Although user-generated content (UGC) has been around for more than ten years, new trends show brands actively using this content as a legitimate portion of their own site platform and finding new ways to strategically integrate it into their editorial workflow. Articles and materials from staff writers appear side-by-side with content generated by the brand's customers and fans. This trend is being labelled "cooperative content" or "participation marketing."
User-generated content is any form of content such as video, blogs, discussion form posts, digital images or audio files created by consumers or end-users and publicly available to other consumers and end-users.
Companies are generally averse to yielding control of their brand to non-professionals. Ratings and reviews are a constant source of headaches for many brands, and most user-generated content is most likely boring. However, brands who lead the conversation, setting the guidelines and vision, will create a more meaningful experience for both the user and the brand.
Co-creating content with the very audience you want to do business with can be very powerful. There are many reasons to add a UGC element to your site, such as:
- Makes your brand more approachable and trustworthy, which builds greater loyalty among your fans
- Enables deeper, two-way conversations and engagement on your site
- Allows your fans to interact with each other around similar interests and create communities (otherwise they will be finding and interacting with each other elsewhere)
- You can produce more content in less time, meaning more SEO love and increased time on the site
- Helps give you a better understanding of your target audience and tap into their consumer opinions
- Helps increase conversion rates and sales
So how can you use UGC to promote your brand story online? Here are three examples that show brands in action or new apps to help build content from social media.
Adding user-generated content to boost e-commerce
Photoslurp is a web app that labels itself "a visual commerce platform." With Photoslurp, you can collect user-generated content from your customers and display it in photo carousels or lookbooks on your website, providing social proof and pictures of real people using your products. The app collects photos in real time using automated photo collection with hashtags, or customers can manually upload photos directly on the website using Photoslurp widgets. With their dashboard moderation tools, your brand can easily select, approve or reject photos before they are published to your galleries. Analytics can be integrated to track user engagement and conversions. In addition, every photo collected can be made shoppable via automatic and manual tagging.
Luiz David, a premium sunglasses e-commerce site, uses Photoslurp's gallery model to create a lookbook community page. Customers can tag #luizdavid in their pics on Facebook, twitter or instagram and appear in the Luiz David lookbook. When a user clicks on a photo, they get a popup where they can shop the look.
Fashion Pills "slurps" photos on instagram and places the carousel widget at the bottom of their product pages. They invite their visitors to become one of their #FPgirls simply by sharing their looks.
Integrating social media into mobile advertising campaigns
Vivoom is a mobile marketing platform that allows advertisers to brand, scale and convert video advertising co-created by brands and their current and prospective customers. They are largely targeting Millennials who are tuning out traditional media. Vivoom's platform is a good example of communicating a target consumer's point of view, but in the brand's voice. On behalf of its client, Vivoom detects a fan's location or social activity and sends them exclusive branded assets to unlock. Then fans shoot videos using these branded assets and send them to Vivoom's UGC platform. Fans can preview the UGC and share it, earning social currency and validation.
In The Pink, a New England-based Lilly Pulitzer retailer, promoted their exclusive Cape & Island print to convert social reach into paying customers during their peak summer season. They converted 3% of their fans’ social reach/friends into purchasers (35% of whom were new to the brand!) and built a 17% increase in their social reach.
Merging editorial content with user content
Time Inc. recently launched The Snug.com, a hub for sharing DIY and decor inspiration. They are the first responsive digital hub to merge high-quality content with content from their community. Users can post their own DIY stories and they will appear right alongside content from Time Inc.'s magazine editors (This Old House, Southern Living, Real Simple, etc.). In addition, The Snug offers its community contributors giveaways, events and opportunities for their ideas to be featured in the magazines.
A word to the wise: User-generated content no longer means a cheap solution. The most successful integrations require a content strategy plan to generate, manage, contextualize and measure results.
So look around. The best source of content may well be your customers, along with some effective technologies. For some more ideas to inspire you, check out these resources.