With an average of 95 million images and videos uploaded to Instagram daily, User-Generated Content (UGC) is one of the best ways for brands to showcase their products and increase sales. UGC is any content that is created by a customer and used by a business (with the customer’s permission).
“One of the key benefits to UGC is that it creates a strong sense of authenticity” explains Colin Peter O’Riordan, social media expert and strategist at Brandwidth. “Customers know that online reviews can be faked and often biased due to algorithms. But user-generated content is visual and mostly linked to social media accounts, making it more difficult for brands to fake.” 84% of millennials say user-generated content impacts their buying decisions. 74% say user-generated content has a greater impact on them than professional photos. With such striking stats, brands cannot afford to ignore UGC.
Let’s look at some of the key ways that you can accelerate UGC for your brand:
1.Review existing fan images
The first step you should take before building out a new UGC strategy is to do some research. What kind of images are your customers already sharing? “Check out the images that use your existing brand hashtag on Instagram. If your brand has a brick-and-mortar store then search the locations. These could return a stream of impactful images that will help you get started,” advises Colin. It will also give you better insight into what aspects of your brand appeals most to customers and guide you in future branding initiatives.”
2.Create a suitable brand hashtag.
While your customers will usually post social content using your brand name as the hashtag, Colin recommends that you also consider creating separate hashtags for specific campaigns or products. These can help generate more personal and impactful content. Moreover, it will allow you to easily see the buzz that your campaign is generating on social media.
According to Colin, Urban Outfitters is one brand that changes their hashtags to generate fresh content. They use #UOONYOU to promote their apparel online. What’s great about this kind of hashtag is that it’s actionable and brings focus on your customers, inviting them to share images of themselves wearing Urban Outfitter’s latest looks. Brands such as Ben & Jerry’s have also been known to take the “#InTheWild” approach, to encourage customers to post images of their ice creams in interesting locations.
3.Promote your brand hashtags on social and in-store.
Your hashtag will never take off unless you do some promotion. “Encourage your fans by placing calls-to-action on your social profiles. Mention it in your bio section and in the social copy when sharing new content. Don’t forget your physical stores!” These provide you with a prime opportunity to engage with your customers as they are already in the store either buying or viewing your products. Display the hashtag near the register. If you’re a clothing brand, then have it written somewhere in the dressing rooms. Some brands could take it to another level and create an aesthetically pleasing “Instagram wall” with the hashtag featured clearly on it. All of this encourages customers to share brand images to their profiles, ensuring your campaign reaches a wider audience.
4.Use influencers to help launch a new brand hashtag.
“If you want to accelerate UGC for your brand, then you should really consider partnering with a social media influencer,” recommends Colin. These individuals can help deliver your brand message to your target audience and increase brand engagements. Studies show that 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations. This shows the powerful effect a successful partnership can have on a brand.
Ask the influencer to promote the brand hashtag by posting an image and encouraging their followers to do the same. Repost any branded influencer content and run a paid campaign to further the reach. This will really help get your hashtag on the map and set your brand up for a strong stream of UGC.
5.Create a contest
One of the most effective ways of accelerating UGC is through contests. By offering fans an incentive to engage, you will see a much stronger wave of content creation. Starbucks is particularly strong at this as it launches its #RedCupContent each year. The initiative promotes its holiday beverages which are served in distinctive red cups. Customers are invited to submit images of their cups for a chance to win a Starbucks gift card. Currently on Instagram, there are more than 38,000 images using the hashtag. No shortage of content for Starbucks to use! The campaign is also smart as fans need to buy a coffee in order to receive a red cup, helping generate sales.
Whether it’s creating a catchy brand hashtag or running a social content, brands need to realize that the key to unlocking significant authentic engagement lies in effective communication with consumers. “When you bring your audience into the conversation, that’s when you start to truly develop a successful and sustainable social media strategy,” sums up Colin.
Disclosure: This article includes a client of an Espacio portfolio company