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Content that produces itself and brings clients: what UGC is and how to work with it

Friday, March 12, 2021

Nearly everyone working with product promotion knows that content is the king of marketing. Old school TV ads are no longer relevant for zoommers and millennials who are actually the most active consumers that will be shaping the market of tomorrow. Native advertising is also not very trusted.

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How to promote a product without causing rejection from the audience? The answer is simple — through the audience itself. It might sound surprising but in recent years almost all successful brands have been using this method. They promote the product through user generated content, also known as UGC. Let’s see what it is and how to work with it.

UGC, or User-generated content is unique content created by the audience of the product. In the simplest sense, an example of user-generated content is the reviews and comments that consumers / customers / users leave on the brand’s social networks, but with the right approach, user-generated content can have many more genres and formats.

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Why UGC is good for your company

First off, user generated content allows for diversification of the company’s news flow. Even if it has a special department responsible for the daily content of the site and social networks, UGC can bring fresh perspective into your work and output. UGC is great even when the quality of such content is low, because it presents new ideas that you can interpret in your own way, and it also provides insight into how your audience sees your product.

Some personal experience

Several years ago I was the chief editor of a financial portal, meaning we mainly wrote about exchange rate forecasts, price changes, economics and banking products. Yet, I felt like we were missing quite a big part of the audience. Finance is a very broad topic, just like the weather. People from different countries with different income levels can talk about the weather and the same is true for finances: whether you love money or not, no matter if you are rich or poor you will have to deal with it.

Once, while planning content for the next month, I decided to invite one of the most active authors to tell us about their family budget. He did and his story was pretty offbeat. Few articles on our website and in social networks had so many comments. Many of the comments were mini reports of other readers’ budgets. It felt like we discovered the topic readers can relate to, so I decided to make a series of materials where readers share how they manage their family budget. So we hit the KPI, got easy content and attracted a new audience.

Secondly, people are tired of traditional advertising, for the majority it is just annoying. Posts that you boost often get a bunch of negative comments and ad blocking apps are gaining popularity. But when an ordinary person leaves a review for a product / record unboxing / posts a photo with a company tag on their page in social networks, such publications receive much more positive attention. Most are interested in someone else’s experience and tend to be willing to repeat it.

Thirdly, a big plus from UGC is the brand’s constructive and positive communication with the audience. UGC works on every stage of the Customer Journey Map (check out the article to find out what this is and how it works). It’s the interaction between the product and the customer at different stages of the consumer’s “journey” from the first contact with the brand to the purchase. A potential client may not even be aware of your brand, but through publications on social networks in the profiles of their friends, they can first learn about you, remember your brand and, possibly, get interested in it.

Besides, when you use your customers’ content on your brand page, you gain loyalty from the content creator as well as generate more trust from new and undecided customers.

A small story

I once asked my colleague how he was doing, and he boasted that the other day he appeared in an Instagram story of the gym he was going to. It turned out that he had posted a story with a tag, and the gym used his content. The guy became so loyal to the company that he convinced his friend and his girlfriend to go to this gym. One mention in a story brought 2 new customers!

Fourth, user-generated content can be a very cheap tool with the right approach. The main thing is to motivate and inspire the audience: come up with a funny competition or a creative challenge. All you need to spend money on is advertising the campaign in social networks and / or in the media, prizes for participants (although you can get by with something intangible that your customers will like — check out Your Story Interactive case below). You’ll get a bunch of mentions and content in return.

Thus, using UGC, by motivating users to create content, the brand gets:

  • new ideas;
  • content that you can use for your brand’s promotion in various online campaigns
  • new audience;
  • more motivated traditional audience;
  • reach: people like to share their art with friends and family.

If people like the product and get a bonus for the content you are bound to get UGC. Most people love when their opinion is listened to, when they are not just seen not as a source of income, but as partners, when their creativity is appreciated.

The case of Your Story Interactive

Your Story Interactive studio from Moldova was launched in 2017 with several game products: survival quest “Station Zarya-1”, “Romance Club. My Stories” and “The Survivor: The Jurassic Kingdom”. The interactive game “Romance Club” gained most popularity (10+ million downloads in the Google Play Market alone). There are game’s communities on Instagram, YouTube, VKontakte, Facebook, and a significant part of the content there is user-generated. Authors of the best cosplays, themed drawings and videos receive free diamonds that are an in-game currency that allows you to choose a more status action for a character or change their image.

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UGC types

Let’s see what types of UGC there are.

  1. Comments and feedback are the easiest and could also be the most important type of UGC. According to a number of studies, most millennials trust comments, reviews, and other ratings from audiences more than information from traditional media. For some companies, it is so important to get positive reviews for their product that they motivate their audience to create such content with discounts and free bonuses.
  2. Unpacking and reviews are a more time-consuming and more complex type of content, which at the same time is in significant demand from the audience. In the Russian speaking segment, websites like otzovik.com and IRecommend.ru are the first thing that a potential buyer of medicines, products, equipment and the like will visit before deciding on a purchase. Motivate your customers to act as experts and share experiences. You’ll see that not only will mentions go up, but sales (if you produce a decent product) will also grow and so will your brand reputation. Expert content in the form of reviews is the perfect replacement for boring native ads.

Practical tips

Noone likes when their favorite blogger suddenly begins to “casually” talk about a refrigerator of a certain brand, especially if the blog itself is dedicated to cinema. It’s another matter when the same blogger shares their personal experience and no brand has paid for the review. This is where the delicate balance between advertising and UGC lies. It is clear that you should not just wait for a millionaire blogger to mention you. This might happen but, as the saying runs, God helps him who helps himself.

Motivate your audience, including bloggers (why not!). Launch a challenge for the best review / description of characteristics, the best life hack using your product. The main thing from you is to give a portion of inspiration and convince your audience that their experience and opinion are important to you, and their work, at least, will not go unnoticed, and at the most, it will be rewarded.

  1. Cosplay is creative, resource-intensive, but very beautiful, inspiring type of content. If your product has to do with games, videos, books, and if you were able to win the heart of your audience, you are bound to get some cosplays.
  2. Pictures are the content that can help you freshen up the design of your product/series of products.
  3. Photos and videos are perfect for brand promotion. Users eagerly take pictures, record videos, post stories and share them with friends. We all remember Coca-Cola customized bottles with names, don’t we?

Practical tips

If your product is directly related to photography and video, then developing and promoting UGC is simply your sacred duty. People will come and subscribe to your channels to learn about approaches to using the product, its capabilities, new ideas. Let’s say your product is a photo editing application. In this case, launch a competition for the most professional photo editing or a campaign with application life hacks. There can be many topics for UGC, but start from what customers like about your product: it’s nice when it’s clear from user content. In this case every mention will turn into a mini-funnel for attracting new users.

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UGC-campaigns: how to launch them and what strategy to choose

Let’s figure out how to integrate user-generated content into a brand’s marketing policy and get the most out of it. Let’s start with the basics: define the purpose of UGC and its use. What could be the goal of your brand’s UGC campaign?

  • Generating ideas for a brand — a new logo, slogan, design for a product.
  • Content as such — one of the main advantages of user generated content is that it is original and often non-standard. For example, you run a brand’s social media and constantly need fresh posts.
  • Attracting new customers and increasing sales.
  • Increasing the number of subscribers on social networks.
  • Increasing brand loyalty / brand product, improving the company’s image as a whole.

Action plan for UGC campaigns

  1. Come up with a catchy idea that is easy to execute. The idea has to be both clear to your target audience and something they can relate to. Put yourself in the shoes of your consumer: what would you be interested in posting on Instagram Stories? Coca-Cola’s advertising campaign with customized bottles is a great example: it is easy to take a picture / shoot a mini-video, but it is not always possible to find “your” bottle quickly. Do not go too far with creativity — if your task is too difficult, there will be, alas, little content.
  2. Come up with a reward for creating content: a discount, a personalized gift, a link to a social media profile, participation in a lottery with valuable prizes, or something else.
  3. Decide where you will post UGC. As a rule, this will be a specific social network, so take care of the hashtag that the campaign participants will mark their work with, and the format, taking into account the specifics of the social network you’ve chosen.
  4. Prepare a catchy release with description, conditions of participation, deadline and rules. Spread it.
  5. Select the content that is relevant to the product / brand and contributes to the project’s image to post in your social media. Choose and award the winners based on the campaign conditions: try to be transparent and not offensive to all participants as much as possible. Thank the audience, ideally make a small bonus for all members. This could be a promo code.
  6. Analyze campaign results: get sales statistics, reach, and other campaign targets. Evaluate the result of the UGC.
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For inspiration: UGC-giant TikTok

TikTok is an impressive example of how user-generated content can become the leader in the global market for non-gaming apps. The project is not even five years old, even if we consider the launch of the prototype — the Douyin social network — as the time of its creation. However, in 2020, TikTok overtook Facebook, Zoom, Instagram and WhatsApp in the number of downloads in App Store and Google Play. The pandemic only added to its popularity, as people began to use smartphones more often, create their own content and share it.

The secret of the project’s popularity lies in simplicity, algorithms and relevance. The videos are very short (up to 60 seconds), and TikTok’s video editor is very convenient and intuitive: anyone with a smartphone can create their own video. The system helps promote quality content through thoughtful mechanics within the platform and selects relevant recommendations in the user’s feed. TikTok was able to see the desire and ability of users to create their own content and share it, and it’s now dictating trends: now famous artists come here themselves to promote their creativity.

TikTok’s success has been so rapid that it even shook market leaders’ confidence. Thus, in order not to lose ground, Instagram has developed a very similar functionality, Reels that allow you to create short videos. At the end of November 2019, the project began to be tested in Brazil, and in August 2020 it became available in 50 countries. Reels enables users to record 15-second videos with added music and visual effects. Yet, it’s just a copy and the original remained in the lead.

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Summary

UGC solves many tasks for a company from preparing content for social networks and their website, to attracting a new audience, increasing sales and finding new ideas for product positioning. As a rule, this happens voluntarily, free of charge, and with the systematic approach on the part of a marketer — in large quantities.

To get started with UGC, decide on your goal and understand why you need it. And then act according to the plan: come up with an idea (theme) for the future campaign, think how to motivate the audience, brainstorm the sites where the content will be published, prepare a release and off you go! In the end, do not forget to thank the participants and analyze the results.

The possibilities of UGC are almost endless — after all, it was content that helped TikTok take off in just a couple of years. And who knows, maybe it is UGC that will be the key to your success!

 

12 Mar 2021

 

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