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User-Generated Content Marketing: A Complete Guide

User-generated content marketing drives brand loyalty and boosts brand awareness. Your customers are valuable brand ambassadors. For this reason, sharing user-generated  content from them is like getting a free advertisement for your brand. In fact, this is the perfect way to boost your traditional content marketing efforts.

What is user-generated content?

User generation content is content created by people who have interacted with your brand. These people usually get to know your brand by buying your core product or service. Alternatively, they could also be people from your target audience.

User-generated content marketing involves sharing this content on your platforms in order to generate positive publicity for your brand.

Why do you need user-generated content marketing?

Why do we, as content marketers, need to add user-generated content marketing to our overflowing to-do lists? Because people don’t like or trust traditional advertisements, that’s why. In fact, 7 in 10 people use advertising avoidance strategies such as ad blockers.

It’s true. Humanity as a whole has become very suspicious of advertisements which seem to promise heaven on earth. And the Fyre Festival is only one of many reasons for this distrust.

In April 2017, Fyre Media cofounder Billy McFarland started selling people tickets to a once-in-a-lifetime experience – a luxury music festival set against the backdrop of a tropical island in the Bahamas.

An average of 5,000 people spent thousands of dollars on these tickets which were supposed to include luxury accommodation for the duration of the festival.

These people arrived on the island excited to mingle and party with celebrities like Ja Rule and Kendall Jenner. They were astounded to find that all the A-list musical acts had dropped out of the festival. To make things worse, their five-star accommodation had transformed into dilapidated tents which were soaking wet from the rain.

Advertisements for the Fyre Festival had promised “a place where the tropical sun shines all day, and our celebrations ignite the night.”

The reality, unfortunately, was like something out of a nightmare. On top of scamming 5,000 festival-goers out of their money, McFarland scammed investors out of $26 million.

Fyre Festival Expectation vs. Reality

Image source: METRO

User-generated content marketing vs. traditional advertising

Marketers have been breaking hearts all over the world since the beginning of time. Yes, the Fyre Festival scam is a dramatic example of this, but it happens all the time. Advertisements promise us the sun and the moon, but deliver an anticlimactic experience.

Our burgers always look juicier on a billboard than they do on our plates. Our resorts look more lush in the website photos than they do in person. Red Bull promises to give us wings.

McDonalds Burger Advertisement vs. Reality

Image source: Business Insider

Maldives Advertisement vs. Reality
Maldives Advertisement vs. Reality

Image source: Architecture and Design

It’s no surprise that people will trust what one of your customers says about your brand more than an advertisement from your brand. User-generated content marketing is seen as more authentic than traditional marketing. This is why your brand needs it.

User-generated content is a form of social proof for your brand. It helps you not only strengthen your relationship with current customers, but also reach a wider audience.

Here’s how sharing user-generated content can boost your brand:

  • It is authentic

User-generated content is created by people who don’t work for your brand. For a potential customer, this content presents an authentic perspective on your brand. This is because user-generated content is produced by someone just like them who has had first-hand experience with the brand. For this reason, people will trust your user-generated content marketing more than they will trust your traditional advertisements.

  • It creates a content community

When you share content produced by one client, you encourage other clients to produce similar content. This results in a community of people who love your brand and enjoy advocating for it. A content community is a source of valuable publicity for your brand.

  • It generates brand loyalty

Speaking of content communities, user-generated content marketing also inspires brand loyalty. If you encourage people to share what they love about your brand, then you will remain top of mind among these clients. This increases the chances that they will come back to you the next time they’re looking for a similar product or service.

  • It drives sales

Sharing content created by people who are loyal to your brand boosts brand awareness. Ultimately, more brand awareness generates more sales.

  • It is a source of valuable feedback

User-generated content is a good place to find out what people love about your brand, as well as what they don’t particularly enjoy. The feedback won’t always be positive, and that’s not a bad thing. Rather, you can negative feedback is an opportunity to tweak what isn’t working for your clients. This way, you can build a product which they truly love.

Taking this feedback seriously will help your clients feel seen and heard. If your customers believe that you value what they have to say, then they will stay with you for a long time.

Examples of user-generated content marketing

1) Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign

In 2011, Coca Cola launched its “Share a Coke” campaign in Australia by printing people’s names on the sides of their bottles. Coca Cola encouraged people to buy a friend a bottle with their name on it and share the coke.

User Generated Content Coca Cola

Image source: StoryBox

While the original campaign was launched in Australia, it turned into a multi-national campaign. Images of the Coke bottles were widely shared on social media, and the company tailored the campaign to each new culture. With this approach, they were able to create a personalized campaign in each new country.

For example, in Israel, the company greeted people personally by name on huge billboards. Similarly, in China, they included nicknames among the original names.

With this campaign, Coca Cola not only built a personal connection with consumers but also spread some joy.

2) Aerie’s #AerieREAL campaign

In 2014, American Eagle’s loungewear and lingerie line – Aerie – launched the #AerieREAL campaign to encourage women to appreciate their natural beauty. Since our adverts are filled with retouched photos of flawless women imposing unrealistic expectations on real women, this campaign is still relevant today.

With #AerieREAL, Aerie hopes to promote body positivity and confidence in women. This is a noble goal, especially in the face of an industry filled with ridiculous beauty standards.

When Aerie launched this campaign, they also made a commitment to stop editing photos of their models. In addition, they encouraged their customers to post unedited photos on social media with the accompanying hashtag “#AerieREAL”. For each photo that is shared to social media, Aerie donates #1 to the National Eating Disorders Association.

User-generated content marketing #AerieREAL campaign

Image source: Forbes

In 2020, Aerie launched #AerieREAL Changemakers. This program recognizes women who are helping their communities and changing the world. #AerieREAL Changemakers awards these fierce and inspiring entrepreneurs, advocates and humanitarians with $20,000 each to support their selfless projects. These women are now brand advocates for Aerie. Moreover, Aerie has gained publicity as a brand which cares about humanity.

3) Starbucks White Cup Contest

In 2014, Starbucks launched their white cup contest in order to build a deeper connection with their customers. They wanted to come up with a new design for their cups and invited their customers to submit designs using the hashtag #whitecupcontest. These customers, who already enjoyed drawing on their cups, were eager to participate.

The #whitecupcontest united Starbucks customers and encouraged them to work towards a common goal. This contest resulted in thousands of cup designs being shared on social media. In addition, Starbucks enjoyed more publicity and brand loyalty.

User-generated content marketing Starbucks White Cup Contest

Image source: Medium

With the pandemic confining many people to their homes more than usual, brands are reaching out to reassure their clients. By keeping clients company online, brands can create a sense of community in a trying time. Here are two brands who are doing this well:

4) Recreate a piece of art at the J.Paul Getty Museum

When COVID hit last year, fact that the J.Paul Getty Museum had to close their doors didn’t stop them from engaging with the public. The museum put out a call for people to recreate works of art while quarantined at home.

“We challenge you to recreate a work of art with objects (and people) in your home,” the museum tweeted. Contestants had to:

  • Choose their favourite work of art
  • Find objects and people in their homes
  • Recreate the piece of art
  • Share their creation on social media

Twitter users joined in on the fun and encouraged their families and friends to participate. The result was a series of interesting and amusing submissions, as well as increased publicity for the museum.

User-generated content marketing J.Paul Getty Museum

Image source: CNN

5) The perfect #StePoWknd

In an effort to celebrate National Travel & Tourism week 2020, Stevens Point Area invited the public to vote for the perfect way to spend a #StePoWknd. The campaign was designed to engage locals and former guests.

User-generated content marketing #StePoWknd

Image source: Stevens Point Area Blog

People submitted different must-haves for the perfect weekend. Stevens Point Area then used these submissions to curate the perfect weekend. The final perfect #StePoWknd was divided into different categories including drinks, food and adventures.

With this campaign, Stevens Point got their community excited about having a new adventure over the weekend. This sense of excitement was much appreciated by the public, especially given how isolated many people were feeling at home.

User-generated content marketing: Best practices

Now that you understand what user-generated content marketing is, let’s talk about how to do this for your brand.

  • List clear requirements

If you are asking your audience to submit user-generated content, then you need to be clear about what kind of content you’d like them to submit. For example, in the Starbucks white cup contest, they had a list of rules.

Even so, sometimes your audience will post content that is totally unexpected and unscripted. This is a good thing, because content which someone posts spontaneously is a more authentic reflection of your brand. So when this happens, enjoy the moment and share this content with the rest of your network.

  • Ask for permission

Before you share user-generated content, it’s important to ask the content creator for permission first. By asking for permission, you are showing this person that you respect them. Ultimately, clients who feel respected will speak about your brand highly.

  • Offer something in return

It’s not enough to simply ask for permission to use someone’s content. If you’re going to share someone’s content, then it’s only fair to offer them something in return. This person will appreciate feeling valued as a brand advocate. You can offer your content creators branded gifts, invitations to events or discount vouchers for your core product or service.

User-generated content marketing can sound very technical and unfathomable at first. However, as you have seen, it’s quite easy in practice. With the above tips, you can boost engagement with your current clients and increase brand awareness among potential clients.

Do you need help brainstorming the perfect content marketing strategy?


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