They say the customer is always right. But did you know they can also be creative and help drive your brand forward while increasing engagement? Thanks to the power of user-generated content, otherwise known as UGC, your customers could become your biggest marketing asset.

UGC is one of the most potent weapons a marketer can use for creating a buzz on social media. The proof is in the numbers: UGC posts shared to social media see a 28% higher engagement rate than standard brand posts, while 79% of people claim they use UGC to inform their purchase decisions. 

If you’re not already implementing UGC as part of your social media strategy, then it should definitely be on your agenda for 2020. User-generated content will continue to be one of the primary trends as it helps brands create stories and moments that are high on engagement. 

In this article, we’ll show you 4 reasons why UGC should feature in your social media strategy. 

User-generated content in a snapshot

UGC is any form of content that is made and published by unpaid contributors. These contributors are typically fans of a brand who create content rather than the brand doing so itself. The brand then shares this content with its followers. 

User-generated content comes in many forms, including:

  • Social media posts
  • Website pages
  • Blogs
  • Testimonials/Reviews
  • Images
  • Videos

A large amount of UGC is displayed through imagery, which makes Instagram one of the primary platforms to make use of it. But it’s not limited to the image-led social media channel: Twitter, Facebook, and many other social channels act as the perfect launching pad to display user-generated content. And here are 4 ways it can turn your social media output into a winning strategy. 

1) UGC promotes authenticity 

Businesses of all sizes spend a fortune trying to make their product or service seem authentic, yet sometimes all it takes is word of mouth. Content created by brands can often feel contrite. But when an audience shows its appreciation for a brand, it comes across as more authentic. 

An impressive 60% of customers believe UGC is the most authentic form of content. 

User-generated content strips away much of the sheen and gloss associated with branded marketing collateral and instead offers natural posts that are more relatable. We’re more likely to identify with content posted by people like us, which is why UGC often hits the sweet spot. 

Online furniture store Made.com is well aware of the importance of buying the perfect three-piece sofa or bedside table for your home, which is why they invited their customers to participate with the brand directly. Using the hashtag MADEdesign, customers snap an image of furniture they have purchased, showing how it looks in their home. They then post it to Made’s social media. 

Brand example: Made.com

The best ones get used on the website’s product page’s “House proud? We get it” section. Not only is Made making their furniture more authentic by showcasing how their products look away from the sheen of the designer studio; it’s also giving people a chance to show off their interior design skills.

2) Inclusivity is key

Audiences no longer want soulless interactions with brands. Instead, they desire to be part of a community. UGC takes away the faceless A to B transactions and creates a more inclusive atmosphere for everyone involved. Sharing and interacting with customers benefits business in the short and long term. 

UGC ads get four times the amount of click-through rates because people feel more of an affiliation with something that strikes a chord. It’s easier for audiences to identify with UGC because it’s reflective of something they can associate with themselves — and that makes them more receptive to a brand and its offerings.  

Brand example: Calvin Klein 

The 1980s saw one of Calvin Klein’s most iconic campaigns, which starred Brooke Shield. Titled My Calvins, the advert captured the world’s attention. In 2016, the brand revisited the campaign, this time including their audience and making them the star of the show. Customers took pictures of themselves wearing the fashion brand’s jeans and included the caption My Calvins, followed by a statement about why they loved their Calvin Klein jeans. The campaign was a resounding success, with more than 179k photos tagged in just a few weeks. 

3) Cost effective

Social media marketing managers have plenty to juggle when planning their creating strategies — and budgets are often at the top of the list. UGC is a relatively inexpensive — or free — way to market on social media, yet it still gets a high return on investment (ROI)

By going straight to the source (your followers), brands can ask customers to create assets for them, whether it’s sending photos, videos, comments, or another type of interaction. Essentially, brands can receive hundreds of pieces of content for free, using the best ones to promote their brand and interact with audiences. Brands can build a content library without the need for a massive financial outlay. 

Brand example: Coca-Cola

Fizzy drink giant Coca-Cola saved 92% on marketing costs by implementing a UGC strategy. The company produced bottles of Coke with names on them and asked customers to upload images to social media when they purchased one with their name on it. Their personalized bottles’ campaign was an enormous success, increasing Coke’s revenues by 2% — which roughly equates to 210 million dollars. 

4) Build brand trust

Trust is one of the most important aspects of any brand. It’s something that takes a long time to gain but can disappear in a second. Today, people research a product or service thoroughly before making a purchase decision — and there is a plethora of information out to make sure they’re making the correct choice. 

84% of people trust online consumer opinions over a brand.

Customer testimonials are worth their weight in gold and give products and services from brands that all-important seal of approval. Part of a successful strategy should encourage customers to leave reviews of products and services, especially on social media. Whether it’s video reviews or a quickly written post to say how much they enjoyed interacting with your brand, a good testimonial can be the difference between someone deciding for or against spending money with a brand. 

Brand example: Square

Online payments company Square places a lot of emphasis on testimonials, displaying its customer success stories on Instagram. The majority of posts focus solely on its users and how Square’s product has helped them. There’s no better proof for how something works than showing real-life customers benefiting from a product or service. Square recognized this and dedicated their social media outreach to telling the stories of their customers and increasing brand trust.

UGC for all

Leveraging UGC is one of the fastest ways to build your social media strategy. It champions the idea of community and makes audiences feel like they’re essential components of your brand. 

Thanks to UGC being cost-effective and easy to utilize, social media marketers don’t need to spend a large amount of time implementing UGC tactics. 

Yet they can still benefit from increased content libraries while adding a new dynamic to their brand — one that is more inclusive of their audiences and drives sales and engagement.