How to Include User-Generated Content in Your Content Strategy

User generated content

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The internet marketing landscape has changed significantly over the past decade. As technology evolves, so do the means by which companies can connect and interact with their audience.

Native advertising is an integral part of any sophisticated content strategy, especially as consumers become increasingly aware (and suspicious) of overt attempts to ‘sell’ to them.

Native Advertising is Authentic

Native ads are streamlined, unobtrusive and authentic in a way that doesn’t disrupt the experience of the ‘viewer’ or potential customer

It’s subtle and a stark contrast to the traditional ‘ad placements’ of days of yore, which were a direct and instantly identifiable promotion of a product or service.

But more than that – native advertising gives value. It uses relevant and interesting information to engage the reader, either through the brand’s own domain or someone else’s. 

Its unique potency lies in the fact that it’s an ad, but one that the viewer actually wants to engage with, as opposed to traditional advertising which they might be cynical of, or try to avoid. 

Instead of chasing the consumer, a native ad meets them halfway, providing an exchange of value and information that benefits both.

User-Generated Content

In recent years, perhaps no form of native advertising has been quite so effective as user-generated content. 

The rise of social and messaging platforms has meant that ‘ordinary’ people have become avid and voluntary content creators in their own right. 

Through this phenomenon, influencer marketing was born

Endorsements from people with large followings, or a purported expert level of knowledge in a field, became a fast way to build trust and awareness with a target audience, all while providing instant value.

With this in mind, it’s fair to say that UGC trends have taken content marketing in new and exciting ways. 

As marketers, it’s implemented an entire shift in our thinking; one that bridges the gap between audience and brand.

But how can we capitalize on this shift? 

And, if a business is already running a campaign on a certain product or service, how can user-generated content create more buzz around that campaign?

Using UGC in Campaigns

Some of the most common examples of effective UGC in campaigns include users being encouraged to share pictures with relevant hashtags, or uploading videos of themselves using a particular product.

One particularly successful example was Country Walking’s #walk1000miles campaign which encouraged followers to walk approximately 1 hour per day to eventually achieve the 1000 mile total. 

The social media impact was phenomenal and resulted in a Facebook group of nearly 30,000 members, national press coverage and the creation of official merchandise. 

This idea led to a host of new avenues for Country Walking to engage with their audience and netted Bauer Media 2018’s ‘Best Use of Social Media’ award at the PPAs.

UGC

This particular campaign relied heavily on the social element but going a traditional route while mixing in just a little UGC can be just as effective.

Brand engagement rises by 28% when consumers are exposed to a mixture of professional marketing content and UGC, according to a study by ComScore

The organizations that make the biggest gains in this space are the ones who cleverly and authentically combine the two.

UGC’s Personal Element

Traditional advertising and earned media have their own, separate, benefits. 

For example, traditional ads can relay far more direct information, while UGC is more effective at implying personal benefits, such as an increase in self-confidence. 

A traditional campaign can SAY that a product gives the user greater confidence, but hearing it from the mouth of a trusted (and seemingly impartial) influencer or social user has a completely different effect.

User generated content

This personal element is potent and invaluable for businesses. 

Authentic personal stories become powerful conduits of your brand’s message, while also unlocking precious insights into the effectiveness of whatever it is you’re trying to market (which ultimately helps with your wider marketing methods).

Examples such as a user’s before and after images will see a lot more engagement than a paid social ad that the average social network user is used to scrolling past. 

UGC also has the advantage of bypassing the ever-increasing use of ad-blockers and anti-fake-news bots. There are no restrictions on individuals sharing their experiences, and even sponsored influencer posts are liable to slip under the net.

How to Choose the Right Platform For Users to Share Their Content?

A UGC platform should already have a supportive and engaged audience. Content should be shared, or there should at least be a network of users who could be called upon to share content. 

Engagement is as important as reach, here, so make it as easy as possible for your audience to interact with, or upload content to, your chosen user interface

It’s most convenient when users don’t have to switch channels in order to share content. 

Because of this, an app is a perfect solution since content can be directly uploaded from a smartphone to existing platforms.

It’s easier than ever for businesses to build apps these days and since an increasing amount of traffic is coming through phones, apps are an essential resource when it comes to connecting with existing and potential customers. 

Improving visibility and fostering loyalty has never been so easy!

From Option to Necessity

Leveraging the power of user-generated content and trust-driven experiences deliver marketing results, at scale. 

Due to the fast pace of change in the digital marketing industry, connecting your brand with these interactions is no longer just a ‘nice to have’, but a ‘need to have’

Methods of communication are changing and, with it, consumer attitudes. Pouring money into old-school advertising campaigns will no longer cut it, and could actually do your brand some harm. 

Over 90% of consumers will place their trust with user-generated content. The fact that (the vast majority of UGC) isn’t paid for is something that works in its favor. 

It’s seen as unbiased and honest, instead of merely a well-funded attempt to manipulate the consumer into a sale.

In Sum

Luckily, the means of connecting with your audience and building an indestructible online presence are more accessible than they’ve ever been.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to gathering user-generated content, but your strategy should always be in alignment with your business goals and target audience – not to mention your overall content strategy. 

In today’s marketing ecosystem, trust and authenticity are the currencies that really matter!

Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on Twitter.

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