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How to Encourage User-Generated Content on Social Media

It’s no mystery that social media is a powerful tool when it comes to marketing your business. But with an increasing number of businesses spending top dollar on social media every month, it’s easy to feel like your social media marketing efforts are falling flat.

Fortunately, one of the most effective methods of social media marketing is relatively inexpensive. It just requires a little heavy lifting on your part. That method is user-generated content (UGC).

UGC is an effective way to boost sales and engagement while generating traffic and virality for your business.

In fact, studies have shown that consumers trust UGC 50 percent more than they trust other media. And it’s easy to see why – after all. It’s one of the easiest ways to social proof your messaging and increase conversions.

Lack of social shares, testimonials, reviews, comments and other forms of user engagement on your website and social channels have the potential to break your business, especially if it’s more online than physical.

If you’re ready to “up” your social media marketing game, these four strategies will help encourage UGC throughout your chosen channels.

Create a Contest

Creating and promoting contests via social media is nothing new, but there is a way to revamp your efforts. Rather than creating a contest where contestants simply enter their email for a chance to win, give contestants the opportunity to share their own content (such as ideas, photos and videos).

National Geographic, an organization renowned for its own stunning photographs, too turns to social media community for content from time to time. Their Travel Photographer of the Year contest has once again proved that user-generated travel content is a hidden treasure for brands. National Geographic asked people to submit pictures of unforgettable moments and experiences from their travels around the world that have impacted their lives. To win some amazing prizes (the first prize for each category included $2,500 while the grand-prize winner received a “10-day trip for two to the Galápagos Archipelago with National Geographic Expeditions”) people could enter photos in three categories: Nature, Cities, and People.

National Geographic

With this contest, National Geographic has been successfully tapping into a huge database of travel photography years after years. And the best part is that their social media community is more than happy to share their content (even at the cost of a small entry fee). By aligning the prize with their participants’ innate interests, National Geographic is not just engaging with their community in a positive way but also generating a huge database of relevant and shareable content in a fairly easier way.

Don’t have a dispensable social media budget like National Geographic? No worries. You can start small with “prizes” in the form of free trials of your products. Tools and services like Woobox can help you easily create, implement and manage a UGC campaign on a budget.

Create a UGC Contest

Encourage Customers to Submit Stories

Lots of companies are turning to their social media channels to encourage UGC by asking for customers to submit personal, relevant stories.

Not only does this strategy get people involved by sharing feel-good experiences, but It’s a great way to show a more authentic side of your company too.

A great example of a company effectively utilizing story-based UGC is The North Face, who often asks customers to share stories of their adventures and how they use their North Face gear along the way. They regularly feature beautiful, on-brand content submitted by their customers on their social media channels at no cost to the company (hello, free marketing!)

The North Face - Submit Stories

Not only does the North Face benefit by acquiring a professional-quality photo for free, but the user gets his or her name out there to grow their following too. Win-win.

Use the Power of Hashtags

Creating a unique hashtag encourages UGC and can align your brand with relevant events and trends as a result. Perhaps one of the most memorable social media campaigns of the last decade is Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke,” in which the company produced Coke bottles with customer’s names on the labels and handed them out in different cities across the world.

Coca-Cola also asked customers to share pictures of their personalized Coke bottles on their social media accounts using the “#ShareaCoke” hashtag. The result? Not only were more than 500,000 photos shared using the unique hashtag, but Coca-Cola gained 25 million new Facebook followers and saw a 2% increase in U.S. sales after a decade of declining revenue.

Coca Cola Share a Coke

Involve Industry Influencers

Having social media influencers create content for you is a great way to kick start your UGC efforts as well as build a brand. Influencers are individuals with a large following and can reach audiences you might not be able to. What’s more they are far more effective than companies in eliciting a response from the audience.

The fashion juggernaut, Michael Kors, made perfect use of influencers during Fashion Week in 2015 with their #AllAccessKors section featured below the video feed of the brand’s runway shows. This campaign was filled with on-stage and behind-the-scenes photos and quotes from the who’s who attending the events.

KorsAs a result, influencers were able to generate content that reached a significantly larger audience than Michael Kors would have been able to with their social media marketing efforts alone.

Again, successful coordination with multiple outsiders, such as influencers, requires the use of collaboration and tracking tools. You will need to coordinate with various influencers in order to get on the same page in terms of ideation and execution and ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Workzone for instance, is built for these types of campaigns and is designed to fit the needs of small-business operations by making external collaboration simple.

Using the simplified projects dashboard, all members involved have complete transparency as to how and when jobs are being completed in real-time. You can also integrate specific influencer campaigns with your overall marketing:

Influencer Tracking

In Conclusion

While it may seem crazy, in lots of cases your customers can market your business better than you can -so if you have yet to try your hand at UGC, get started. It is arguably one of the most cost-effective ways to boost sales and engagement while generating traffic and virality for your business. By utilizing the strategies above and implementing some of your own, you’ll be able to ramp up your social media strategy while making the most of UGC.

For related information, check out our blog post, How to Create Better Content for Any Point in the Funnel to gain even more insight to guide your content planning.

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Pratik Dholakiya

Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder of E2M, a full service digital marketing agency and PRmention, a digital PR agency. He regularly speaks at various conferences about SEO, Content Marketing, Growth Hacking, Entrepreneurship and Digital PR. Pratik has spoken at NextBigWhat's UnPluggd, IIT-Bombay, SMX Israel, and other major events across Asia. As a passionate marketer, he shares his thoughts and knowledge on publications like Search Engine Land, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, The Next Web and the Huffington Post to name a few. He has been named one of the top content marketing influencers by Onalytica three years in a row.

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