Here’s a marketing term you’ll want to learn and mull-over in your mind: User-Generated Content.
What is User-Generated Content?
If the name doesn’t give it away, User-Generated Content (or UGC) is content (photos, videos, posts, reviews in some cases, really anything) that is created by your users (audience, followers, customers) that you can benefit from (whether that’s by re-sharing that content, or just reaping the benefits of the organic reach a user provides).
I know what you’re thinking: Wow, Batman! That’s kind of a wordy definition! And you’d be right. So in plain English, and in the most common scenarios:
User-Generated Content is social-media posts (primarily photos or videos) that you can either re-share or simply just let live on the internet.
UGC is so fantastic for small businesses for a number of reasons, but there are two big ones I think are the most important.
Why is UGC so great?
1. Your Customer Sells Your Product For You
Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to work as hard to make a sale? Wouldn’t it just be great if all of a sudden you started attracting your target audience and someone else had done the hard work of convincing them to buy your product?
WOW. Many of us can only dream of such a beautiful world. But the good news is: it’s not as far away as you might think.
User-generated content shows your customers using your product in their own personal situations.
At this point, they’re not going to outline the features of the product like a salesman would. They’re not going to light the scene with perfect lighting or use wireless microphones to have perfect crisp audio.
Instead, they’re going to show how an end-user relates to your product, which provides social proof that your product is worthy of being purchased.
Because it’s not you that’s out there, filming the product being used, conducting the experiment, sharing the results, you gain the authenticity of your audience using your product. This is invaluable to the worth of your product.
At that point, you’re not the one working to get your product sold. Your audience is doing it for you.
2. You Reach a Wider Audience Organically
I’ve talked before about how the quality of your followers is more important than the quantity of your followers; and this is right. If you could have a relevant, quality audience member sharing your product, wouldn’t that be pretty valuable?
Yes it would. Just think about it:
Let’s pretend you run a small business that creates baby products. Let’s also pretend that a mother who just bought a pair of your hand-knit boots shares a photo of them on Instagram and tags your page in that post. It’s not even a real crazy post: just a photo of her 9-month old wearing the boots with the caption “Baby’s feet are nice and cozy thanks to @YourBusiness booties! Thanks so much for keeping my babe warm and stylish.”
Now ask yourself: Who are the people that follow that mom on Instagram? Probably her friends and people with shared interests; likely other moms or moms-to-be.
Now you should be getting excited because the quality of her audience is, indeed, quality. That is to say:
Your customers’ followers are likely eligible future customers of your business
What’s doubly good about this? The fact that, without paying to do so, you probably couldn’t get your business’ page in front of this audience.
They’re only learning about who you are because someone they know and trust declared–unsolicited–that your product is one worth buying.
That is massive.
Accidental Brilliance: Jon Contino’s Brand by Hand
As a graphic designer and lover of illustrations, I’m a big fan of designer and artist Jon Contino. He has a massive body of work for a guy who’s only in his mid-thirties and he just released a book called Brand by Hand that is pretty awesome.
Now, beyond all the usual “Pre-order my book now!” sales stuff that takes place before releasing a book, I think Jon kind of fell into a brilliant marketing strategy that likely had a huge impact on sales.
The front cover of Jon’s book has a hand on it, and when you see it in person, it’s pretty much the size of an actual hand. One of Jon’s followers, upon receiving his book, posted an Instagram story of his hand on top of the book, tagging Jon in it, and saying something like “My book just arrived! It looks amazing! Thanks Jon!”. Jon, upon seeing this, thought it was awesome someone was interacting with his book in such a personal way that he shared the Instagram story on his own story.
In no time at all, this quickly spiralled into a fantastic campaign. It seemed like everyone that got Jon’s book made their own version of the hand-on-hand interaction with the cover; tagging Jon in it, and watching their photo get re-shared.
Everyone wins by doing this: Jon has his book seen by followers of his customers (an audience he otherwise couldn’t reach without paying) and those customers who bought the book get the thrill of Jon–the author with 95,000 Instagram followers–sharing THEIR image on his Instagram.
The book has been released for about a month (at the time of writing this blog) and Jon’s probably shared over 100 different people that interacted with his book. Each time he shares it, his followers feel more and more inclined to buy the book and share their own photo of the purchase. It certainly worked on me! I was originally going to wait another month or two to buy the book, but after seeing post after post of people enjoying this work of art, I caved into pressure and bought it sooner. I’ve already encouraged friends to buy it and shared a photo of it on my own Instagram feed.
Put It To Work
All of this is to prove the brilliance of user-generated content. Building up a reputation for interacting with your audience on another level is going to inspire them to react. All of this is going to–inevitably–lead to more sales and growth for your business.
You might be thinking: not all of us are fortunate enough to be in a situation where we can create a viral marketing campaign like Jon’s book. That’s probably true. But don’t think that there’s not other ways to encourage your customers to generate content you can share.
Here are a few ideas to put UGC to work:
- Invite people to tag your page in a selfie with your product for the chance to win one another
- Ask existing customers to tag 3 friends to enter them in a contest to win a product
- Ask customers to write a review to get a coupon on their next purchase
- Challenge customers to test your product against a competitor (note that this one can be risky)
- Start a hashtag where customers share themselves using your product
- Create a campaign around gifting someone your customer knows one of your products
- Ask customers to share a short testimonial you can share with your audience
The list goes on. Hopefully this gets your brain working to think of your own unique possibilities.
While posting consistent, strong, beautiful content is a surefire way to gain followers, social proof that your products work like advertised is another approach that could be a turning point in the success of your business.
Give it a try! What have you got to lose?