Free Ways To Increase User-Generated Content (UGC)

The most useful thing social media content marketers can hope for is user-generated content (UGC)! It saves marketing dollars and gives you free content to use, but, even better than that, it creates a feeling of authenticity and trust for your brand. In times of fake influencers and insincere social media posts, user generated content could not be more important. Trust and authenticity are vital and user generated content contributes to that!

If you have a limited budget or no infrastructure in place to turn out content as often as needed, having a good UGC strategy will have your fans and followers creating valuable content and digital assets for you for free! 

So here’s how to prompt it:

Create An Actual Community

Unless you haven’t realized it yet, social media is not a place for you to just broadcast your marketing message, product sales or selfish brand objectives – it’s a place to create real community! No one can be successful on social media without one! Seriously!

“While numbers and conversions unfortunately do not happen overnight, community building on social media is something that we advice startups and small businesses that are looking at scaling fast and growing a loyal customer base online.” – LinkedIn

Before you expect followers to engage with your brand and create content for you, you have to make them feel a part of something real. Creating a place for followers to engage, voice opinions and be entertained is a great way to start to build trust and prompt UGC. 

Create A Hashtag

Create a hashtag and ask users to share their experiences and images using it. This is the easiest way to start collecting user-generated content and give the feeling that there is buzz around your products or services. Plus, having a hashtag is fun! It makes it easy for you to find user generated content in an organized fashion and it makes your followers feel like they’re a part of something.

But remember: 

“User-generated content isn’t just about you. It’s about them: your customers. It’s about how they use your products and relate to your brand. So, while your customers may be inclined to tag an image with #YourBrandName, it might also serve you well to create (and promote) a personal, actionable hashtag that brings the focus back to your fans.” – NewsCred 

Show & Tell The People What You Want

Simply tell followers exactly what you want. Communication is key, even when it comes from social media. Users love to be in on something bigger than themselves, so let them be a part of your creatives. Give them tasks so they feel as if they’re contributing to your business without having to spend money.

When Starbucks launched its White Cup Contest in 2014, they showed fans exactly what they wanted to see by giving examples and outlining exactly how they were to interact with the brand. The result was a flood of social media posts of beautiful, creative content that would be impossible to contrive. 

Now, tons of companies launch all sorts of user generated content strategies all the time, like #AerieReal. Aerie launched an Instagram campaign to encourage people to post unedited photos of themselves in a swimsuit with the hashtag #AerieReal. They promised that with every post shared under the hashtag they would dontake $1 to the National Eating Disorders Association. The contributed to a great cause and had tons of content to share!

Create A Challenge 

This goes hand in hand with strategies like Starbucks’ White Cup Content. Everyone loves a good challenge and some people are just competitive by nature. So hosting a challenge is a great way to hack into our primal need to win! Even if the prize is merely bragging rights, you’d be surprised at how much it will mean to your followers.  

This contest prize can be something from a free product of yours to you sharing the winners posts, etc. Anything really! 

Followers and fans want to know what content is more likely to get them reposted or featured on your account. After all, social media is about social credit, and users wouldn’t be posting on unless they wanted it. 

Ask Before You Post 

No one wants to feel like they are being leveraged without their permission. User-generated content is an honor and should be treated as such. Your UGC efforts will go a lot more smoothly if you treat creators with respect and care. You are using their content after all. Be polite about it.

Never assume that users have made content solely for you to take and reuse for marketing purposes. Make sure you ask for permission to repost content and/or images on your accounts even if you feel like the IP is already yours – its just good practice!

Make You Brand Awesome!

Understand the current climate of social media and what is important to your followers. When you have an engaging product, good customer service and a strong social media presence, users can’t wait to be seen with your brand. 

User generated content is proof that your product is viable beyond your marketing budget. Anyone can spend thousands of dollars on influencer marketing campaigns or give away products in hopes that it gets shared, but there is no better social proof than your customers taking their own hard earned dollars, buying your products themselves and giving you free publicity! Customers trust other customers. That’s why user generated content works so well!

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This blog post was originally published in March 2019 and has been edited to improve accuracy and readability.

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