at the front desk & share your favorite works of art by tagging CMA & using #HeartsforArt. And FYI: the museum, store, and cafe are open until 9pm on Valentine’s Day & general admission is just $5 on Thursday evenings. #valentinesday #valentinesday2019 #myCMA #museums #lifeincbus #columbusohio #artmakescbus #expcols
This user-generated content campaign is a fantastic example of how any brand can let their fans do the talking, and paint an authentic picture of what the experience is actually like.
3| How Dollywood Used Visuals to Drive $90,000 in Ticket Sales within 5 Months
Dollywood needed UGC for the park’s variety of activities and personas. Pete Owens, the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for The Dollywood Company, explains that not only was it difficult to sum up the experience to potential visitors in a concise manner, but the elevator pitch changed depending on the audience member.
Owens updated Dollywood's website to incorporate more guests’ social media photos through CrowdRiff galleries. He explains that the new photo galleries on their website are experiences available, through the eyes of the visitors that enjoy them. Within the first 5 months of adding UGC throughout the site, Dollywood saw:
- 25% increase in engagement on the homepage
- 28% increase in engagement on the website's waterpark page
- 42% increase in views and interactions on the rides and attractions page
The team also used CTAs to embed links over imagery to lead visitors to the ticket sales page.
“Just from our homepage gallery, clicks converted to nearly 100 transactions within a 60-day period. That accounted for almost $30,000 in revenue,” said Owens. “It’s just by using UGC to push them further down the funnel more quickly.”
“I think we’ll explore the opportunity to see if we can use UGC in other channels to obtain the same benefits we’re seeing in the digital space, just by showing real people doing real things,” adds Owens.
Here are some quick tips and tricks to get your customers sharing more visual UGC for your product or service:
Key Tactic #1: Encourage People to Share Their Photos
Sometimes all it takes is a little prompting on social networks to show that you’re excited to see their creativity and enthusiasm.
Key Tactic #2: Acknowledge People Who Share UGC
People don’t expect brands to see their Tweets or messages. Show your audience that you do hear them and what they have to say is valuable. This can be as simple as replying to them or retweeting them.
Key Tactic #3: Reward for Sharing Photos
Prizes are a great incentive to share photos—which is why photo contests are such a great way to generate UGC. But on a smaller scale, even just giving someone a little limelight by choosing to feature their image in your marketing is sufficient. It can then spark your other followers to share more, in hopes of getting featured too.
First, let’s address when you need to get rights to user-generated content.
If you want to use UGC visuals throughout your marketing just as you would an owned photo then you will need to get rights to them.
This infographic outlines everything you need to know about when you need rights to UGC.
Sometimes people wonder if displaying visual UGC on their website will negatively affect website performance. Specifically, when displaying user-generated photos and videos in a gallery layout of some sort, will it drive users away?
The answer: It depends on how you’re doing it!
Instagram widgets and plugins will drive people off your site.
Here’s the thing: we know you’ve got click-worthy photos.
But whenever someone clicks on a photo in a widget or plugin, they’re redirected to Instagram.
So although these social hubs look pretty, they interrupt your web visitor’s experience and reduce the time spent on your website.
The bottom line: Consumer-generated marketing, specifically, UGC, improves user engagement and helps drive conversions. Consider how Visit Fairfax uses UGC to improve time on site. In an A/B test of a web page where one brand displayed a UGC website gallery and one did not, the page that did have UGC won by a landslide, with a 351% increased time on site.
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