The Global Marketer’s Guide to User-Generated Content

Modern buyers are more educated and connected than ever before—making it increasingly difficult for marketers to capture their attention. As such, the traditional content marketing strategies of the past just won’t cut it anymore. So, what’s a marketer to do? Enter user-generated content.

User-generated content—or UGC—is exactly what it sounds like: content created by users. For brands, users are people who interact with your brand or products in some capacity but aren’t professionally affiliated with your company.

The difference between UGC and more traditional marketing tactics is that UGC relies on your customers to promote your brand, rather than doing it yourself.

Why Are Global Marketers Turning to User-Generated Content?

For global marketers it’s difficult to find one type of content that performs across all demographics, locations, and markets. This is largely due to the fact that each audience has a different set of buying habits, pain points, motivators, and other contributing factors.

The beauty of UGC is that it’s created by the customer for the customer. It naturally transcends the barriers that stand in the way of traditional content types—think language, cultural differences, and more.   Consider these statistics:

  • 41% of consumers only need to see between 1 and 4 pieces of UGC to be influenced to purchase (source) whereas 47% of consumers need to see 3 to 5 pieces of traditional content to even speak with a sales rep (source).
  • UGC is 35% more memorable than any other media and 50% more trusted (source).
  • UGC results in 29% higher web conversions than campaigns or websites without it (source).

Looking for more reasons to jump on the UGC bandwagon? Keep reading.

1.    It’s versatile.

UGC is not exclusive to one platform or medium. No matter your marketing goals, this type of content fits into any strategy. Think of UGC as a supplement to your current content marketing strategy that works to convert customers no matter the format or distribution channel.

2.    It’s trustworthy.

The foundation of any relationship is trust—even in business. The reason so many marketers are turning to UGC is its innate ability to earn the trust of potential buyers. Consider these statistics:

  • User-generated content is trusted 40% more by millennials than information they get from traditional media (source).
  • 51% of consumers trust user-generated content over information on your brand’s website (source).
  • User-generated product reviews are trusted 12x more than promotional marketing content (source).

This trustworthiness stems from the fact that UGC is created by willing customers who aren’t being compensated in any way. Because the customer is not motivated by a financial incentive, it carries a certain layer of authenticity and comes across more sincerely.

The traditional content that comes from marketing teams is exactly the opposite of UGC. It’s created by a group of professionals who are paid to come up with content that sells. For this reason, customers and prospects are much more skeptical.

3.    It’s engaging.

If we haven’t already made it clear, we’ll say it again: customers value the opinions of their peers more than the opinions of your brand. In fact, one brand recently reported that engagement rates increased nearly 28% when they incorporated UGC into a promotional video (source).

The reason UGC is so engaging is simple: People like to know their opinions are heard and their content is appreciated. For example, if an organization reposts an Instagram taken by a customer, that person and their personal network are much more likely to engage with it. Once you start sharing UGC, other users will join in with the hopes their content will also be shared one day.

4.    It improves search rankings.

One lesser known benefit of UGC is its ability to improve your brand’s place within search results. Not only does it increase the amount of content pertaining to your brand, but UGC is also often keyword-rich content. In fact, 25% of search results for the world’s largest 20 brands are comprised of third-party content (source).

5.    It’s cost-effective and easy to come by.

Traditional content marketing can take a ton of time, effort and costly resources to create. Consider the amount of time and manpower that goes into planning your content calendar, creating that content, and then distributing it to the appropriate audience. With UGC, all that work is eliminated because the content already exists and is ready to share. Best of all, UGC is free.

6.    It sells.

There’s no way around it—UGC converts more prospects to customers than traditional marketing content. Consider these statistics:

  • 93% of consumers find UGC to be helpful when making a purchasing decision (source).
  • When consumers are presented with UGC during the buyer’s journey, the conversion rate increases by 4.6% (source).
  • UGC results in29% higher web conversions than campaigns or websites without it (source).
  • 71% of consumers feel more comfortable buying a product after researching user generated reviews (source).

Incorporate User-Generated Content into Your Marketing Strategy

Yes, these statistics are impressive, but we know what you’re thinking: How many customers willingly create content for brands or companies? The answer may surprise you—in 2013 about 114.5 million people had contributed user-generated content to a brand (source).

Despite this, only 16% of brands have a strategy in place to cultivate UGC (source). So the problem isn’t necessarily getting customers to talk; it’s about finding ways to effectively find and leverage the content they’re already creating.

If you have yet to incorporate UGC into your global marketing strategy, here are a few simple ways to start.

1.     Contests, giveaways, or sweepstakes.

A great way to collect UGC is to give your audience an incentive to send their content directly to you. Consider running a contest or giveaway where your customers must contribute a photo, review, or video testimonial in exchange for a prize.

This is effective for two reasons—one, it makes content collection simple. And two, contests typically generate higher quality UGC because entrants are competing for a prize. Just be sure to include contest terms and conditions that allow you full ownership of any content contributed by customers or users.

2.     Influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing is the newest and most effective way to generate powerful UGC. In fact, research shows businesses make $6.50 for every dollar invested in influencer marketing (source).

To get started, identify industry experts who have a significant social following. Start by asking the influencer to write a guest blog post, share an image or video featuring your product, or to leave a review on your product or service.

Influencer marketing does more than captivate and engage your existing audience. It can also expand your brand’s reach by leveraging the influencer’s popularity. An influencer with a loyal following provides an expanded pool of prospects to draw from.

As with any business partnership, it’s important to select influencers who align with your brand’s values.  Ask yourself: does this person have a reputation of professionalism? Is this person reliable? Have they made decisions in the past that would reflect poorly on your brand?

For an in-depth guide to influencer marketing, check out the following articles:

3.     Social Listening.

Whether you know it or not, there are people already sharing their thoughts and opinions about your brand on social media. If you haven’t already, implement a social listening strategy to capture this information and leverage it within your own content.

Track branded hashtags, keyword mentions, location tags, and photos. You’ll find tons of useable content to share and engage with. As always, be sure to ask permission before including a customer’s content in any sort of marketing collateral.

Learn more about implementing an effective social listening strategy here: The Marketer’s Guide to Social Listening.

4.    Surveys or Research Studies

Surveys are an excellent source of UGC for two primary reasons.

Firstly, they provide your organization with valuable insight into every stage of the buyer’s journey. This information can be used to inform and improve nearly every aspect of your business; from marketing strategy, to customer experience.

The feedback gleaned from this exercise can also be used to craft customer testimonials. As stated above, prospects are skeptical of statements crafted by your content team. Instead, first-hand customer accounts will elevate your marketing materials and make them significantly more persuasive.

To get you started, here are a few types of questions to include within your survey:

  • Marketing: Who are you? How did you first come across your brand? How well did our content resonate with you? How long did it take you to make a purchase? What types of content did you prefer? What marketing channel do you prefer to receive content through?
  • Sales: How easy was the sales process? Was the sales rep helpful? Was the sales cadence just right? When needed, was information distributed quickly and efficiently?
  • Customer Success: Was the product/service on-boarding process effective? Was the CS manager able to effectively provide assistance and answer questions? Was the CS manager able to quickly and efficiently respond to customer inquiries? Has the service provided by the CS team been satisfactory?
  • Product: Has the product/service met the needs/desires of the customer? What are the product/services’ best features? What could use improvement? Does the product/service meet the valuable proposition? Is pricing calculated fairly?

As with other tactics on this list, be sure to include a disclaimer allowing you full ownership and use of the answers you receive.

Key Takeaways

As buyers place more and more value on authenticity and peer opinions, UGC is essential for global marketers.  The value of UGC is undeniable but, like any marketing strategy, it takes planning and testing to get it right.

Start small and use the resources you have at hand. Your audience is more than willing to help you out—take advantage of that!

Contributed by Molly Clarke, Web Marketing Manager at ZoomInfo. ZoomInfo offers the most accurate and actionable market intelligence to help organizations accelerate growth and profitability. The continuously updated database enables sales and marketing teams to execute more effective marketing campaigns and improve lead generation efforts. Visit zoominfo.com for more information.

Featured image by Annie Spratt

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