The content marketing landscape has changed drastically over the last decade.
Before the advent of smartphones, marketers primarily focused their content efforts on their websites as well as their display, print, and broadcast campaigns.
Today, brands have to quickly deliver an overwhelming amount of compelling content across a large number of devices and channels in order to keep consumers engaged and happy.
But it’s not enough to just produce engaging content. Brands today also need to ensure this content is authentic and visual.
There is perhaps no better way to accomplish this than by leveraging content created by actual customers – also known as user-generated content (UGC).
- 92 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations above all forms of advertising (Nielsen).
- 81 percent of consumers consider a product endorsed by an ordinary user more trustworthy than one endorsed by a celebrity (Adobe).
- Brands have seen up to a 28 percent lift in engagement when users are exposed to UGC (comScore).
There’s also evidence that consumers are at least somewhat likely to make a purchase after seeing a friend’s social media post, according to Harris Interactive.
How UGC Is Beneficial
In today’s digital age, customers are no longer spectators. They are active participants in crafting narratives around brands that represent their values and goals.
Fred Faulkner, director of marketing at ICF Olson, put it perfectly during a Twitter chat my company conducted on the topic of UGC last year:
While many marketers think of UGC as just social content that consumers create, it actually goes beyond that.
User-generated content is any piece of content or interaction that a customer shares based on their experience with a brand. This certainly includes social, but can also include content like reviews, polls, and videos.
But UGC isn’t a magic solution on its own.
Brands should really think of their customers as an extension of their content team – leveraging the content created by customers and crafting meaningful content to go alongside it. When done correctly, UGC combined with brand content can create an authentic customer journey that users can relate to and find value in.
Let’s dive into a three great examples of how brands are using visual, authentic UGC in interesting ways.
1. Warner Music Group
When one of Warner Music Group’s bands released a new single, it wanted to make sure to involve the band’s loyal fan base in the conversation in an effort to encourage people to subscribe to the band’s YouTube channel.
To accomplish this, Warner Music Group built a microsite and encouraged fans to pick their favorite music videos from the band in a bracketed, elimination-style contest using branded hashtags on Twitter. Warner Music Group was then able to score the videos automatically and display the results on the microsite.
Not only did the microsite serve as a hub for the contest and results, but people were also able to subscribe to the band’s YouTube channel directly with one click of a button. Warner Music Group also routed fan tweets back to the band’s website.
Over the course of the four-day contest, fans casted more than 4,000 votes on Twitter and watched nearly 34,000 videos. The band’s YouTube channel also gained 8,000 new subscribers.
T-Mobile has done an impressive job over the last year to transform the experience its customers have with the brand – jumping from last to first place among full-service mobile carriers in JD Power & Associates’ Wireless Customer Care Performance rankings.
Continuing this trend, T-Mobile recently announced that it will offer family plan customers unlimited streaming on Netflix for free.
To help mobilize this news, T-Mobile decided to utilize its most important asset – its customers.
T-Mobile asked customers and Netflix fans to join the conversation by sharing Netflix show quotes, GIFs, and memes on social channels using the hashtag #NetflixOnUs. The content is then streamed directly on the T-Mobile website.
3. Tourism Australia
Who doesn’t love to share their vacation pictures and videos with friends and family?
Tourism Australia noticed that 1,500 pieces of content with the hashtag #SeeAustralia were being shared on social networks daily. The organization took this opportunity to bring travelers into the conversation – not just to showcase the beauty of the country, but to capture the actual experience of traveling in Australia.
One activation Tourism Australia launched as part of this effort was the Giga Selfie campaign. This campaign encouraged travelers to find designated platforms that were connected to cameras far off in the distance to take selfies that included the beautiful Australian landscape behind them.
The campaign gave travelers the photo of a lifetime, but also simultaneously created beautiful, visual UGC for the Tourism Australia website. As a result, the beautiful content from the traveler community increased time on the website by 65 percent.
The Power of UGC
Any industry can create an authentic customer journey when UGC is integrated into the marketing strategy. The power of UGC is giving consumers the direct opportunity to see examples of how people like them are using products or services – ultimately helping them visualize that product or service in their lives.
A dad, for example, can search for a playset online for his kids and see Instagram photos, reviews, and conversations happening about the product directly on the product page in real time. That kind of experience is much more impactful than just scrolling through the product descriptions.
Leveraging UGC doesn’t just have the potential to help a brand promote a product or service; UGC, when done correctly, has the power to transform a product or service into a movement.