User-generated content helps businesses, but convincing customers to engage and create content on behalf of a company can be difficult. Here are 5 examples of user-generated content that businesses can use to inspire their content strategies.
When businesses face an economic downturn, marketing budgets are often the first to go. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, 69% of brands expect to decrease ad spending in 2020.
With fewer in-house resources and economic downturn putting financial pressure on businesses, companies should leverage user-generated content to promote their products and services.
User-generated content is content created by users, such as images, videos, blog posts, or third-party reviews.
Motivating people to create user-generated content, however, presents another challenge.
We surveyed 401 people in the U.S. and found that people are reluctant to create content knowingly on behalf of a brand.
Businesses can still incentivize and motivate customers to engage with their products online, though, either on their own or with the help of an advertising agency. We offer 5 examples of brands that nailed user-generated content around the web, and explain how other businesses can do the same.
- Three-quarters of people (75%) say they are unlikely to post content with a branded hashtag from a company. Contests and giveaways can motivate people to use a company’s hashtag.
- Just 22% of people say they are likely to create a blog post on behalf of a business. Companies should invest in a guest writers’ program for free content on company websites.
- About one in four people (26%) say they are likely to review a company on a third-party website. Businesses should incorporate a review pipeline into their buyers’ journey.
- Only 19% of people are likely to create a video demonstrating a product or service from a company.
- 81% of people say they are unlikely to create a video on behalf of a company, but brands can leverage new platforms such as TikTok to drive user engagement with their product.
Example 1: Birdy Grey Uses Hashtags to Encourage User-Generated Content on Instagram
Creating and posting a hashtag from your business’s social media accounts is only half the battle. According to our research, businesses should incentivize people to engage and repost a branded hashtag.
Most people (75%) say they are unlikely to post content with a branded hashtag from a company.
Small businesses with limited marketing budgets can encourage engagement with a company hashtag on social media by incentivizing their customer base.
Online boutique Birdy Grey sells affordable bridesmaids dresses directly to consumers.
The hashtag #birdyinthewild drives awareness of Birdy Grey’s products among two key wedding industry audiences:
- Brides and bridesmaids
- Wedding vendors (e.g. photographers, venues, florists)
Customers who post using Birdy Grey’s specific hashtag have a chance to be featured on the company website. Hashtag campaigns like this help direct-to-consumer brands bypass traditional advertising avenues and reach a wider audience on social media.
A feature on the Birdy Grey website or Instagram account, which has just over 70,000 followers, is not only a fun incentive for a bride. This acts as free publicity for wedding vendors, particularly photographers looking to earn new business.
Hashtags make it easy for people to discover new types of content on social media. Brides considering making a purchase from Birdy Grey can search for #birdyinthewild to see how bridesmaid dresses appear in real weddings.
However, if you want to entice consumers to share posts using your branded hashtags on social media, look for the current trending topics first. Weddings have endured despite COVID-19 restrictions, meaning #birdyinthewild is an evergreen hashtag.
Businesses can also entice customers to use a hashtag by offering a prize to a random post including the hashtag.
“People love getting free stuff,” said Sherry Mae of Tankarium. “If simple engagement actions such as sharing, liking, or commenting will give people a chance to win without spending a dime, they are more likely to participate.”
Companies can use hashtags and giveaways to incentivize customers to share and promote products on Instagram.
Example 2: Smashing Magazine Uses a Contributed Content Program to Boost Thought Leadership
Imagine you’re sitting down to write a blog post. You create an outline, write topic sentences, and come up with examples to back up your points. How long does it take you to finish? One hour?
Now imagine you’re putting in that effort on behalf of another company, after you’ve already made a purchase.
It’s no wonder that only about a quarter of people (22%) are likely to write a blog post about their experience with a business.
People might be reluctant to spend a long time writing blog posts to promote a business if they don’t see any personal benefit. Short social media posts and videos are easier ways to share their experience with a product.
Instead of asking customers to contribute long form content, businesses can start a guest writing or contributed content program such as one Smashing Magazine offers.
Smashing Magazine instructs potential guest writers on its “Write for Us” page, where it outlines guidelines for a quality guest post on the Smashing website.
Companies can begin sourcing guest posts by reaching out to thought leaders in their professional network and asking them to contribute to a blog.
Both companies and writers benefit from guest posts. Guest posts are free content that companies use to build thought leadership. Long-form blog posts have SEO benefits as well, providing opportunities for internal linking and search indexing.
Companies can incentivize writers with social media shares, regular contributor status, or links back to their own website.
To start a guest writing program, business leaders or marketing professionals can create a “Write for Us” page on their company website.
Companies hesitant to invest time or money in creating original content can outsource written content for free with a guest contributor program.
Example 3: Buzzfeed Aggregates Product Reviews to Create Lists of Top Items
Companies want positive reviews from their customers, but reviews’ benefits go beyond a five-star rating on a third-party website.
Customer reviews are a valuable form of user-generated content that businesses can share on their own website or on social media.
Only a quarter of people (26%), however, are likely to review a product or business on a third-party platform.
Positive reviews provide social proof that businesses can deliver a quality product, backing up claims made in marketing materials.
Websites such as Buzzfeed even create product lists that aggregate customer reviews, earning even more positive exposure for businesses.
Buzzfeed creates lists of popular products in different categories, such as home improvement, clothing, and personal care products. Each product listing features a positive customer review that offers details about the product and its specific benefits.
Even if businesses don’t get reviews featured in big-name product aggregates, they can encourage customers to submit reviews by:
- Using notifications to suggest leaving a review after a product is delivered or their service is finished
- Training your sales team to ask for reviews when interacting with customers
- Incorporating a call-to-action in automated emails after a customer has received a product
Some businesses incentivize positive reviews with free product samples, future discounts, or sweepstakes entries.
Companies should be cautious about providing incentives for positive reviews, though, because incentives might decrease potential customers’ trust in the product.
Example 4: Popular YouTube Account Dope or Nope Reviews Products
Video marketing is costly for businesses. It takes time, money, and manpower to make a high-quality product video to share on social media or the company website.
“Unboxing” videos involve popular YouTube personalities opening and demonstrating products and have become a trendy subgenre of YouTube channels.
Only one in five people (19%), however, say they’re likely to create a video showing how they use a business’s product or service.
YouTube channel Dope or Nope is one example of user-generated video content that showcases different products and their benefits.
Dope or Nope has over 7 million subscribers on YouTube. The host, YouTube personality Matthias Fredrick, demonstrates and reviews about a dozen similar products at a time to show viewers how each product compares to competitors.
Most customers, however, are not YouTube stars with millions of followers. Your average customer doesn’t want to feel like they’re doing unpaid labor for your business in addition to buying your product.
Instead of trying to provide incentives to every customer in the hopes that one will make a product demonstration video, invest in targeted outreach to YouTube creators and influencers in your product niche.
Businesses can also reach out to engaged customers and offer free or discounted products in exchange for a short testimonial video to share on social media. B2B customers, in particular, may appreciate the online exposure.
Example 5: Chipotle Leverages UGC on TikTok
Some businesses are looking to TikTok to discover and amplify user-generated content among younger customers.
Most people (81%) say they are unlikely to create a video for a product, but people frequently create videos featuring popular products on TikTok.
TikTok is an emerging social media channel where people create short videos set to music. Video "challenges" are a hallmark of TikTok, where influencers or brands create dances or other short challenges that other users can replicate and post.
Fast-casual chain Chipotle created the popular "lid flip" challenge using the hashtag #ChipotleLidFlip.
Chipotle’s “lid flip” challenge began as a branded post from an employee with #ad indicating the content’s promotional nature.
The challenge quickly took off, however, as many TikTok users jumped on board trying to flip their Chipotle bowl lids to the tune of Future’s “Flip.”
TikTok is a new frontier for marketers. The app’s user base grew 50% in March at the start of stay-at-home orders in the U.S. As usage grows despite legal turmoil, businesses with younger audiences should invest in user-generated content on the app.
Viral video challenges are an easy way to engage younger users on TikTok. Hashtags on TikTok allow people to find your content and replicate it while featuring your product.
Businesses can then repost content users share with the hashtag, like Chipotle did with the lid-flip challenge.
Companies looking to expand their digital footprint without increasing marketing spending can create a hashtag campaign on TikTok, whose popularity continues to grow.
Popular Examples of UGC Supplement Business Marketing Strategies
User-generated content is a content strategy ideal for businesses looking to cut marketing budgets during COVID-19.
Businesses can entice people to participate in hashtag programs on Instagram by using contests or giveaways.
Third-party reviews are important for companies to build and maintain an online reputation. Businesses should employ strategies to entice customers into leaving reviews on third-party websites.
People are unlikely to create a video on behalf of a company, but businesses can use emerging platforms such as TikTok to leverage user-generated content.
About the Survey
Visual Objects surveyed 401 people in the United States.
Less than half of respondents (42%) identified as female, 39% identified as male, and 19% did not identify.
One-tenth of respondents (11%) are ages 18-24, 18% are ages 25-34, 19% are ages 35-54, 13% are 55 and above, and 21% declined to identify their age.
Respondents are from the South (36%), Midwest (27%), West (23%), and Northeast (17%).