A Beginner's Guide to Using User-generated Content and Social Proof
Community Commerce7 MIN READ
User-generated content is a powerful tool, but only when you know how to use it. This guide will walk you through the basics of user-generated content and how to leverage it effectively for your brand's social proof.
What is user-generated content?
User-generated content (UGC) is content created by users, rather than your brand.
While the most common types of UGC occur over social media, it can include anything from a Yelp review to a your private group discussions. The goal of UGC is to leverage the power of user-generated content by encouraging your audience to create content and share it with their network. This can be done through social media posts, competitions, or even creating a space where users can submit their own content. But we will get to more of that in a moment.
Source: Pew Research Center
It's important to understand that user-generated content can be both positive and negative -- and both give you opportunities to capitalize if you know how to leverage UGC for your brand.
UGC is a powerful way to build brand awareness, gain new followers, increase engagement, close prospects, improve your product, and so much more. The best thing about UGC is that it's authentic, which means that your customers will trust you more when they see their friends sharing their experiences with your brand on social media.
What is social proof?
Social proof is consumer communities guiding one another toward smarter buying decisions and is a critical piece to your Community Commerce strategy.
Social proof is the volume of a brand's positive word-of-mouth.
Brands that have social proof are able to influence how their audience perceives them and generate faster organic growth. Social proof demonstrates that a product or service has been recognized by others as valuable, useful, important or appropriate. In other words, it helps your customers feel confident in their purchase decisions.
User-generated content helps you establish your brand as a trustworthy and authoritative solution to your customers' problems. This not only reinforces your credibility with potential buyers, but it also helps build brand community, leverage word-of-mouth, and boost sales.
Why does user-generated content work?
User-generated content is a powerful tool for social proof because it allows you to showcase authentic, non-salesy feedback from actual customers.
That’s why consumer reviews on websites like Amazon and TripAdvisor are so effective. It’s also why you see most successful brands leveraging user-generated content on their websites, social media platforms, and blog posts. By showcasing how your customers use your products in real life (and why they love them), you will inspire others to purchase from you, too.
User-generated content build trust with potential customers by demonstrating that other people have had positive experiences with your business.
What you need to build great UGC
Emotional connection with customers
Connecting with members of your audience on an emotional level is critical for successful business in a post-COVID world. People aren't interested in spam or being talked at. Additionally, they view their purchases as a way of aligning with certain brands and consumer groups.
Source: Incisive Edge
More importantly, authentic brand-consumer connections result in lifestyle content that attracts more people to your brand. Your brand shouldn't be the only agent creating powerful content on behalf of your values, products, and services. Making that emotional connection with key buyers results in a special kind of brand loyalty and ambassadorship that can't be replicated by massive paid ad campaigns.
Social media presence
Building a strong social media presence is the key to growing your brand in today's fast-paced, community-driven world.
A good social media strategy will help you engage with customers, drive traffic to your website, and build brand awareness. It makes you easy to find and increases the likelihood that customers with find and mention you online.
It's not necessary that you be on every social media channel. Rather, identify the top two or three channels where your target audience is most active and create a plan to establish your brand on those channels.
Creativity is an essential part of any successful marketing strategy. It's not enough to just have a product or service that people want; you need to find ways to get their attention and make them aware of it. Creative marketing campaigns can be anything from compelling video posts on social media to special events where customers can interact with your brand or product.
As you stand out and refine your message, you'll naturally draw UGC from people who love your brand. Marketers that think outside the box are always most successful at collecting the best user-generated content.
A Brand Community is a group of people that have a relationship with or affinity to a brand. These people include customers, employees, social followers, partners, complementary brand customers/followers, and more.
Your brand's community is one of the best places to turn your customers into content creators. As you work with users, they'll come to see you as an important part of their lives that they want to share with others online.
Content, content, and more content
Once you launch your social media profiles, it's time to add relevant posts, images, and videos.
The more content you create, the more opportunities you'll have to get your audience involved in creating content themselves. By fostering an environment where people love sharing their experiences with your product, you're setting yourself up for success when it comes to UGC campaigns—and beyond.
Social listening is the process of monitoring and analyzing social media conversations about your brand or industry. The goal is to identify opportunities for engagement. You can use social listening tools to monitor mentions of your brand or industry on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and more.
Social listening can help you identify trends in user behavior and get an early look at what people think about new features or products before they hit the market. Also, social listening reveals influential voices within your community that you can leverage into a lucrative partnership.
As positive UGC goes public, you can interact with those posts and ask to share/promote. When you uncover negative UGC, you can proactively resolve issues and convert unhappy customers into loyal brand ambassadors.
You'll need to understand, use, and search for hashtags to help you engage with your audience. Your brand can use hashtags to find conversations about your industry, products or services. Monitor these conversations for mentions of your brand as well as competitors’ names—and then jump in when appropriate.
If you're new to hashtags and social media, consider using a free hashtag generator to know what hashtags to search and add to your posts. But once you feel comfortable, you can venture out on your own to uncover newer, more relevant hashtags that help you gather and attract UGC.
Most common types of UGC
Reviews on directories like Yelp, Google Maps, Foursquare, Angie's List, and more are among the most common (and easy to find) UGC. You'll acquire more reviews as you establish yourself on the right directories and post on social media.
The more reviews you interact with, the more likely you are to attract more. You should also have a plan to address bad reviews as they occur so that you are not caught off guard or allow a customer complaint to ruin your brand's reputation.
Testimonials can be a great way to showcase what your customers like about you. You can use them on your website, email, ads, or social media. Video testimonials are growing more popular on social media, especially when paired with community influencers who share their experiences using your product or service.
Follower comments, likes, and shares
Social media engagements are great opportunities to show that people are interacting with your brand and content. You can also use follower comments to respond to customer concerns or complaints.
For example, if you have a social media page for your business, consider using it as an opportunity to answer questions about your products or services. This will help build trust with customers and attract more UGC.
TikTok duets and stitches
A TikTok duet is sharing another person's video by adding one's own content alongside the original video in a split screen view. A TikTok stitch is using the first few seconds of someone's video at the beginning of one's new video, usually in the form of a response.
TikTok is one of the easiest social channels to share content and connect with like-minded buyers. Creating short-form videos that are easy to duet or stitch is a way to showcase your brand’s personality and engage with your audience.
You can also use duets and stitches to highlight the experience customers have using your products or services. For example, if you sell shoes, you could ask customers to submit clips of themselves wearing their new shoes out on the town for everyone to see.
Virtual event participation
Every leading social media channel now allows brands to host live events. Whether unveiling a new product or launching an educational event, attendees are likely to comment during your event.
Consider having a team member monitor viewer questions and comments as a way to encourage greater participation. The event host can also answer attendee comments directly or incentivize UGC through giveaways or contests.
There are a number of online forums where people can discuss topics relevant to your business. You should have a presence on these sites, as well as participate in the discussions.
For example, if you’re a health brand, you should have an active presence on forums such as Reddit and Quora. You can also find other forums related to your industry and start posting there. By monitoring and getting involved in relevant discussions and groups, you'll get a front-row seat to what people are saying about you and your industry.
Branded tags, hashtags, and AR filters
One of the more exciting ways to find and attract UGC is through social media's tag, hashtag, and AR filter features.
You can create branded hashtags and attach them to your events, contests, and products. Being present on the most critical social channels also allows people to tag your brand.
Source: Groove Jones
Leading platforms like Instagram and Facebook allow marketers to design custom filters for a more immersive UGC experience. For example, you can create a branded hashtag for your event and then design an AR filter on Snapchat that attendees can use to take selfies with your brand. This will not only help you reach new audiences, but also create some exciting UGC that you can use online or offline.
Community influencer campaign engagement
By working with influential people in your industry, you can create authentic content that resonates with your target audience and drives more engagement for your brand. These creator posts usually receive significantly greater consumer engagement than any posts coming from your branded account.
When looking for influencers relevant to your brand and audience, keep in mind that they should have:
- A loyal following (usually 1,000+ followers on their main social channel)
- An established social media presence (fresh posts going out on a weekly basis)
- An engaged audience of real people who exhibit a strong sense of community via post shares and comments
User-generated content can help boost brand awareness, trust, and engagement. However, the power of UGC lies in how you use it strategically to support your brand by leveraging consumer communities to drive social proof and positive word-of-mouth. By taking the time to find and curate the right content, you can create a more authentic and valuable user experience that drives better results.