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Acumen Connections » Blog » What is User-Generated Content? Discover Everything You Need to Know

What is User-Generated Content? Discover Everything You Need to Know

What is user-generated content? blog thumbnail

Have you heard of user-generated content? Read this!

The content marketing landscape is ever-changing, and as a business owner or manager, you need to stay in the loop. So, what is user-generated content? In simple terms, user-generated content is content created in various forms and shared by users or customers on one or more platforms. But aren’t businesses supposed to create their own content? What’s happening here? Let’s take a deep dive into what user-generated content is and how it’s helping businesses like yours.

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This may or may not be the first time you’ve come across the term user-generated content. As the name suggests, this includes content created by people who consume a brand’s product. Yes, businesses are still creating their own content and you should continue doing the same in your content marketing efforts. However, the emergence of user-generated content could be a superb opportunity to build brand recognition and trigger sales.

Dark background bears the heading – what is user-generated content? Just below title is a description of user-generated content which says, it is content that is created by users of the brand or product and shared on various platforms. A cluster of icons depicting email, video, messaging, at sign, musical note, and image is displayed on the right. All stem from a computer, tablet, and mobile device showing the Acumen Connections brand logo. The Acumen Connections logo and brand name are shown at the bottom

Let’s say you offer cleaning services locally. Your clients could be individuals and companies with physical locations. If any of these clients created some type of content talking about your services or showcasing your work, and then they shared it on a platform like their own website or on social media, you’ve just been featured in consumer or user-generated content! The average buyer wants to see content created by other customers in addition to product descriptions. This is a wonderful thing for your brand and business because 79% of consumers have admitted that user-generated content has a significant impact on their buying decisions.

Why is user-generated content important?

Customers are in a constant state of information overload as they’re being bombarded with content from every possible source. They’re driving to work and listening to the radio, there are ads playing. They drive past billboards with glaring visuals with all kinds of messaging. They log into social media and a million brands are screaming to be heard. Even their work computer may not be free from pop-ups ranging from retail stores to pet food commercials. It is observed that even a disengaged customer is likelier to pay attention to content that is deemed trustworthy. 

The goal of user-generated content is to establish trust, encourage engagement, promote authenticity, and increase sales. Customers rely on social proof and credibility when making purchase decisions. User-generated content tends to have a positive impact on potential buyers. It is beneficial for a brand to include user-generated content as part of their overall strategy at every stage of a customer’s journey. Email, text messages, landing pages, and social media are all potent platforms for influencing buying decisions via user-generated content.

What are some user-generated content sources?

User-generated content can be created by various sources including customers, employees, brand advocates, and content creators.

Dark background bears the heading – who creates user-generated content? Bullet points on the right list: consumers, employees, brand advocates, and content creators. A cluster of icons depicting email, video, messaging, at sign, musical note, and image can be seen. All stem from a computer, tablet, and mobile device showing the Acumen Connections brand logo. This is displayed at the center of the image while four white human figures feature around the cluster depicting actions like using a microphone, getting an idea, carrying a basket, and carrying a briefcase. The Acumen Connections logo and brand name are shown at the bottom

Let’s take a closer look at these popular creators of user-generated content

1. Customers

This one is straight from the horse’s mouth. Nobody knows a product better than those that use it. For example, people that regularly engage in active lifestyles are likely to know what brand of apparel, gear, or paraphernalia performs better than others. When customers are happy with their purchase, they’re likely to sing praises online. It could be reviews and testimonials or even unboxing videos or social posts. If your product can satisfy your customers, they will rave about it and that is a positive outcome for you.

2. Employees

Have you heard of employee-generated content? There is significant value in employees sharing their experiences with your brand. This includes pictures or videos of staff sharing their positive experiences while working for the company, or describing their typical day at the business, or even stacking and packaging orders in a behind-the-scenes type format. Such content shows a human-side to your business that can strike a chord with viewers.

3. Brand advocates

Rockstars have groupies, but businesses and brands have loyalists. These are the ride-or-die type individuals that will relentlessly advocate for your brand. Look at all the Stanley tumbler fans and the brand’s growing social media presence. They’ve started a whole phenomenon! Identify such customers and reach out to them. Chances are, they’re already creating and sharing user-generated content.

4. Content creators

There are content creators that create paid or sponsored content that is strategically created to promote authenticity while highlighting certain features of your product. Brands pay these creators to create what appears to be traditional user-generated content. This is an overlap with influencer marketing where a business compensates a social media personality with a decent reach and following to endorse their product or services.  Publish. Engage.

Benefits of user-generated content

As a business owner or manager, anything you do should invariably benefit your brand in some way or the other. If not directly, it should have some positive impact on your business and how it is perceived by people. 

Let’s explore some of the benefits businesses can enjoy when they include user-generated content in their strategy:

1. Builds trust and credibility

When content features authentic and real-life experiences, they help foster trustworthiness of a brand. People are likely to trust opinions from other customers over a traditional ad campaign. Online reputation is a major contributor to a brand’s image and credibility.

2. Promotes brand recognition and loyalty

With the level of reach potential that user-generated content has, it is safe to assume that people beyond the usual customer-base are being exposed to the brand. This promotes both brand visibility and recognition. User-generated content encourages people to engage and participate. As such, viewers feel a connection with the brand. Nurturing this connection and delivering top-notch customer service can lead to building brand loyalty.

3. Appeals to people by being authentic and relatable

People like real, raw, and relatable. Let that sink in. As a small business owner, you’re more likely to find relatability in a similar business facing similar problems as you are. As a result, you’re more likely to find some sort of common ground with them. That’s why real stories and images are shown to have significant impact on audiences. Customers will resonate with a brand they can relate to.

4. Gets higher conversion rates

When people see others enjoying or benefitting from a product or service, they’re more likely to make a purchase. User-generated content does just that and more. As a result, more leads convert, and sales go higher.

5. Is an inexpensive marketing technique

Unlike creating custom advertising where a business spends thousands of dollars, user-generated content is a cost-effective strategy. Businesses can utilize their user base to have convincing content online that they didn’t have to spend hours creating on their own. You can have engaging content online without incurring production costs.

6. Has a wider reach and higher influence

A brand utilizing user-generated content will be able to reach a wider range of audiences because such content usually gets shared several times across social media platforms. As a result, people beyond the brand’s usual audience get exposed to the brand and its products. This increases brand visibility and helps build brand awareness. In addition, the social proof generated by authentic content causes a higher level of influence on potential buyers to make a purchase.

What are examples of user created content?

There are several types of user-generated content created with the intention and purpose to reach and resonate with audiences. Common examples of user generated content:

Dark background bears the heading – types of user-generated content. Bullet points below the heading include types of user-generated content such as: video content – YouTube, vlogs, livestreams etc., customer reviews and testimonials, pictures and graphics, blogs, social media posts, and podcasts. The Acumen Connections logo and brand name feature at the bottom.

Getting started with user-generated content: best practices

When trying out something new, we all look for a blueprint of sorts, don’t we? Unless you’re feeling particularly brave, we strongly recommend going through our list of best-practices when getting started with user-generated content:

1. Identify and set goals

This is the first step for any marketing venture. Determine what you’re aiming to achieve. For instance, do you want more people to know about your brand? That would be building brand awareness. A campaign highlighting your brand and what it does is the answer. Similarly, if you want referrals, create a referral program, and ask your existing customers to contribute their experiences along with strong recommendations for certain products in a video testimonial. Some brands may be seeking to increase website traffic. Once you know what you’re trying to accomplish, set realistic numbers to quantify those goals.

2. Emphasize on sharing

Encourage customers to share their experiences and try to create events that are share-worthy. For example, if you sell home improvement solutions, offer gift cards to customers who create and share before and after pictures on social media and tag your business.

3. Create contests and challenges

Who doesn’t like a little competition? It sure makes things interesting. When you hold a contest with the promise of a reward for winners, it motivates people to participate. For example, if you’re a beauty salon, run a special promotion and ask your clients to share their results on social media along with your brand name. The picture or video with the highest number of views gets the winner a free service or free products.  

Many brands do this. Here’s one example from 2023 of a comic book convention offering a chance for contestants to win a free weekend pass to an upcoming event. Followers could enter a raffle to win the free ticket by leaving a comment and tagging a friend. Followers could earn an additional raffle by sharing the post to their social media story. This is a great example of a brand creating a fun contest to encourage fans to create user-generated content. Take a look at this example:

Screen grab of a social media post says, 12 days of planet giveaways. Image of woman with dark hair and bangs wearing a black tank top. More details regarding this contest such as event, date and location are displayed. In the post, it says that people can enter a raffle to win a free ticket and celebrity autograph by commenting and tagging a friend. They can earn an additional entry by sharing the post to their story.

4. Get hashtags for days

A creative hashtag can make a huge impact for a business. Encourage customers to use a hashtag when they post on social media. It could be a hashtag that bears the name of your business, or it could be the name of a campaign you’re running. Look into our resource on social media marketing to enhance your understanding of the various platforms.

5. Clarify your needs

Ask and you shall receive. Okay, maybe not always, but it is worth a try. When seeking user-generated content, remember that 53% of consumers want to be told what to do. As in, they want guidelines on what type of content to create and where to share it. Show them what you need in the form of visual examples in your campaign. Let them know things like how they should tag you, what hashtags they should use, and what kind of content you want to see.

6. Feature success stories

We all love a good success story. Capitalize on this by identifying customers that have benefitted from your product or service and create a feature using their words. For example, if you run a catering business, there might be a customer whose original plans fell through, and you were their knight in shining armor that saved the day. Ask them if they would like to share their experience in a review or video that you could use for marketing purposes.

7. Remember that consent and credit are important

This may sound trivial, but it is far from it. Always seek consent when reposting content from customers. This is one way of showing your appreciation for their content and people welcome open communication. When sharing user-generated content, remember to credit the original creator. 

One such example of this is the case of Shereen Way and Crocs. Shereen had posted a picture of her daughter on Instagram, wearing a pair of crocs. She later found the same picture on the brand’s website. The company had not asked for her consent before posting that picture. There have been similar legal woes between creators and brands in the last few years and some of these are million-dollar lawsuits.  Avoid legal trouble by following these steps.

8. Promote the feeling of community

Deep down inside, we all want to feel included and that’s why we gravitate towards the sense of community. Smartphone users everywhere are divided into Apple and Android communities. Some health and fitness enthusiasts find themselves in the Peloton community. You can do something creative that brings together your customers under one roof.

9. Create dedicated campaigns

Design campaigns that are built from user-generated content. For example, you can compile a few of your 5-star Google reviews into a video format and share it on social media. You can even create an email campaign with a collection of positive customer reviews. Discover how you can launch successful email campaigns using MailChimp.

10. Measure metrics

Numbers are vital when it comes to tracking performances and determining outcomes. Make sure to track metrics of all your user-generated content efforts so that you can analyze what ideas worked better than others. Most social media platforms have built-in analytics features. Other tools include Google Analytics, Hootsuite, Ahrefs, and more.

Ready to include user-generated in your marketing strategy?

Your brand might be terrific and your products even better but adding the element of authenticity to your campaigns can yield favorable results. We hope this article helps to shed light on everything you need to know about user generated content. Leverage the power of user generated content and give your brand that extra flair. So, what is user-generated content? It is the missing piece of your marketing strategy. 

Our team at Acumen Connections is about more than just reliable payment processing. We are committed to helping businesses achieve their goals. For more ways to empower your business, remember to check out our business tips.

Anna Reeve, MBA

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Hello! I am Anna with Acumen Connections and I love assisting small businesses in any way I can. I have worked in marketing for businesses of different sizes and industries. I believe that creativity and imagination are the hallmarks of content building. I enjoy creating blogs, social media posts, marketing emails, press releases, website copy, responding to reviews etc.

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