Why UGC is a powerful lever for authentic content marketing

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User-generated content (UGC) is crucial for building authentic content marketing, real connections and influencing your brand’s next generation of customers. We’ll explore the characteristics of UGC, and how it can help brands reach new audiences and drive sales thanks to added authenticity. 

UGC is one of three types of content used in content marketing: brand-owned, influencer-generated, and user-generated. 

Brand-owned content – content created by brands including organic social media posts, newsletters, and adverts. Usually very corporate, 0 points for authenticity. 

Influencer-generated content – content made by social media creators (who are experts in the field). Over-saturation of sponsored posts, fake followers, and poorly chosen collaborations can damage authenticity and credibility. 

User-generated content – content made by everyday social media users like you and me, the real end-users of products. The most valuable user-generated content for brands includes customer reviews, organic product recommendations, and social posts about recent purchases. 

ugc authenticity
Image credit: pch.vector via Freepik

The hunger for authenticity and why it matters 

Authenticity is an important currency for brands selling online. Authentic content builds connections, is relatable and memorable. People want to connect with other people. That’s why social media users often engage more with posts from their friends, families and colleagues. A familiar face telling us about a product they love, in a way that’s relatable and entertaining is far more likely to influence our future purchases than scrolling past an ad on Instagram. In fact, Millennials found UGC to be 35% more memorable than other types of content. In the world of selling online where it’s almost impossible to cut through the noise of ads, viral videos and celebrity-endorsed campaigns – it’s worth taking note of the power of UGC! 

Authenticity is a driving force for online engagement and sales, with 86% of people saying it is important for determining which brands they like and support. People don’t want to hear a sales pitch, they’d rather hear from shoppers about how products have made an impact on their lives. From reading a positive customer review to getting a recommendation from a friend, user-generated content is a tried and tested sales strategy. 

Real customers = real experiences 

Content created by real customers that draws from their real experience is far more authentic than the polished esthetics of brand-owned content. Social media encourages us to share our daily lives with our followers, which inevitably means posting organically about our latest purchases and favorite brands. Savvy brands are harnessing this by launching a branded hashtag and featuring the best posts shared by customers to their brand’s social media feed. 

The popularity of such hashtags can boost brand discovery and awareness online. Your brand becomes more discoverable and part of the social conversation when users tag your brand in their posts and use branded hashtags. This helps to improve awareness and build positive brand sentiment online. 

Fashion brand Aerie is leveraging the real experiences of their customers by encouraging them to share Instagram posts with the hashtag #AerieReal. A quick search of the hashtag brings up a diverse range of women posing in their backyards, on vacation, or in their bedrooms in their favorite Aerie pieces. While the images are candid and slightly unpolished, the products are on perfect display in the real world – which is particularly compelling for people researching their products.

aerie ugc
Image credit: @nikkferraro via Instagram

Brands can amplify this effect by resharing this type of UGC content to their own feeds. They can select the highest quality images that show off how their products look in everyday life. Using real customers instead of models is a definite winner for authenticity. It directly benefits brands as mixing UGC with other types of brand content was found to increase engagement by 28%.  

UGC adds authenticity across all marketing channels 

While most UGC is shared on social media, brands can get the full benefit of this content by repurposing it across several different channels. The images, videos, and texts shared by customers online can be used (with permission) within other marketing materials. UGC can be particularly powerful when reused within social ads or email marketing. Brands can use quotes, star ratings, and UGC images to add social proof and authenticity to their marketing messages. Cold and corporate marketing messages become instantly more human and personal when brands draw on content created by their real-life customers. 

What’s more, integrating UGC in your authentic content marketing strategy will help save time and resources on content production in the long run. The best campaigns strike the right balance between brand-owned content, IGC, and UGC. By dedicating time to actively driving UGC activity with interactive social campaigns, hashtags and content portals you’ll be gathering the best, most authentic UGC to use in your marketing campaigns. This can help you save the cost of content production that would have otherwise been created by your brand in favor of championing your customers as your most valuable content creators! 

UGC can drive sales 

A good place to start looking is your customer reviews, Facebook reviews, social media comments and customer emails. You’ll get a real insight into how your products are being used and will be able to convey the advantages in a convincing way by using the words of real consumers. We know that in the consideration phase, when shoppers are weighing up different product options before making a purchase, they seek the opinions of other customers for genuine recommendations. Indeed, according to Trustpilot, 9 out of 10 consumers read reviews before making a purchase. The opinions and recommendations from real customers add credibility to claims made by your brand, they build trust and can play an important role in convincing potential customers to shop with you. This shows that a strategically placed piece of content that leverages UGC can tip the balance in your favor! 

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