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C-Suite Advisory

How to Utilize User-Generated Content to Increase Sales?

User-generated content (UGC) is becoming more and more commonplace as a marketing tool, largely influenced by the rise of social media. While top brands have been using the power of UGC for decades, many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are clueing in to the power of user-generated content. If you want to have more profitable marketing campaigns without constantly creating new content in-house, you’ve landed in the right place. Read on to learn how to utilize user-generated content to increase sales in your business.

Note: While your business must have some kind of online presence in order to effectively implement all of these strategies, the actionable tips in this article will also work extremely well for increasing sales in brick-and-mortar businesses.

Because most business owners aren’t familiar with the term, let’s first clarify what user-generated content is:

User-generated content (UGC), also known as user-created content (UCC), is any form of content created by users of online platforms such as social media, websites, forums, and blogs. These forms of content may include images, video, text, and audio.

For example:

  • Social media posts and images about your brand or products (from customers or influencers)
  • Customer reviews and testimonials
  • Unboxing videos on YouTube
  • Blogger reviews about your products

In 2006, TIME Magazine announced You — Yes, You — Are TIME’s Person of the Year, recognizing the rise in user-generated content and honoring the World Wide Web as a tool that brings together the small contributions of millions of people.

The really cool thing about UGC is that it has so many different applications. User-generated content can be utilized for advertising, market research, problem solving, news, entertainment – all of which can help you increase your sales and brand awareness.

How to get more user-generated content

1. Ask for it!

If you don’t ask, you probably won’t receive! By simply asking your customers to post photos or reviews, you can create a windfall of user-generated content for your brand.

Two simple yet highly effective ways to implement this consistently are:

  • Include a marketing insert inside every order that has a call to action such as, “Share a photo with #YourBrand for a chance to win a gift certificate” or “Snap a photo with #YourBrand to be featured on our Instagram”. If you’re using fulfilling orders in-house or working with a great third-party logistics (3PL) center, this is an easy step to add into your order fulfillment process.
  • Schedule an automated email to send customers 7-10 days after an order is delivered. Use this opportunity to check in with customers and ask them to write an honest review on a third-party platform such as TrustPilot or ResellerRatings.

Remember: Negative reviews are a great opportunity for your brand to shine by responding helpfully and resolving issues. This shows other potential buyers that (1) your brand isn’t censoring or faking reviews and (2) that your company is upstanding and cares about customer experiences.

2. Use the power of hashtags.

By telling customers what hashtag to use, you’ll be able to easily search and locate any publicly available images or posts they publish. You can then curate these images and potentially use them for your marketing campaigns – as long as you do so legally.

As a great example, Airbnb and Wayfair social media accounts almost exclusively feature user-generated content. Aerie, an American Eagle brand, also does an incredible job of this with their hashtag, #AerieREAL.

While you’re getting customers to do all the hard work for you – by creating the posts and using your hashtag – you’ll create a bucket of highly unique user-generated content that can be used to heighten brand awareness, create brand affinity, and increase your sales.

3. Reward customers with incentives.

Another popular way to gain user-created content is by hosting a giveaway. By asking customers to use your hashtag and tag your brand to enter, you’ll give them an easy way to share the good news about your products while showing brand loyalty.

However, you don’t have to offer actual products in order to get people to participate. A simple call to action – e.g. “Use #YourBrand to be featured in our gallery” – can be especially enticing for micro-influencers looking to expand their audience.

4. Capitalize on social influence.

It pays to partner with influencers. If you can find people who love your products and have their own engaged audience, forming a strategic relationship can provide your brand with high-quality content, great word-of-mouth advertising and, ultimately, more sales.

While many micro-influencers will accept free product in exchange for creating and sharing content for your brand, professional social media influencers and those with large audiences will likely require payment in exchange for their services.

5. Engage your audience.

Ask for their input, and get them involved with your brand! Customers who are already purchasing from your business – and people who are following you on social media – often want more interaction with your brand. Build a rapport by letting your audience chime in.

Get creative with opportunities to get your audience involved. For example, you can ask for your audience’s help when:

  • Naming a new product
  • Choosing which color, size, or flavor of a product to stock
  • Picking which product to put on sale next

You can also engage your audience with fun social posts such as a “Caption this!” contest. Have fun with this, and experiment to see what your audience responds well to.

6. Create share-worthy memes and experiences.

Have you ever received one of those silly “Elf Yourself” videos from Office Depot? These interactive videos pop up every holiday season, giving users a fun way to create content that makes their friends and family smile. It also has the brand-boosting bonus of putting Office Depot in front of our faces in a way that creates brand affinity. What kind of content can you create that shows off your brand personality?

How to use user-generated content to increase sales.

Now that you have a bucket of user-created content, what do you do with it? There are so many options! Get creative and have fun with the possibilities.

Marketing

Here are a few ways your brand can use user-generated content to create social proof and increase sales:

  • Add UGC images to your website on product pages, an embedded social media feed, or a photo gallery.
  • Create a social shop (like this one by GlassesUSA) to allow customers to shop by photo! Customers who post an image using your hashtag or tagging your brand on social media have a chance to be featured on your social shop. Best of all, you can tag products in each photo inside your social shop and link directly to the product pages where customers can finish their purchase.
  • Include social media images, product reviews, or customer testimonials in your email marketing campaigns. These make a perfect addition to abandoned cart emails, drip campaigns, and promotions!
  • Supplement your own social media content with user-created images, you can fill your feed with engaging lifestyle photography that shows your product in use by happy customers.
  • Create blog posts such as product roundups and gift guides using images plucked from Instagram.

Market research

It’s equally important to use UGC to listen to your customers. Consumers know the power of their voice on social media, and they’ll use it to tell others about their experience of your brand and products – for better or for worse. Either way, you’re getting an honest view into their customer experience.

Some large companies even employ full-time Chief Listening Officers to monitor, review, and analyze customer feedback. Not only does this help your company understand the true experience people are having of your brand, but it also provides opportunities to learn, respond, and engage with happy shoppers and unhappy customers alike.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and more text-heavy forums including Reddit and blogs are great places to search for mentions of your brand or product.

You can also set up Google Alerts for keywords and phrases such as your brand name. (Pro tip: You can set up similar alerts to get notified of mentions of competitors.)

Using this data can help your company improve brand experience, discover new ways customers are using your products, and continuously pinpoint ways to strengthen your market positioning.

Your turn!

With the right user-generated content strategy, you’ll never run out of content again! Which of the steps above will you take next? Tell us in the comments, or share one of your favorite UGC examples with us!

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Veselina Dzhingarova
Veselina Dzhingarova, co-founder ESBO, currently works as a branding and marketing consultant, bringing together the knowledge and intuition that she has developed over many years spent working in relevant fields.
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