I’ve been watching Facebook closely for a long time.
I’ve tested hundreds of ad iterations.
I’ve worked hard to build organic reach for myself and my clients.
Here’s what I’ve concluded: Facebook is awesome. But it’s also tricky.
Why? Because the algorithm is constantly shifting, forcing marketers to up their game, readjust their techniques, and reorient their strategies.
Here’s the thing. If you have a social presence for your business, Facebook has decided that your organic reach needs to shrink.
You know, of course, that this isn’t the first time the social giant tweaked its algorithm.
In June, Adam Mosseri, VP, Product Management for News Feed at Facebook, shared a post that detailed how Facebook was updating the news feed.
The core of the update is to prioritize posts that come from friends and family while reducing the onslaught of content from businesses and other publishers. Facebook wants users to see more posts from actual people, not businesses doing marketing.
The gist of the algorithm remains the same.
But the variability is increasing. Mosseri explained:
It will vary a lot by publisher mostly based on how much of their referral traffic or their reach is based on people who actually share their content directly…
If you’ve got strong engagement from your audience and they’re shouting your name from the rooftops as they share your content, or generate content around your brand, you’ll be far less impacted by the update.
But most of the businesses I work with aren’t enjoying that level of stellar engagement.
This is what it boils down to. If you want to improve your reach and engagement, you’ll need to find ways to leverage user-generated content (UGC) since that’s what friends and family will see first.
What I want to communicate is pretty simple: User-generated content is one of the most effective forms of content marketing available today.
User-generated content is the future of content marketing.
UGC will act as dynamite to your social media presence, accelerate your onsite content efforts, increase engagement, boost conversions, and build up a wall of defense against any algorithm the world throws your way.
Let’s talk about where the rubber meets the road—your fans helping your site become a conversion-generating machine.
Why you should put your money into user-generated content
There are a lot of benefits to UGC, and those benefits can be significant. And that’s primarily because you’re not limited to social media when it comes to working with customers to acquire and leverage it—though that’s where a bulk of your gains can come into play.
Consider for a moment that more than half of the adult users on Facebook have around 200 people in their immediate networks, according to Pew Research.
That social network graph looks something like this:
If the algorithm wants all those people to see content from their connections first, it’s in your best interest to get your audience producing or creating content about you.
And that’s not just for the sake of a little (or even big) boost in visibility.
Consumers fully admit they find branded information from their peers trustworthy—85% of consumers, to be exact.
That’s because the vast majority of them find that kind of content to be helpful when they make a decision about whether or not to make a purchase.
Nielsen’s study on this subject showed that 92% of consumers trust content and the opinions of their peers over any other kind of advertising.
UGC also has influence over that trust, according to data shared by Yotpo:
UGC is the best way to beat an algorithm that wants to topple and bury your promotions amid pictures of babies, beards, and breakfast platters.
But you’re not limited to Facebook in leveraging it.
With variations in engagement time across different social channels, you can see where there are opportunities to use user-generated content to drive up engagement as well as increase consumer trust.
Some brands are having a lot of success on other social channels and digital properties with UGC.
Below are a couple of examples of brands that leverage UGC using different channels.
A touch of wanderlust
National Geographic asked users to capture unforgettable people, places, and experiences that have impacted their lives from their travels around the world. The hashtag campaign (#wanderlustcontest) brought in tens of thousands of submissions branded to NatGeo.
And, of course, among those public submissions were some truly breathtaking and awe-inspiring photos people were all too happy to continue sharing.
Ignite user creativity
Nissan’s luxury car brand, Infiniti, ran a campaign promoting its Q30 model, aiming to leverage the content of its fans to help promote the vehicle. The New Heights contest had users print out a marker card that would display the vehicle in 3D when used with their mobile app.
Fans were encouraged to show off the vehicle in unexpected places by snapping pictures and sharing them with a branded hashtag via different social channels.
These two great examples of building campaigns and visibility from user-generated content had a couple of things in common:
- They both revolved around contests. While this is a good way to encourage action among your followers, it’s not always necessary to give something away in order to source user-generated content.
- These two campaigns were actively asking their fans to provide the content.
This aspect—the asking—is the most important part you need to remember.
Why? Because the majority of brands simply don’t ask. If you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it.
It’s just that simple.
So, what’s the simplest and most effective way to get UGC?
Ask your users to provide it.
If you want UGC, ask your followers to provide it
Brands don’t want to be pushy, but with UGC, you’ve got to approach it like you approach a call to action (CTA).
With a CTA, you’re telling your audience explicitly what you want them to do. It’s been proven time and again that without a clear call to action, you lose conversions.
But only about 16% of brands take the same approach with UGC, expressing to fans just what kind of content they want to see. Without that kind of direction, consumers aren’t sure what’s okay to share.
In fact, 50% of consumers want brands to tell them what they should include when creating and sharing content.
You don’t need to give away a luxury or big-ticket item when you make the ask, but you do need to ask.
Don’t sit and wait for your fans to provide you with gold.
Here are some of the best ways you can start sourcing and leveraging user-generated content for your brand and social channels.
1. Curate user-generated content with Yotpo
I’ve long felt that Yotpo is an impressive platform for sourcing reviews, engaging customers, and utilizing customer feedback to promote growth.
Now, it’s even better than ever.
Yotpo has stepped up its game with the recent launch of the Yotpo Curation tool.
This tool allows you to collect relevant Instagram photos from fans and influencers, displaying them on a single dashboard.
From there, you can tag products and handle rights management (including engagement with the original user to say thanks), inject the photos into your product pages, and even sell from your timeline.
This simplifies the tedium of trying to manually source user-generated images and lets you quickly benefit from the social proof tied to UGC.
In one survey conducted by Yotpo, 77% of consumers admitted they preferred to see consumer photos over professional shots:
That’s a clear indication of what you should have on your product pages.
Imagine the impact of having quality reviews alongside images showing off your products being used by actual customers.
It would provide a significant lift in conversions when you consider that 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site displaying user reviews. A study conducted by Reevoo showed that reviews alone, without any other UGC, lift sales by 18%.
The Yotpo tool turns your customers into brand ambassadors right on your product pages, plus you can create your own shoppable Instagram galleries or post that UGC to other social channels.
2. Build a community
When I talk about building a community, I’m referring to a gathering of people. Literal people in online gatherings.
You may view your social channels as individual and separate communities, but they’re really not. At least not without some kind of organization.
There are a lot of ways to build communities, e.g., Facebook groups, subreddits on Reddit.com, or communities built into your website.
A community you create and manage can give your fans a sense of belonging and make them feel connected to your brand. They’ll share a mix of personal content as well as content related to the brand as they engage with one another.
Through this engagement, you’ll see things like images, videos, and testimonials crop up that are ripe for the picking.
That user-generated content feeds back into the community, encouraging others to generate more of it, and it helps anchor prospective customers who were on the fence about making a purchase.
Giant Vapes is one of the largest online retailers of e-liquid for electronic cigarettes. It also operates a Facebook community, roughly 25,000 members strong. Members regularly share the products they’ve purchased, industry news, their opinions about interactions with the company, praise over shipping and deals, and more.
3. Give them customization and unique experiences
Customization provides your fans and customers with a sense of real ownership. They’ll naturally want to share with their friends and family what they’ve created, and you can play on that desire by asking them to do so.
Whether it’s a customized piece of clothing, a bag, or a vehicle, customization often leads to some great user-generated content.
And sometimes you don’t even have to ask.
Scores of people got excited about the announcement of Nintendo’s Super Mario Maker. Players create their own Mario levels to play on their own or share with the community. Fans, new and old, went crazy when it launched, and YouTube was flooded with the creations of streamers, generating a lot of visibility for the brand and the game.
This video has almost 12 million views to date.
In the same vein of creating unique experiences, Hello Games is seeing images and videos of their game No Man’s Sky showing up all over the web, including a subreddit devoted to the game (a user-created community).
No Man’s Sky features a universe boasting over 10 quintillion procedurally (randomly) generated planets, each with creatures and alien plant life different from the last. That guarantees unique content, and fans have been quick to share images and videos of their discoveries since its recent launch.
When you give your audience something they’ve never experienced before and the chance to create something unique they feel they own, they’re more likely to share that experience far and wide. That builds a lot of trust and provides a lift in conversions.
4. The UGC contest
I touched on contests above with a couple of examples, but in recommending this approach, I wanted to add one more because of the success of the campaign.
Back in 2014, Starbucks invited fans to decorate their white cups with customized art. Fans were asked to submit the images through Twitter with the #whitecupcontest hashtag for a chance to win. There were thousands of entries, and, of course, a constant stream of buzz that drove customers to their local stores.
— damoward (@damoward) September 6, 2014
I’m mentioning this contest specifically because it pulls in elements from my last point: let users customize and do something unique.
You don’t have to have a multi-million dollar budget to add customization to your product line.
Sometimes, you just need to give your customers a blank canvas and set their creativity free.
5. Use videos on product pages
Yotpo can strap a rocket onto your conversions with user-generated images, but don’t let the rocket run out of fuel.
If you can get your fans and customers generating videos of your products in use, those should be added to your product pages as well.
Explainer videos are great, but there’s nothing that sells a product faster than a video showing real, happy customers, who are 100% satisfied with their purchase.
Here are some quick stats that show how effective product videos really are:
- 90% of users admit that seeing a video about a product helps them make a purchase decision
- 36% of customers trust video ads; imagine the trust you gain from earned media
- 64% of visitors are more likely to buy a product after watching a video online
- Product videos can increase conversions by as much as 20%
Aside from those five tips, it goes without saying that you should absolutely be using product reviews on your website and social channels such as Facebook.
Leverage that social proof, and find creative ways to team up with your customers.
A large portion of your audience are happy to create and share content for you—they just need to know what you’re looking for.
Tell them how to help, inspire them to get creative, and watch your conversions climb steadily as your collection of UGC grows.
Are you using user-generated content right now to build trust with your audience and increase your brand’s visibility? What techniques are you using, and what’s the most successful?