Think back to the last item you bought and ask yourself two questions: How did you find out about that product and why did you buy it?
Most likely, 1 out of the last 10 purchases you made was influenced by user-generated content (UGC), such as a social post or product review. Currently, 83% of consumers trust digital word-of-mouth more than content produced by advertisers. Our 2017 Facebook User-Generated Content Benchmark Report revealed that despite a decrease in user publishing and post engagement in 2016, user-generated content containing a brand drove 6.9x higher engagement compared to a brand-generated post.
If you’re currently advertising on Facebook, the declines in News Feed engagement should be concerning. Fewer engaged users means fewer opportunities for your ads to displayed – with increased competition for in-demand ad units and audience – and less user-generated content available to repurpose. The reality is, as much as social media marketing has evolved, there are still only three ways for you to get your brand into consumers’ social feeds:
- Publish a post from your own brand Page – but it’s being throttled
- Buy an ad unit or promote your brand post – but it’s being blocked, gamed, and ignored
- Get consumers to post about you – but it’s more difficult
Many of the challenges facing social media marketing today started with the initial assumption that digital and social media functioned the same as traditional media channels. You could have the largest social ad budget and best-in-class marketing team, but still struggle to effectively influence your target audience on social. That’s because the conversation isn’t happening between your and your brand – it’s happening among your consumers and their friends. From social posts to online reviews, more than 300 billion pieces of content are created across the Internet every day.
The role of user-generated content in social marketing is changing and we’re only just beginning to understand its value. An effective user-generated content strategy has the power to transform your social media marketing efforts into a revenue-generating machine by putting you in the conversation.
Relying on earned UGC alone can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. To succeed, the creation and curation of branded UGC needs to be a deliberate customer activation strategy that’s integrated with your overall marketing plan. It’s time to start inspiring UGC across your entire customer journey, from your customers who are in position to make the biggest impact purchase behavior.
Here’s how to start maximizing your user-generated content opportunities.
Identify Opportunities for Customers to Create & Advocate
There are three primary signals that determine News Feed rank: who posted, content type, and post interactions. As such, a successful UGC activation plan requires three things: customers who will publish original content, user-generated content featuring your brand, and engagement from that customer’s network.
With engagement up 26% and continuing to grow, we know users are hungry for content – as long as it’s shared from friends & family. The critical factors for success depend on discovering customers who will advocate, and identifying relevant opportunities for them to create quality branded content.
Your customers who are loyal, will advocate, and have influence are your most valuable and underutilized assets when it comes to UGC activation. But with the decline of organic posts during the past year, user activation needs to be integrated around relevant, customer-initiated brand interactions that create organic opportunities for storytelling around the stages of your customer journey you want to impact the most.
Start by taking inventory of your activation potential:
- Which stage(s) of your customer journey are you targeting
- Which brand touch points generate high customer engagement (e.g. web, mobile, email)
- What stories and content about your brand are your customers already sharing
- What relevant topics are your customers already posting about that are opportunities for brand and product integration
These answers will help determine your incremental opportunities to engage customers to create content in the moments they’re already interacting with your brand.
Determine Your User-Generated Content Mix
Once you’ve identified opportunities for engagement, it all comes down to what you ask for. Facebook gives higher priority to video (Facebook Live) and photo posts, which increase users’ time spent engaging with content. Keeping this in mind, your activation ask to your customers should prompt the creation of three types of user-generated content:
- UGC that informs and educates: Ask customers to tell their stories of what your product allows them to do and accomplish. These use case driven, post-purchase posts include ratings & reviews, product samples, and unboxing videos. Ratings and reviews also fall into this category.
- UGC that inspires and entertains: Ask customers to tell their stories of who your product allows them to be and become. These aspirational, affirming product posts can tie into campaign-themed contests & promotions, or align with brand-relevant lifestyle topics, keywords and events.
- UGC that converts: Ask users to share exclusive product offers. These are promotional posts that include promo codes and other exclusive promotions that friends & family can redeem. These posts are often transactional, with the customer receiving a mutual incentive of equal or more perceived value (FTC disclosure required).
It’s best practice to provide minimal brand guidelines & requirements to allow customers the creative freedom to incorporate your brand as they see fit.
Repurpose, Refine & Repeat
User-generated content not only has the power to put your brand in the conversation – but amplify the impact of all your marketing campaigns. In addition to increasing the effectiveness and cost efficiencies of paid social, UGC can be repurposed in email marketing, out-of-home campaigns, and product packaging, among others.
But not all customers or content are created equal. As you track performance, you’ll start to discern the types of consumers and content that are able to drive business results for your brand across all your marketing initiatives. Despite the growth in post engagement, users are sharing significantly less, resulting in a 29% decrease in original posts per user in the last year alone. The upside is that despite this decrease in frequency, there’s less competition – users who continue to post are driving higher engagements per post and those with influence are driving 3.5x more engagement than the average user.
For additional insights and to see how your performance compares, download our Facebook UGC Benchmark Report.