User-generated content. The dark horse of content marketing. The low-hanging fruit for your brand awareness strategy, underdog for customer loyalty and outreach tactics, SEO, and much more.
Idioms aside, user-generated content is a powerful tool that can help achieve any number of your business objectives, and diversify who your brand is represented by and how.
Here's what you need to know about the content marketing tactic, and how it could benefit your brand.
What is user-generated content?
User-generated content is exactly what it sounds like: brand-specific content created by - you guessed it - users of your products or services.
Unlike brand ambassadors or partnerships, user-generated content isn't normally a form of paid marketing. It can be created organically or on request, by individuals who aren't affiliated with your brand, such as customers or brand advocates (long-term or committed users of your products).
There are no hard and fast rules about UGC - meaning it can come in a wide array of formats:
As with all content marketing, your format and channel of choice usually comes down to the message you want to convey with your UGC, and who you want to convey it to.
If you're a B2B brand looking to promote a new project management software, it's likely you'll want to use social posts on LinkedIn, product reviews in key industry publications, testimonials on your landing page, and so on.
For B2C brands, user-generated content is often more straightforward. Instagram, TikTok and YouTube are already filled with UGC that's ripe for the picking, like product 'unboxing' videos, "get ready with me" reels, and imagery of consumers wearing or using a product.
Benefit #1: It increases brand awareness
Content that positively advocates your brand across multiple touchpoints from multiple sources supports awareness and credibility in a whole manner of ways - and using very few resources.
User-generated content can reach new prospects, support PR tactics, promote a new product or service, and even help your business gain traction in a new region. Because it's not a form of paid advertising, clients and consumers are more likely to view UGC as a reliable representation of who you are and what you do.
Benefit #2: It boosts SEO
Much like any other form of content, user-generated content can help boost your SEO. For example, the right UGC on an industry title, or popular brand site can backlink to your own website. This drives traffic and raises the potential of converting prospects, and informs Google that your site is relevant, reliable, and trustworthy.
Many brands also embed user-generated content on their site, particularly video or imagery from a social channel. Yes, it helps generate immediate engagement and interest, but it can also support SEO and SERP.
Benefit #3: It builds credibility and conversion rates
Content that's been created and promoted by a peer is incredibly influential. It's classic social proof: business leaders are more likely to trust recommendations from associates or brands they want to emulate, and consumers want to see an authentic representation of a product from someone they can relate to.
Before and after photos demonstrating a product's impact is a good example. As is a client using facts and statistics to communicate how your service has solved a pain point. Some findings suggest that user-generated content is 85% better at converting than studio-created content.
Benefit #4: It's cost-effective marketing
Listen, investing in your marketing is absolutely crucial for any business. But allocating a budget in your marketing strategy for brand ambassadors ("influencers") or professional video and photography can be challenging, particularly for startups and SMEs.
UGC is essentially free marketing with similar impact. It's a great way of building a portfolio of curated, high-performing content that supports your objectives without breaking the bank, and is usually fairly straight forward to instigate. And clients or consumers will benefit from promotions too. Win-win.
Benefit #5: It's a temperature check on your market presence
Insights are an important benefit to implementing user-generated content for your brand. UGC enables you to better understand who's using your products or services and how, the way your brand is perceived and represented in the direct market, public sentiment and much more.
These insights can be used to critically assess whether your strategies are working, or if you need to evolve your approach. Are you reaching your target audience? Do you need to tailor your messaging? Is perception impacting sales? What other needs or pain points could you solve? No better view than from the very audience you're looking to reach.
When used as part of a wider content strategy, UGC adds authenticity and credibility to any scaling startup or burgeoning brand.
The right formats on the right channels can influence your existing customers and convert prospects, gain greater traffic and traction, and build your brand's impact. Plus, it's a great alternative to costly (and potentially disingenuous) influencer marketing.
If you're looking for a way to implement user-generated content in your marketing, the easiest way to dig deeper is to find a content specialist. A reliable strategist or event content writer would be able to advise on whether it's right for your brand, if it will speak to your target audience, and importantly, how to get started.