Unless you are still on dial-up, the speed of the internet is always increasing. Not only is this true in the physical sense of more significant bandwidth with faster upload and download times, but it is also true in the speed at which the internet causes ideas and concepts to grow and expand.
Take UGC (User Generated Content) for instance. The basic idea behind UGC has been around for a very long time. Businesses have nearly always recognized the importance of customers having a personal engagement in their brand and the necessity of customer testimonials and stories. However, thanks to the speed of the internet, this idea has mushroomed into an entire industry.
UGC has become so mainstream that some may argue certain forms of it are overused. And things that get overused on the internet quickly become a pointless waste of time. Once people have seen it done a million different ways, they quickly lose interest. And while UGC is not at this point yet, the trend (helped on by the constant speed of the internet) is headed that way…
Unless businesses begin to take a new and different approach to UGC.
In today’s business world, it indeed is survival of the fittest. If businesses do not adapt, evolve, and grow, they do not stand much of a chance in the long run. The same principle applies to use UGC to build and expand your brand.
Think of the biggest brands you know — some company like Starbucks. Their brand is more than a logo or a slogan. It is more than a fancy cup of coffee in a drive through. The brand that is Starbucks encompasses so much more and includes an entire feeling, emotion, and experience that people associate with the company. They have spent millions of dollars crafting and honing their brand to grow to the size that they are today and remain viable in an ever-changing market.
If your business does not have those millions of dollars to throw at growing your brand, then you must think outside of the box, bend some rules, or make your own.
UGC is a great way to do precisely that. And today, we are going to be looking at five unique ways that you can use UGC to grow your brand. Adapting and evolving are necessary if you want business success. These innovative takes on UGC will help you stand out from the crowd and make the kind of impact that will grow your brand and expand your business.
#1 – Give Your Customers a Platform to Tell a Story
You may have noticed – social media is a big deal. Facebook has over 2 billion monthly active users. Instagram has over 1 billion monthly active users. YouTube has over 1.9 billion monthly active users. We could go on, but we think you get the idea.
Humans are, by nature, social creatures. We crave interactions with other humans. Before the dawn of the internet age, it often required a lot of effort to pull off. But now, with just about half of the world’s population having access to the internet, it has never been cheaper, faster, or easier to connect with 3.5 billion of your closest friends.
Imagine it like this – before the internet came along, you might go to a bowling alley to hang out with friends, have social interaction, and communicate your story to people who cared. Generally, a bowling alley is going to have a couple of dozen people at most, usually divided into their groups, relatively isolated from everyone else.
Now imagine that instead of a couple of dozen people separated into their groups, you filled that bowling alley wall-to-wall with people. Now imagine that all of them are talking at the same time, trying to tell their story, to make their voice heard. It would be quite the frustrating situation.
People want to have their voice heard; they want to tell their story. And while it is easier than ever to get your voice out there, in some ways, it is also harder than ever to get other people to care. That is where Mutually Beneficial Sharing comes in. This type of UGC gives your customers a platform to tell their story, to make their voice heard.
Check Out the UGC Campaign Employed by the Point of Sale Giant – Square
Instead of getting the standard “I love this product, it’s great” testimonial from customers, Square took a different route and gave their customers a way to tell their own story while including how Square made that story possible. They now highlight those stories on Square.com/stories where you can see different real-life examples of people using Square in their business. Each one is solid UGC gold while still allowing their customers to communicate with an audience.
#2 – Hashtag Campaigns with a Cause
Hashtags are an exciting thing. Yet, many people do not yet entirely understand what they do. For the sake of brevity, we are going to assume that you know what a hashtag is and how to use them.
What you might not be quite as familiar with is how to use them in a way that will produce excellent UGC and assist you in growing your brand. If that is you, don’t worry! You are not alone. And that’s why you are reading this now – to learn exactly how to use hashtags effectively and accomplish your business goals.
A basic hashtag campaign is generally where a brand chooses a hashtag that they promote and attempt to get other people to use. Campaigns like #ShareACoke (Coke), #ORIGINALis (Adidas), or #IWantAnR8 (Audi) are examples. Brands of all different sizes, shapes, and kinds have used hashtag campaigns successfully to bring awareness to their brand or a new product.
A charity, non-profit, or any other cause-related organization that lines up well with your business will work. The more related it is to your business, the better chance you have of them being willing to participate. Like we mentioned previously, successful campaigns make people feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. Partnering with a cause-related charity can allow you to cross-promote, raising awareness about your business and the cause at the same time.
There always seem to be more good charities than there is money to go around. When people don’t feel like they can donate financially, you can ask them to give awareness through sharing content with a specific hashtag.
#3 – Connect with User Generated Content in a Meaningful Way
If you have ever been in a situation where you felt like you were not being heard or listened to, you know how frustrating that can be. Maybe you also know how refreshing and enlivening it can be to have someone take a moment, just a moment, and sincerely listen as if they cared about you. Such a simple gesture can have a profound impact on you and your outlook on life in general.
We spoke above about how so many people do not feel heard in the noise and clamor of the crowded social media scene. This noise means that there are millions of people on social media speaking and feeling marginalized. By taking some time and a little bit of effort, you can show that kindness of a listening ear and transform them from a potential customer to a loyal fan and devoted advocate.
Depending on the size and scale of your business, you may or may not have millions of UGC posts to fill up your time. The point is, no matter how many you have, do your best to engage in a meaningful way with the UGC that your fans give to you. The person behind that piece of UGC has a story that they want the world to hear. They have reached out to you to see how you will respond. Now the ball is in your court.
UGC will only go so far in growing your brand if you do not make the most of it.
The internet has indeed changed a lot of things about business. However, many of the fundamental elements, the real core issues, remain the same to this day despite all the technological advancements. One of those essential elements is the fact that relationships are king. Successful brands do not just see numbers on a screen or dollar signs – they see human beings that have unique experiences, feelings, and desires.
Having meaningful engagements on the UGC that you receive can take simple, small posts and turn them into a movement. Ford Trucks has done a great job with this, especially on their Facebook profile. Scroll through their posts, and you will see the official Facebook page interacting directly with tons of comments. Imagine how exciting that is for your fans to hear directly from you.
The #WantAnR8 contest is considered one of the most successful social media campaigns in recent years.
#4 – Video Testimonial + Contest
Video testimonials have been around for a long time. As have contests. So, what makes this idea unique is the combination of the two. Not because no one has ever done it before, but because it requires a lot of effort up front which is an effort that many businesses are not willing to invest. However, if you are willing to put in the labor, this kind of UGC generating campaign can have big rewards that pay dividends for years to come.
It can be hard to pull off a successful campaign to get UGC in the form of video testimonials. There is a lot of work that must go into promoting the campaign, including ongoing video moderation and possible video editing. However, the hardest part can be just getting people to participate.
After all, doing a video can be a challenge. You want to make it as easy as possible to create, submit, and share as possible. Creating a guide for making the video (some questions they can answer, or a basic outline) and having your procedures laid out for submitting will simplify the process.
Then you want to offer an irresistible reward as a ‘thank you.’ Companies like Square, Adobe (Art Makers Series) and GoPro have all used this approach.
Video testimonials are powerful. They have high conversion rates and can boost your brand. Getting them will take some work, however, with a well-done video testimonial contest, you will be putting yourself well ahead of the crowd. The combination of the two (video testimonials and contests) is not something used that often, which leaves a lot of room to stand out and be unique.
#5 – Try, Try, Again
Running a business is a minefield strewn with all kinds of obstacles, barriers, and hurdles (not to mention the mines). No one is perfect, and you are bound to make some mistakes. The best thing you can do is make sure you learn from the mistakes of others and hope that you can get the experience second hand instead of having to go through all the hard stuff yourself.
When it comes to UGC, one of the biggest mistakes that people make is giving up too soon. Just like any business marketing, results can take time. However, impatience is a much more common vice than its companion virtue. It takes a lot of self-control and discipline to make sure that you do not throw in the towel before your efforts have even had a chance to begin working.
You do not want to waste time and money. We all know that business resources are limited. There is no limitless bank account upon which to draw. So how do you find that balance between giving up too soon and cutting your losses?
The Answer is – by Using a Smart Plan
Many people go into the realm of social media thinking it is entirely different from other types of business marketing. The arena of UGC is even further away in the minds of many people. However, the differences between something like UGC and other types of marketing do not change the fact that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
So, as you approach this brave new world of UGC, create a detailed plan that will guide you through the ups and downs, the successes and potential failures. This plan should include your target audience, how you plan on reaching them, the action you wish them to take, and how you will measure their response. Also, in that plan should be detailed success metrics. Will you be happy with ten email sign-ups? Or are you looking for 2,500 new paying customers? Having a clear picture will help you to stay the course and get through the rough patches.
It may seem strange that this is one of the suggestions here. However, if you think about it – it fits – tenacity, and not giving up, is unique and something that most companies don’t do. Using this tactic, you will see more success in your efforts to build your brand through UGC.
User Generated Content Examples – Summary
After all this information, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed and wondering “Where do I start?” The best answer to that question is “Just start!”
No matter what kind of business you are in, your customers are the best asset that you have. Because without them, you would not have a company. That is why it is so important to take the time to listen to them and engage with them. UGC is a great way to do just that.
User-Generated Content is an incredible tool for building and growing your brand. It is a method of business growth that you cannot afford to leave on the table. As the internet speeds along, taking the development of UGC along with it for the ride, businesses must adapt and change to circumstances to remain viable and profitable.
With nearly half of the world’s population online, people are wanting to tell their story and not being heard. No doubt some of those people are either your current customers or potential customers. User Generated Content is the best way to make them part of the family, build your brand and foster relationships that will benefit everyone involved.