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Why Embracing User Generated Content Is Crucial For Your Content Marketing

Why Embracing User Generated Content Is Crucial For Your Content Marketing

In a previous blogpost, we talked about curating content to make the life of your content marketing a lot easier. Not all content should be created by yourself (unless you have an enormous budget and can afford the time and money to spend on creating all content yourself).

So what other ways are there to leverage the content of other to help you grow your online presence and help increase your visibility online?

Try looking into User Generated Content.

Putting your customers in control of creating content can be a bit scary for a lot of brands, but it also will help you to grow your content offering significantly, develop and strengthen the relationship you have with your users and all that content linking back to your brand can increase your SEO significantly as well.

The final reason is best described by Aaron Orendorff:

You are not your company’s best salesperson.

In fact – no matter how effective your training, incentive or marketing programs may be — nobody within your business is as good at selling as your customers. This is why brands are taking advantage of user-generated content (UGC).

So how can you tap into this world and make User Generated Content work for your company?

What is User Generated Content exactly?

Let’s first start to look into what is and what isn’t UGC. UGC first became popular around 2005. Around that time the BBC adopted a way for the user to generate content on their websites, there was the rise of social media and one year later Time Magazine even named “You” as the Person of the Year 2006. As a reference towards all the possibilities that people now had to quickly create text, audio, video, still images and all sort of other content on YouTube and Facebook.

But in the early days, UGC attempts by brands and publishers often looked ugly and a bit weird. Brands were struggling to find their way in this new way of producing content. They thought it would open the dialogue with their customers, but their customers did not know yet what to do either.

And of course, there were some companies who paid people to start submitting fake reviews, etc. that resulted in people losing the trust in their favourite brands as soon as that came to light.

A lot of that changed though in when in 2011 Coca-Cola started their “Share a Coke” campaign in Australia. Giving people the opportunity to start getting their personalised bottles in stores.

To make sure that more people became aware of this campaign and to increase the sales, customers were asked to share a picture of themselves drinking Coca-Cola from their personalised bottle on social media. The result? The customer ending up stepping into the role of the advertiser and creating lots of free and excellent content for Coca-Cola to use on their social media channels.

The “Share a Coke” campaign started in 2011 in Australia

The “Share a Coke” campaign started in 2011 in Australia

So as you can see, in very basic form UGC is nothing more than content that is not created by your brand, but instead, it is created by the people (the costumers of the brand). This content can come in all sorts of different ways, shapes and forms. From things like copy, pictures and videos created by your customers by using:

  • Reviews
  • Forum posts
  • Testimonials
  • Blog posts (guest posting)
  • Questions and Answers asked on fora on the internet
  • Social Media Content (e.g. Instagram picture where people share your product, Tweets, YouTube video’s, etc.)
  • Wiki’s

All the content that is created that involves your brand, but is not created in-house is UGC.

Why is UGC one of the most powerful ways of Content Marketing

As it becomes more and more difficult to reach people via “traditional” advertisement online, marketers need to become ever more innovative to try to reach their target audience. Because no matter how persuasive and targeted your marketing is, 86% of consumers suffer from banner blindness.

As a result, you need to start telling a story to your audience; you need to connect with your audience emotionally. You need to make them feel there is a relevance to your product and their lives.

So why is UGC so important and powerful you might think?

Because people trust people.

Marketing has always been about the brands itself, and brand had put people in the background, they were passive participants. Brands produced, and the people consumed it. Because of this push strategy, people are getting fed up with brands. Over the years, their expectations grew higher.

Brands, your company, have to put people above and beyond in their marketing process. By harnessing the power of individuals. UGC is all about authenticity and trustworthiness, about building that honest relationship with your audience. This is why UGC is so powerful.

The benefits of UGC for your company

So now you know, why it is important to start looking into UGC for your brand, let’s have a look at the benefits it can deliver for your company:

Encourages purchases

Because people trust people, UGC can help increase the conversion rate for e-commerce stores with 4.6% according to research done by L2,  next to that user-generated content interactions while shopping can help increase the conversion rate even further to 9.6%. 53% of Millenials even say that UGC influences their buying behaviour.

Encourages more engagement

Because of the increased trust, UGC automatically gets more engagement. Comscore even goes as far as saying that engagement with a brand could even increase to 28% when you use UGC in your product videos.

Your customers are also twice as likely to share UGC with their friends and family making it go full circle again and helping to gain more trust.

It delivers authentic content

Every person, every brand has their story. But what is even more compelling than you telling your story? Your story being told in an authentic, non-scripted way, by the people who use and love your product every day. UGC tells a story like this because it is made by real people in real situations.

It goes even as far as that 76% of people believe User Generated Content is more honest and is more valuable than content created by you or your company itself.

That’s why you can see a rise in websites likes Pexels and Unsplash, to name just two, over the last couple of years as well. People are fed up with the same boring stock photos. They want real people, with more genuine situations. Content created by your users is way better than pictures containing “Ariane“, which are so generic that they won’t even remember which brand was advertising with her.

It helps build brand loyalty

Writing something down makes us remember anything better. In the same way that when users generate content for your brand, it helps build a stronger connection between them and your brand.

By making them be the voice of your brand, they become the hero in your brand’s hero’s journey. And by making them the hero, it helps to make them even more loyal to you.

That loyalty is also built for them people just consuming User Generated Content since 78% of consumers trust recommendations made by peers. As you can imagine this entire process helps you to transform your customers into brand ambassadors. And because you can actively encourage people and involve them in this process, you’re not just building one ambassador but a large group of individuals ready to help promote your brand.

Building brand relevance

50% of consumers find UGC more memorable than brand-produced content. So not only is it easier to make for you (your customers are creating the content for you), but your customers will also remember your content better if it isn’t produced by yourself.

Good for SEO

Google and other search engines love fresh content. By asking people to share their reviews, testimonials and experiences about your product you can have a continuous flow of new and unique content.

Kissmetrics found that of the world’s top 20 biggest brands, 25% of their search results are linked to UGC. Better rankings in SEO, mean more organic traffic and you have to spend less on advertising.

How to get started with User Generated Content

People won’t just start creating content for your brand by themselves. The conditions have to be right for them to start creating and sharing content. After all, they are investing their time in it and even more so, they put their personal label of trust on your brand.

So how to get started?

It all starts with knowing your customers. Who is your target Buyer Persona? what kind of content do they like to create and share in their daily lives already? On which platforms are they sharing it? By trying to let them create content in the places they are most familiar and most active it, you will have a better chance of them creating content for you.

Hold the door open for them. Make is easy for your customers by already showing them the way. Do you want to receive review or testimonials for your product? Send them an email with a link to review your product a little bit after they purchased and had received your product. This way they had the time to fully experience it before reviewing. Do you want them to share a picture on Instagram with your product? Give them a reminder by programming other people already sharing your brand. And don’t forget to include the hashtag you want to use!

Give them something in return. Some products or brands are more natural for people to start automatically sharing than others. If your brand isn’t Coca Cola with your name on the bottle, don’t worry, you can give people a reason to share by offering something in return. And of course, depending on your product or service, this can be anything. It can be a free product, a coupon with a discount for their next purchase, being featured on your website, or just the chance to have your social media time share their creation. Whatever you can think of, make sure that it relates to your brand though to make it even more enticing.

Take advantage of the power of social media. Not all UGC is created straight on social media, reviews and testimonials, for example, don’t automatically make you think of having it on social media. UGC however, is meant to be shared. Add Call-To-Action buttons in the thank you message after someone left a review etc. This way you make it easier for them to showcase their testimonial to a broader audience.

And finally, be creative. Just as some products scream for people to start creating content, it doesn’t mean that if your product or service is not that much “fun” or popular you can’t find a reason to make use of User-Generated Content still. You can create an experience related to your brand that is more fun and more engaging for people to kickstart the content creation.

For some companies started to interact with their customers is more easy than others. Even adapting your entire website to make it ready for User-Generated Content can already take out way to much of your time.

If you’re smart though you don’t have to start that big. Your first steps could be as simple as asking customer for reviews and ratings or starting a conversation on social media or blog comments to help improve your social proof.

However, like any good form of marketing, UGC require that you have a thorough understanding of your customers. You have to know what inspires and motivates them. And most importantly how they feel about your brand. Once you sure about these items it’s time to come up with the idea to get them involved through UGC.

Take this opportunity as chance to engage more with your customers and build a better community among your followers. Unlike more traditional forms of marketing, Content Marketing and especially UGC can bring a lot of secondary benefits beyond simple brand exposure.

When your marketing can help you connect with and learn more about your audience, what’s not to love? 

How is User-Generated Content working for you companies? Got some great examples to share? Leave them in the comments!

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  • Ricardo Ramos

    Users and companies have been changing their behavior/strategies towards mobile apps and social media, in prejudice of websites.

    Social media is becoming increasingly important (some companies are not even bothering to build a website).

    Today, nearly 80% of business have a dedicated team, social media is now a standard operating procedure.

    Sports stars, like Lionel Messi, Kobe Bryant and Cristiano Ronaldo, have left websites almost completely and are engaging with their fans via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The website they own is not devoted to the player itself or to sell products, but as a place to
    promote their social media profiles.

    Another example is has as its only function to connect to their various social media profiles.

    And there are other examples of brands that only exist solely on social media.

    There are more than one million apps in major app stores, something like an app for any circumstance in our life. In the scientific literature, there are evidences that users prefer to use Mobile Applications instead of web browsing and stores which have an app
    have more changes of selling their products than those who do not (Kang, Mun, & Johnson, 2015).

    This evidence suggests a change in users’ behavior and companies’ strategy towards Websites, influenced by the increasing use of Social Media and Mobile Apps.

    As an expert, what do you think about this?
    Why do you think users are changing their behavior?
    Can you imagine this a problem to the future of websites due to its (probable) decreasing use?

    • Hey @disqus_sJyoc8araa:disqus ,

      First of all having a social presence indeed is almost mandatory nowadays, however, which social network, of course, depends on where your target audience is hanging out (

      The problem, though, with going for a “social only” strategy is that you’re giving up your entire user base under the control of someone or something that you don’t have any power over.

      In other words, if Facebook tomorrow decides to change their algorithm again and you need to start paying, even more, to be able to get any view in the organic newsfeed of your potential customers there is nothing you can do about it.

      The same goes a bit with your website (SEO, if Google decides to change their algorithms), but at least then it is on a property that you own.

      That is why email marketing is still so very powerful because you have complete control over getting straight to the pocket of your users (email is mostly opened on mobile).

      Users are changing their behaviour in such a way that they are in control. Where it used to be that a brand pushed a message to you, now it is you who decides if, when, and where you want to get a message from a brand.

      The audience is in control, and as a brand, you need to adapt. That’s why the rise of chatbots (

      Websites will not go away that much; there will always be a need for people trying to find information to help them solve their problems if their peers don’t know it either or are not responding enough (or if the problem is too embarrassing to ask your peers).

      But the content of the websites will change. Where it used to be that just having a landing page with a phone number is enough, now you see that you need more, that’s why the rise of Content Marketing.

      Content marketing is nothing more than just solving the same problems that your product solves through media you create and promote.

      And that is the direction you see websites (like this one) moving into.

      • Ricardo Ramos

        Thank you Hans.

        I agree with you that websites are a place controled by the owner and they are a way of making the owner independent.
        the fact is that users are changing their behavior.

        this behavior can be explained by a simple scenario:
        On my Facebook news feed, I find an article about Denver Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon and while reading the comments I feel compelled to participate. Through the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series Mobile Application I can make the online
        registration. Since I live in Lisbon, and never visited Denver, I decide to stay for some days after the event. On Airbnb app I rent a place for those dates. The Air Transportation app provides me with the ideal platform for flight booking and online check-in. At Denver, Uber’ or Spinster’ apps are perfect to move around the city. Again, on Facebook, it is possible to search for a group of runners in order to keep up with the necessary stamina for the event and maybe to get to know the Half Marathon route. While in Denver I can use Trip Advisor app or Foursquare Social Media platform to choose the best restaurants and use Google Maps or the Official Denver Visitor App to see main
        spots to visit…

        This scenario illustrates the possibility of making everything by only using apps and social media platforms, without the need of visiting a Website.

        I cant imagine the Internet without websites but it is my opinion that websites will have a different purpose in the future. I imagine them as existing only to provide content to social media and apps. they wont even be a store. social commerce is growing every day.

        But you are in the right way my friend.

        Thank you very much for your insight.


        • Hey @disqus_sJyoc8araa:disqus yeah indeed you’re right as well, a lot can happen without the need to open a website. But the process you described is a process of more “stumbling upon”. You stumbled upon the event in Denver and used the different apps available for you to fix the rest of the process.

          But what if you needed a new washing machine. Where do you start your search? On social (sure you can ask in your social graph)? Not everyone is online at the same moment so you might still start a search as well…

          Anyhow, using User Generated Content it makes it indeed easier to go into your direction, to “stumble upon” a brand or an activity because someone you follow is sharing or creating content related to that brand or activity. And if you bundle all of that UGC on your website you can have the best of both worlds 😉

          • Ricardo Ramos

            great example @jcvangent:disqus
            a washing machine.

            if you search on google for the place where you can buy the washing machine, in the right collumn you will find the basic
            information of that place (address, contact, etc), a rating and comment system, and google maps will assist you to find your way to the
            place. if you search in your smartphone, there will be a call button from which you can call directly to the place for extra informations. here, again, you do not need to visit the official website.

            adding this, social commerce is growing every day. some things need to be improved but (I think) they will get there.

            but yes, this is a stumbled upon scenario. could this mean that the Internet is becoming a controled (by someone) stumble upon?

          • @disqus_sJyoc8araa That information (address, rating etc.) is being pulled in by the Google spiders from the content on your website though 😉

            I get where your going, the biggest problem I have still with it though that all of these social things are not controlled and owned by yourself. Like I stated earlier, when they change their algorithm, your f*cked with your business (or you need to start paying ridiculous amounts to get seen).

            I’d like to have control, that doesn’t mean you should rule out all the rest, no it are different means to an end.

            Yes you should be on all the relevant social platforms, but in the end likes don’t pay the bills. Sales do.

            So you need to convert them into your own ecosystem so you can leverage that relationship on your terms.

            P.S. great discussion though 🙂

          • Ricardo Ramos

            I absolutely agree with you @jcvangent:disqus but this seems to be their strategy. by eliminating websites, they will own you.

            the spider you mention is the reason that makes me thing that websites in the future will only exist to provide content to social media and apps (and google). it will be a place where you only post content to appear on other platforms.

            nevertheless, if you are not where your customer is, your business will die. trying to stick up with our ideas, will kill our business.

            imagine that you want to sell something that your customer do not want but tells you what he wants. will you maintain your idea or follow the customer interest?

          • Oh for sure and that’s why I’m saying that you need to go out there and mingle on all the places that your customers are (or could be, but the platform is not there yet so run the experiments and see what sticks).

            And your totally right, search will change as well. Look at for example how voice search will impact search results. And how ads potentially play a role in that (Google is getting better and better over the last couple of years to make sure that the ads almost look the same to normal search results so you click them instead of the normal top search result).

            Not sure that trying to get people to opt-in to whatever it is that is owned by you can and can bring direct value is a bad thing for your business. I’m talking about email here, I’m talking about text messages here or chat bots etc. As long as it is something you have control over yourself, and gives you the opportunity to build a direct relationship with your leads/customers.

            A website right now is an easy way to show more in depth content than you can on a Facebook post AND give you the option straight away to convert. Although you can do Facebook Notes, followed by a lead ad as well. Lots of options, as long as you can convert the people.

            So totally agree with you, be where your customers is, but adding on top of that try finding a way to convert the customer from that place into your ecosystem where you can bring direct value and build a long and meaningful relationship.

          • Ricardo Ramos

            well @jcvangent:disqus , lets see what future holds.

            (siri, amazon echo, cortana and others of a kind will also help for less clicks/visits to your website BUT I have some doubts that these gears will have sucess).

            thank you for your insights and this nice chat!


          • Why would you have doubts about voice? Alexa seems to be doing an amazing job and getting an ever greater presence… Google Home is trying to get into that space and is heavily investing in it.

            The only problem I have is that it still doesn’t recognise individual household members by their voice to make search more personal but it is a slow start, curious to see where it goes.

          • Ricardo Ramos

            its just a feeling.

            I believe they are doing an incredible job but will consumers adopt this kind of gadjets?
            and there are some issues concerning privacy (but this is in every Internet situation).

            maybe generation Z have a different opinion..

            google glasses were also a great gadjet.

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  • Excellent post, thank you! And links to related research are greatly appreciated.

    • Thanks a lot for the kind words!

      • Hans, would it be OK with you if I translate your publication for my Russian blog? Certainly, I will post active link to your original publication and your profile on Facebook.

        • Hey @@vladimir_sviridov:disqus that would be no problem for us, as long as you keep the canonical tag pointing towards us and having a link to our facebook page would be great as well!

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