There are two types of photos being shared online: those shared by people and those shared by brands. All the posts, photos, videos and stories created by regular people are what we call “user-generated content” or UGC. This is a lifestyle type of content, where we can take a peek into people’s everyday life, what they like and how they think.
Sometimes, that content can be associated with a brand. For example, an Instagram story about a cool package you were excited to get or a Facebook post wearing your favorite hoodie.
According to Instagram’s data, 100+ million photos are posted everyday on the platform and around 500+ million users are active on stories everyday. That is a whole lot of content.
UGC is a powerful marketing tool for brands, because it can help achieve brand engagement, affinity or even create brand awareness by sharing products they love on their social media profiles, which can lead to profile visits and sales for your brand.
Think about it this way: would you trust more a photo or some hype about a product posted by a brand or by someone you know? The truth is, we trust the people we know, and even more, when we read something with no agenda perceived. I mean, of course a brand would talk great about their products, but when someone not related to the brand does it, we believe it is because they really mean it.
These are unscripted, authentic moments with a whole lot of value for your brand. It creates awareness, trust and loyalty, all at the same time.
So, how do you encourage user-generated content?
1. Keep track of your mentions, tagged photos, your location (if you have an offline one), and your hashtags.
Sometimes, people like to “check-in” on the places they’ve been too, by posting a picture, a video or a story about it. Sometimes, they will either tag you in the post, in the photo, mention you in their story or use one of your hashtags.
It is important that you keep track of this content and try to repost the best of it so your customers know that you see them and want to connect with them. Think about it: how special would you feel if your favorite brand reposted your content? There is a special bond to be created right there! Make sure you use it.
2. Identify trends
When you look at this UGC, are there any patterns? Do you recognize any similarities in your customers? What details are they picking up on? What stimulus are they responding to?
For example, are most of them moms, teens or bloggers? What is the content showing? A product, the packaging, with some personalization like Starbucks does, putting your name on your cup? This information is extremely important so you can identify opportunities to encourage users to create more content associated with your brand.
3. Create a hashtag that is related to your brand, but it’s more about your customers
Personalized hashtags can be a great way to position the topics your brand is interested in, spark conversations and let your customers feel like they are a part of something. Just make sure you use something that goes along your brand’s essence, but is not completely about yourself (a.k.a #BrandNameIsAwesome).
Here are some great examples:
Whichever you choose for your brand, make it visible on every platform you have. Whether it’s your Instagram bio or a sign on your store’s window, it should be visible for your customers to discover and use it.
4. Use it as social currency
People love incentives, from coupons to buy-one-get-one deals. Small offers such as discounts, free samples or the chance to do something unique and unexpected that relates to your brand can be used to drive participation.
You can either use this as a brand policy all year round or for special events or holidays.
5. Create social media moments
Whether it’s a cool wall on your store, some personalized packaging or some interactive product, designing an experience for your customers can encourage people to share content about your brand on their social media profiles.
A classic example for this is having your name written on your coffee cup or the really cool cafes everyone is posting about.
Whatever it is, make sure it is something unique and that reflects your brand’s essence.