User-generated content (also known as UGC) is a highly effective form of marketing. The term refers to the phenomenon in which a user (often a customer) creates content that features a brand, or that was created with the help of a particular product. This type of content has become popular thanks to social media platforms like Instagram, where customers praise or disparage brands via visual content.
According to figures published by DMN, 70% of consumers value peer recommendations and reviews over content created by companies directly. Bazaarvoice reports that 84% of millennials believe that the products or services reflected in UGC are a good reflection of the brand’s true quality.
For brands interested in increasing reach and engagement, user-generated content is a great way to do it. UGC can help brands build strong relationships with the users who are generating this content, while also making it easier for brands to expand their reach when users re-share the content.
User-generated content can also positively impact your business outside of Instagram. Customer reviews and testimonials can help to improve conversion rates on your main website. In fact, collecting UGC on Instagram and repurposing it for your website can be a great way to improve overall business performance.
This article will walk readers through 8 effective ways to make the most of UGC, and will include examples of how other brands have successfully used UGC to improve performance.
1. Recognize that user-generated content works.
User-generated content works. Why else would major ecommerce websites like Amazon and Walmart feature customer reviews and star ratings so prominently on their websites?
According to Conversion XL, “88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and 72% of consumers say positive reviews make them trust businesses more. Millennials, in particular, trust user-generated content 50% more than other media.”
User-generated content is successful because people believe that it is an accurate reflection of the company being reviewed, and because people prefer viewing content created by relatable figures when it comes to making a purchasing decision.
It is because user-generated content works that brands like Apple, Harley-Davidson, KitchenAid and Mazda consistently use UGC on Instagram.
2. Identify the biggest selling point to focus on.
To use user-generated content effectively, you should first determine what you want your audience to understand about your product, service or brand based on this content. By using UGC in a targeted way, you can help to craft a clear brand narrative about what your company offers.
Apple, for example, has focused on sharing UGC that references the quality of the iPhone camera. This can be seen on huge billboards with the caption “Shot on iPhone,” as well as on Apple’s new Instagram account.
In the example below, Apple re-shared a piece of UGC featuring a morning shot of an iPhone user’s dog. In order to encourage other iPhone customers to share UGC on Instagram, Apple included the hashtag “ShotoniPhone.”
Even though Apple’s Instagram account is relatively new, a search for the hashtag “ShotoniPhone” turns up over 1 million posts.
Mazda is another company that uses UGC to great effect. The company focuses on re-sharing content that features Mazda sports cars that have been modified by customers. While other brands might shy away from sharing products modified by customers, Mazda has embraced automotive enthusiasts. Mazda’s Instagram account uses UGC to drive this brand narrative home.
In the example below, Mazda uses the Instagram caption to compliment the customer’s automotive modifications.
3. Monitor Instagram for user-generated content with an analytics tool.
It can be difficult to stay on top of brand mentions, especially if you are working on a small team that is responsible for managing other marketing campaigns. Even for dedicated Instagram marketers, it can be difficult to capture all of the user-generated content shared on the platform.
An Instagram analytics tool like Owlmetrics can monitor Instagram for you, and can highlight content that uses particular keywords and hashtags. This makes it considerably easier to catalogue and collect UGC for use at a later date.
Owlmetrics can also help you to understand how UGC performs compared to other content types. This analysis will make it easier to understand if a strategy that embraces UGC is popular among followers, or if another strategy should be pursued instead.
4. Reach out to the content creator for permission.
The rules about re-sharing content on Instagram are somewhat murky. Rather than rules, there is simply an unwritten code of Instagram conduct that all users (and especially brands) should follow when re-sharing content.
The most important of these unwritten rules is that brands should reach out to the original content creator before re-sharing content. Not only will this help to avoid any bad press should the original creator be unhappy with your brand, but it can also serve as a great opportunity to connect with a happy customer.
In many cases, reaching out to the original poster via an Instagram direct message is the easiest way to communicate with account behind the user-generated content. If done well, the user will frequently offer to re-share your brand’s post with his or her own followers.
5. Recycle Instagram user-generated content on other mediums.
As mentioned earlier, user-generated content isn’t just effective on Instagram; it can help website conversion rates as well. Consider repurposing UGC shared on Instagram on your company website.
User-generated content is a form of powerful social proof that can make potential customers more at ease, encouraging them to purchase a product or submit their personal information via a landing-page form.
Embedding Instagram UGC via the readily available iframe code is probably the easiest way to credibly share the content on your main website.
6. Consider nontraditional user-generated content formats.
When one thinks of user-generated content on Instagram, one usually thinks of a photograph featuring a particular product in the foreground. But there are other ways to share UGC that may work better for your particular group of followers.
One option is to share a video testimonial featuring a happy customer on Instagram. Another is to host a live video event via Instagram Stories featuring an interview with a happy customer. Instagram Stories are already used by around 250 million people each month, and Instagram will send a notification to followers when your brand begins a live video.
Brands that have received positive feedback in writing can consider turning this feedback into a quote and sharing it on Instagram as a way of effectively recycling user-generated content. In the example below, McKinsey (the well-known consulting company) uses an employee testimonial in a caption as a form of UGC.
7. Pair user-generated content with the right hashtag and caption.
Using only one hashtag, as opposed to none, boosts Instagram engagement rates by over 12% according to a report conducted by Similar Web. Pairing a post featuring UGC with appropriate hashtags and an appropriate caption is important to maximizing reach and engagement.
It is also a good idea to include a clear call to action in content featuring some sort of testimonial. If the UGC is effective, followers will want to know how they too can purchase the product or service. By stating clearly in the caption how others can have the same great experience, you will help to drive website visits, and possibly sales.
8. Find inspiration from brands that are already incorporating user-generated content well.
As noted above, a number of brands are using user-generated content in ways that complement their brand. Harley-Davidson frequently re-shares user-generated content as a way of featuring their latest motorcycles. Harley usually pairs the content with a short caption that features the name of the model and that @’s the original poster.
KitchenAid uses user-generated content differently. The brand usually features food that was produced with a KitchenAid product, and includes a longer caption featuring some sort of customer testimonial.
Notice that KitchenAid uses a clear call to action in the post below, writing: “Click the #linkinprofile for the recipe.”
User-generated content is an effective means of improving Instagram reach and post engagement. After all, the data references earlier in this article suggests that Instagram followers are interested in consuming UGC.
But UGC can be used in other meaningful ways as well. Specifically, UGC can help to provide website visitors with peace of mind when making a purchasing decision. This can help to improve website conversion rates and sales.
While there are many different approaches you can take when sharing UGC on Instagram, the key to a successful strategy involves sticking to a clear brand voice that is identifiable by customers.