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What Social Marketers Need to Know About User-Generated Content

We wanted to create a space where social marketers could dig deeper into trending topics and learn a little more each week, so we decided to host a weekly Twitter chat. Last week at #SimplyChat, we discussed the pros and cons of user-generated content, tactics to encourage it, brands we can learn from, and how to maintain branding while incorporating it.

Q1: What are the benefits of user-generated content?


Takeaway: User-generated content is a great way to build a connection with your audience. UGC lets your audience know that you hear and value their content. It’s easy for a brand to hit “like” on a piece of content that a user shares. But, when a brand shares a user’s content, it demonstrates that they stand behind what their users are saying or doing.

Apple’s entire Instagram feed is UGC, found under the hashtag #ShotoniPhone. This is digital marketing at its finest, since Apple gets to show off the capabilities of its product while also deepening its relationship with fans and offering up visually stunning content that is well-suited to this particular social network.

User-generated content can also help you discover trends that your audience is interested in. For example, if you were to track a hashtag in a listening solution, you would be able to see the most common post text, #hashtags, mentions, emoticons, and topic keywords associated with that hashtag.

Q2: Are there any downsides to user-generated content? What are they?

Takeaway: Before going on any new adventure, you need to be aware of the risks involved. This blog post is a good resource that explains the potential risks of a user-generated content strategy. One potential risk is that negative things people are saying about your brand may surface. As a solution, the blog post says to have a dedicated “SWAT team” to actively monitor the content being generated under the hashtag.

Q3: What are some tactics you can use to encourage user-generated content?

Takeaway: Asking for users to contribute content, making it a form of currency, or creating content or products optimized for sharing are all methods to encourage UGC. Here are ways to implement each of these responses.

  • Asking users to contribute content can be in the form of a contest. For example, let’s say you’re an ice cream shop and you are trying to find a way to advertise your newest flavor. You could say, “We’ve got a new flavor coming out and we can’t decide on a design for our ad, so we’re taking it to you! Submit a design by using this hashtag. One winner will be picked. The winner will get free ice cream for one year.”
  • Sticking with the ice cream shop theme, here’s how you could make UGC a form of currency. You could give out a free scoop of ice cream in exchange for someone taking a picture of/with a cone and posting with your hashtag.
  • A product that is optimized for sharing on social is the Unicorn Frappuccino. Even though the majority consensus of the drink was that it tasted bad, it generated lots of content because the aesthetic was something Starbucks drinkers wanted to share.

If you need more ideas, this blog post has four more methods to check out.

Q4: Name a brand that uses user-generated content well and what you’ve learned from them.

Takeaway: Take a look at what every other brand or influencer is doing—even if they aren’t in your industry—and note what you like and dislike about their UGC campaign.

This way, you can learn from other people’s successes and failures without having to take any risks first. Then, find ways to incorporate what you like into your strategy and avoid what you don’t like.

For example, Dylan mentioned Patagonia. What I like about Patagonia’s strategy is that it allows the brand to deliver what their audience wants on Instagram—a sense of adventure—with content from real-world Patagonia fans enjoying the outdoors.

This is a tactic I’d want to consider in my strategy, because it’s how I can create a connection and stay relevant to our audience.

What I don’t like about Patagonia’s UGC strategy is that someone could easily scroll past it without registering in their minds that Patagonia posted it. This would not go well for my UGC strategy because, as a B2B company, we need to portray a level of authority and our prospects need to be able to differentiate between what we are saying and what our audience is saying.

Q5: How can you use user-generated content and still maintain your branding?

Takeaway: Anytime you start a campaign that will result in reposting the content shared under a hashtag, you need to set clear guidelines. These guidelines need to explain the type of content that will and will not be shared.

These guidelines also need to state that, by using the hashtag, participants are aware that their content has a chance of being reposted. When you do find content you’d like to share, always reach out to the user via direct message to ask for permission and give credit to the content creator by tagging them in the photo and/or post.

If you like what you read here and want to be a part of the conversation, join us this Thursday at 11 AM PST for a chat on content optimization! These are the questions we’ll be asking:

Q1. What does the word “content” in “content optimization” mean to you? A social post? A webpage? Something else entirely?
Q2. Explain a time you optimized your content in the last week.
Q3. How do your content optimization tactics differ depending on the social network you are posting to?
Q4. How do you work with your content team to optimize web content for social?
Q5. How do developing technologies/new features on social networks affect the way you optimize your content?

Can’t wait to see you there.

Laurie Anne Nilo

I'm the Social Media Manager here at Simply Measured. I love all things wellness, coffee, watercolor, and travel.

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