You can’t ignore user-generated content anymore.

More than 95% of businesses around the globe are on social media

And they’re all in the game to win!

In 2017 alone, businesses in the United States spent $13.5 billion in social media marketing, making SMM the third largest branch of digital marketing. Moreover, the figure is likely to reach $17.3 billion in 2019.

The competition for the attention of social media users is cutthroat – and it will only get stiffer. But the growing number of competitors and the diminishing share of voice are not the only problems for small business owners.

Even more alarming…

Customers are growing tired of advertisements and marketing messages.

Case in point:

A study published by Lithium found that 74% of millennials and generation Z users don’t like brands targeting them with social media ads. More than 50% have even stopped or cut down using certain social sites because of the sheer number of ads that appear on their newsfeeds.

So what’s a small business owner to do if he wants to stand out from the competition and cut through the noise?

Enter user-generated content.

User-Generated Content Defined And The 3 BIG Reasons Why You Must Include UGC In Your Marketing

“UGC is the term used to describe any form of content such as video, blogs, discussions, digital images, audio files, and other forms of media that were created by consumers or end-users of an online system or service and is publically available to others consumers and end-users.” – Webopedia

User-generated content isn’t new.

The concept has been around ever since we started taking photos of vacation destinations and shooting videos with a camcorder.

When parents took pictures of their son or daughter sitting pretty on a new stroller, they’re creating user-generated content.

You see, we create content all the time while featuring brands we love and support. Back then, however, users have no way of sharing their stuff with other people.

At best, people may send it to friends and relatives via email.

But most of the time…

Those photos and videos go into a private collection, revisited only during special occasions.

Today, however, everyday folks can share the content they create. And, boy, are they eager:

Chances are, you have loyal fans and customers online. Many of them would love to mention and feature your brand in the content they create.

And if you give them the right amount of nudge, the benefits to your organization can be immense. Here are three.

Boosts Consumer Trust

Consider this:

More than 90% of people trust word-of-mouth recommendations from other users more than branded content.

You can upload photos and videos of your product all day. But people will trust content from fellow customers more.

The case for embracing UGC is even stronger if your customers are millennials.

More than 85% of the younger generation find that content created by other users is a reliable indicator of brand quality. In particular, users between ages 18 and 24 turn to social media to look up information about a product before purchasing.

Stretches Your Budget

WIth UGC, users are in the driver’s seat.

They create content and showcase your brand not because they get paid, but because they want to share their experience, be part of a tight-knit community, or maybe get a prize they genuinely value.

Make no mistake:

Running a UGC-centric marketing strategy still requires funding – whether in the form of staff-hours, talent, or giveaways.

Nevertheless, the total cost is way lower than campaigns relying only on paid advertisement. A win-win for both consumers and marketers!

Delivers High ROI

Want to boost your brand engagement by 28%?

Market to your target users using a combination of professional, branded content and user-generated images and videos.

Note, too:

Campaigns using UGC enjoy 29% higher website conversions than those who stick to paid and branded content.

How To Encourage Fans To Generate UGC

The numbers have spoken, and you just learned the power of user-generated content.

But how do you encourage fans and customers to come forward with their photos and videos?

Now, that topic deserves a stand-alone post or even a book! But the following ideas will help you get started in the right direction.

Ask For Video Reviews

Social proof is an essential component of a high-converting landing page, especially if you’re looking to turn people who’re unfamiliar with your brand into paying customers. These prospects need reassurance that your product or service works as intended, and they want proof from users like them.

So how do you provide that social proof?

The answer:

Provide video reviews.

Video reviews are one of the most effective forms of user-generated content for a good reason. With video, people can hear the reviewer’s voice, see their facial reactions, and gauge how the latter truly feels about the product.

You can’t say the same for text reviews.

Moreover, your target audience is hardwired to relate to and favor the opinions of other people, places, and things which resemble themselves.

And no other group of users can give this type of opinion than your customers who once had the same problems and want the same solutions as your prospects.

Turn to your best and most loyal clients, repeat buyers in particular, and solicit for video testimonials. Given their track record of multiple purchases, you can bet that they look at your brand and products in a positive light.

One last tip:

Reduce the barrier to providing reviews.

Professional footage is always welcome, of course. But the average consumer doesn’t have the equipment for such high-level production. So ask for smartphone videos instead. As a side benefit, the video reviews – grainy and shaky they may be – come across as more authentic.

Run A Social Media Contest

When running any campaign to encourage UGC, you want to put yourself in the shoes of users and ask: “What’s in it for them?”

With a well-designed contest, however, you have an instant answer to the question above. By giving away valuable items, users have an incentive for showcasing and mentioning your brand in their photos and videos.

Moreover, social media competitions tap into the power of scarcity.

Whether you’re offering a trip to an exotic location, a brand new gadget, or free merchandise, people will jump at the opportunity to get their hands on something that they won’t have otherwise.

And lest we forget:

Running social media contests don’t just generate mentions, retweets, or shares. But they also let you collect names and email addresses to reach out to later.

Host Live Shows And Events

First things first:

Hosting a glamorous product launch, industry conference, or exhibit is anything but easy nor is it cheap.

However, more than 80% of marketers are heavily invested in live events because face-to-face and experiential marketing deliver a 3:1 ROI for every dollar spent!

If you’re selling high-ticket items and low-tech video reviews are not in line with your brand’s identity, consider running an event and invite your fans alongside influencers in your industry.

By having these groups of people gather in one place, you can shoot videos testimonials and clips where users sample products on show.

Even better…

You get to control the lighting, scenery, and other elements. So you’ll end up with high-quality content that’s sure to attract luxury prospects.

You can also use a branded hashtag (which you always should) for your event for participants to use when they tweet or post to Instagram.