By leveraging online platforms, digital tools, and virtual events, you can easily connect and engage with your members, share information and resources, and expand your reach. You can not only post your photos, videos, and texts but ask your members to do it too. That’s where we should introduce user-generated content (UGC).
UGC connects the audience with the organization and its cause. It puts a human face on your company, influences audience behavior more than traditional marketing, and can help your team save time and money.
Sounds interesting? Let’s explore how going digital and using UGC can help you create a great community experience. You will also learn how to encourage the audience to generate and distribute this content.
Understanding User-Generated Content
UGC is often seen as more authentic and trustworthy than traditional advertising because it comes from real people with real experiences.
It’s genuine, powerful, and effective regardless of what industry you belong to.
Defining User-Generated Content
UGC is any form of content created by an individual or group of individuals rather than a corporation or business.
It can be images, video clips, text posts, and even website comments.
The most common examples are photos taken by ordinary people and shared on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Sources of Community-Generated Content
Social media platforms
Do you have a social media account?
If yes, then it’s one of the easiest ways to find what people say about your organization and encourage them to tag you or use a specific hashtag when sharing related content.
Another great place to find UGC is an online community or member forum.
Private online communities ensure a protected venue for knowledge sharing, collaboration, and communication among your members.
You can learn about their experiences and insights, answer questions, and gather feedback to improve in the future. These opportunities enable you to facilitate meaningful engagement and foster a sense of belonging.
If you want to get UGC faster, ask your audience to develop it.
It can be testimonials or feedback on your organization’s activities or events. Then you can place quotes on social media, a website, or marketing materials.
If you organize events, you can incentivize attendees to post photos or videos and repurpose them as UGC.
4 Benefits of User-Generated Content Marketing
1. Authenticity and Credibility
Why is UGC so influential? It’s more authentic than anything else out there. As statistics show, authenticity is crucial to 90% of people when choosing whom to support.
UGC is about real people sharing their experiences, thoughts, and feelings on products, services, or activities they participated in. This type of content can be a great way to humanize your company.
It can show members that there are actual people behind the company name. And it will help you build stronger relationships with your audience, for example, donors in the case of nonprofit organizations.
2. Establishing Loyalty and Community Growth
UGC lets your audience become active participants in your organization’s activities. They can not only see how you contribute to the community but build a more meaningful life together. This social interaction can increase loyalty, ensure community building, and promote a sense of belonging.
Showcase UGC to spark conversations between the organization and the audience, building a stronger, more engaged community.
3. Building Trust and Influencing Decisions
Traditional marketing strategies and ads have less impact on the audience than before. That’s why organizations seek natural methods of promoting their ideas and values.
Due to the increasing role of social media in everyday life, content from real people outperforms traditional advertisements in terms of credibility.
UGC lets you harness the power of personal recommendations and create a deeper connection with your audience. Think of it as a digital version of word-of-mouth advertising. Incorporating UGC into your strategy can build trust and tell your story more authentically.
4. Cost-Effective and Adaptable
Consider everything that goes into a professional photo shoot:
- Finding a creative team and photographer;
- Selecting models;
- Renting a venue;
- Waiting for an editor to process and publish photos, etc.
It requires a lot of time and money, and there is no guarantee it will appeal to your audience. If you operate on a tight budget, UGC can solve problems with the high costs associated with content creation and scaling.
Use visuals and texts from your community. The best part is that they are usually free. But even if you cooperate with public figures, they may be open to non-paid partnerships and making collaborative content, ensuring significant cost savings.
Types of User-Generated Content
Now that we’ve defined UGC and its potential for community building let’s review some of its popular types. User-generated media is available in various formats, making it easy to find the ideal fit for your niche, for example:
- Visual content: photos and videos, immersing others into the real-life experience with your organization;
- Testimonials: written statements, videos, or even audio recordings from current or past members of the organization about their experiences and the benefits they have gained from being a member;
- Reviews: similar to testimonials, but you have less control over user-generated feedback. Reviews also usually appear not on corporate websites but on external platforms, such as Google Reviews, Yelp, or TrustPilot;
- Ratings: a numerical score or star rating system used to evaluate the overall quality of an organization;
- Social media posts: members’ content on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social sharing platforms.
Examples of Best User-Generated Content
Let’s look at some prominent organizations using UGC for community building.
Screenshot taken on the official GivingTuesday Instagram account
#GivingTuesday is a global movement that started in 2022.
It unites people worldwide who donate, help others, and raise awareness. All you need is to do something good and share it on social media with the hashtag #GivingTuesday.
Screenshot taken on the official Movember website
This initiative aims to tell the world about men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health. Members can choose their activity, for example:
- Grow a mustache
- Run or walk 60 miles
- Hold an event
- Choose an adventure challenge
People do it to raise money to prevent men’s diseases and attract more attention to the campaign.
Screenshot taken on the official Neurodivergent Rebel Instagram account
This campaign strives to promote understanding of autism and its masking. Members publish their stories about autism under the hashtag #TakeTheMaskOff, which you can observe in the screenshot below.
Screenshot taken from Instagram
As customers begin active shopping in November, local stores want to increase traffic during this season. That’s how Small Business Saturday started.
Promoted by American Express, it encourages people to buy at local and small stores. Consumers tell about their experiences on social media using the hashtag #SmallBusinessSaturday.
Strategies for Obtaining Community-Generated Content
1. Request Permission and Give Credit
If your organization has been functioning for some time, there is a high chance that users already publish related content. Incorporate what people are saying into your marketing strategy.
For this purpose, you may need social listening or other dedicated tools, which we’ll discuss further.
Suppose you spotted a post mentioning you. You can’t simply take the photo and repurpose it on your account. Why? Because it may irritate users and even lead to copyright issues.
Here are two things to remember when curating content:
- Contact the author and request permission to use the content on your website or social media accounts. Engage members through email marketing or direct messages to inform them about your desire to share the post with the broad community.
- Indicate the original creator with clear attribution. You can tag them in the post or specify whether you use their words, images, or both.
Following these guidelines creates a win-win situation. You can satisfy the content creator by showing your appreciation for their posts.
You can also demonstrate to others that the text or visuals come from a real person, not your marketing team.
2. Be Clear About the Desired Content
What if you haven’t found anything online? You can request the audience to produce the desired content. In this case, you have more control over the posts appearing on your website or social media accounts.
Specify your expectations to make it easy for followers to provide information aligned with your needs. You can ask them to post on social media. Or you can get specific about the needed form of community-generated content, such as testimonials or videos.
After all, there are so many ways to shoot a clip or take a photo. For example, you may want to see pictures from an event with your logo or with certain people. Tell the community about it. It also applies to UGC in the text form.
Indicate the word count, the topic, or anything. Note that you shouldn’t limit users to leaving only favorable feedback. They should express genuine emotion with some recommendations on your part, not write a fake review.
3. Create Incentives for User Participation
People need a compelling purpose to invest time in developing content. What would you give them in exchange for participating in your UGC program?
Here is how member-based organizations can encourage people to publish community-driven content:
- Non-tangible rewards like recognition and acknowledgment
- Exclusive access to specific events, webinars, or courses
- Swag items like a branded mug, t-shirt, keychain, or discounts
- Running a structured contest with a prize, such as a cash prize, a gift card, or a free membership
- Personalized thank-you notes or emails
- The opportunity to co-create content, for example, participate in interviews or podcasts or write guest blog posts
- Points or badges
A member-based organization can collaborate with an online retailer and reward members for distributing UGC. Why should you consider it?
Such collaboration provides benefits for both your organization and the eCommerce partner. It not only Member Appreciation Ideas: Different Ways to Thank Your Members
Tools for Managing User-Generated Campaigns
It can be time-consuming to compile all content by yourself. So we present some tools, UGC platforms, and social listening solutions to streamline your user-generated content strategies.
1. Glue Up Community Management Software
Glue Up community management software is a private social media that helps you interact with your community more deeply than conventional social media.
It is exclusively designed for member-based organizations like yours so your members can take advantage of all the benefits of the community without feeling vulnerable to security breaches.
Furthermore, they can build professional relationships through the member directory, connect on 1:1 calls and share their digital business cards with other community members.
If you are interested to know more about Glue Up, get a demo here.
Screenshot taken on the official Determ website
Determ is another tool that provides real-time monitoring of online mentions of your name, including articles, hashtags, or comments.
3. Hootsuite Insights
Screenshot taken on the official Hootsuite website
It’s a social listening tool that shows user sentiment and trust based on mentions of organizations across social networks.
Screenshot taken on the official Yotpo website
Yotpo is a tool for tracking members’ reviews, photos, and videos. It integrates with Google and Facebook and lets you combine user visuals and comments to display on your website.
1. Why Do Marketers Utilize User-Generated Content?
People will more likely choose what others recommend to them. Why? We believe in real-life experiences more than marketing materials, even though user-generated content isn’t professionally created. This is known as social proof.
2. Do You Need Permission Before Using UGC?
Yes, you need to ask for consent before republishing something. Engage with individuals through direct messages or the comment section to establish a connection based on shared experiences.
3. What Functions Do User-Generated Content Strategies Serve?
Community-driven content is a valuable information source for organizations and potential and existing members. It can build trust among newcomers and improve the organization’s reputation. Current members may also positively react to UGC, increasing engagement, loyalty, and retention.
Building a flourishing community is crucial for member-based organizations in the digital era. Today, staring at a screen for hours on end is commonplace.
In 2022, the typical US adult used their mobile devices for 4 hours and 29 minutes daily. And this figure is anticipated to increase even further, reaching 4 hours 35 minutes in 2023. That’s more than 30 hours every week!
Such rapid growth in popularity lets companies communicate directly with the audience and develop stronger bonds with devotees. That’s why member-based organizations should also go digital to appeal to their community.
User-generated content can help you foster a sense of belonging and connection among your members, leading to higher member engagement and satisfaction. We’ve looked at how to leverage user-generated content as one of the community-building tactics for your organization.
Now that you know how to engage your members with UGC, employ it with powerful engagement software and see your community thrive!
Kate Parish is the chief marketing officer at Onilab, a full-service eCommerce agency with a focus on Magento. Kate has been working on diverse marketing strategies and activities for more than 8 years. In her pursuit to bring up top-notch marketing solutions, Kate is constantly exploring the topics of SEO, branding, SMM, PPC, and Magento PWA development.