Shoppers are choosier than ever about the brands they buy from.

They want it all, and they’ll stop at nothing until they get it–even if it means paying more and waiting longer.

Securing trust and promoting products customers are proud to be associated with is crucial for DTC brands today. Instead of pumping out polished, branded content, people are hunting down real-life content they can relate to.

Hello, UGC (or, should we say, user-generated content). 👋

But why user-generated content? What’s so good about it and how can you get started? Buckle up, because we’re about to take you on a wild ride.

What is user-generated content?

If you’ve ever bought a Starbucks coffee, clicked a quick snap, and posted it on Instagram, you’ve created UGC.

Starbucks UGC

User-generated content is everything your customers create to share their experience with your products. It can be a social media post, review, rating, video, gif, audio, etc. If it was made by your customers, it’s UGC.

How is UGC different from influencer marketing?

Collaborating with influencers and paying them to big up your products is also user-generated content, right? Not quite, and here’s why.

UGC is free and organic, influencer marketing is paid
You don’t pay your customers to get UGC. It’s spontaneous, free, and created out of the goodness of their own hearts. Influencer marketing tends to be a paid activity that requires a budget, a brief, and KPIs.

UGC is shared by regular people, not pros
When you collaborate with influencers, they choose the perfect background, pair your product with the right colours, and spend hours framing and editing each shot–they might even hire a professional photographer to do the deed.

On the flipside, UGC is created by your customers (a.k.a. your average Joe and Joannes). And, unlike influencers, they share raw experiences that other shoppers can relate to.

UGC is credible and relatable
When your existing customers share their experiences without your involvement, it generates trust among your audience. Kind of like good ol’ fashioned word-of-mouth marketing brought into the present day.

Why is user-generated content so important?

79% of people say UGC impacts their purchasing decisions.

Basically, if you’re not thinking about it, you’re leaving money on the table.

1. UGC shows your products in action
You might create fake scenarios to showcase your products in ads and branded content but with user-generated content, your customers show off real-life use cases.

They’ve found a hack for tying up the rainbow shoelaces you sell? Let them share it with the world!

The real-ness of UGC makes it more impactful than branded content.

Take a recent post by fashion designer Shruti Ranka, for example. The brand highlights one of its customers wearing a new dress–cue plenty of enquiries in the comments.

UGC example - Shruti Ranka

2. UGC has the potential to go viral
UGC content has the potential to go viral because of how shareable and relatable it is. If you sell sustainable frying pans and a customer shares a vid of them making their fave mac and cheese on TikTok, it might just go viral, like plenty of other foodie trends.

Tesco’s Little Moons mochi balls created a stir when there was a sudden influx of UGC content showing customers squishing and squeezing the satisfying little balls.


3. People believe in word of mouth
People are 90% more likely to believe their friend’s recommendations over a brand promotion. UGC generates trust among your audience, which will help you gain new customers and make more sales–what’s not to like?!


How to use UGC in ecommerce the right way?

Ready to get going with UGC? Here are some ways to collect user-generated content, along with some tips to getting ever more out of it.


1. Use advanced automation
Seeing your product on real people instead of mannequins or models adds a relatability factor to your brand. Rather than scouring social media for little nuggets of customer-created goodness, use a tool that automates the search for you.

Forthglade (one of our customers) uses Zapier to connect JotForm with Dash to automate the process. When people submit their pictures through the website it sends them to their Dash account, making it easier for them to pick their favourite 'dog of the month' submission snaps (although all dogs are winners, really 🐶).

2. Replace photos with UGC
Investing in professional product photoshoots isn’t always easy if you’ve got a smaller budget. Instead, balance your feed by mixing the right amount of UGC and brand content. This strategy can help you build a great community.

Beauty brand Glossier nails this. You can see a perfect balance of branded and user-generated content on its Instagram feed.

UserGeneratedContet-Example-Glossier

3. Let customers ask questions
One of the easiest ways to engage with your audience is to host a Q&A. You can post a few prompts and invite all the weird and wonderful questions. Not only does it allow you to interact with your audience and get to know them better, but it can also generate a fair bit of engagement.

Inside Outer Beauty Market regularly runs Q&As about clean beauty on Instagram with its founder, Dixie.

UGC example - Inside Outer Beauty Market
4. Create user-generated content for ads
Remember the viral-ness of UGC content? If something has taken off, why not use it in your ad campaigns and other marketing activities—with the creator’s consent, of course!

This is how Zoe Nutrition for Life converted a UGC video into a sponsored ad.

UGC example - Zoe Nutrition for Life

This is content you can repurpose for Instagram, TikTok and Facebook ads too. 

5. Add shoppable UGC galleries
Take your UGC content to the next level with shoppable UGC galleries on your website—tag products in customer pics so your followers can buy while they scroll.

This is how Old Navy does it. The brand encourages its audience to share their pictures with the hashtag #sayhi on Instagram to get featured on the website. And you can shop the look from their website gallery.

UGC example - Old Navy

What to do before you get started with UGC?

Before you take out your notepad and get started—here are 5 things you need to keep in mind.

1. Figure out how to store and organise your UGC
Investing in UGC can help you build a safe community for your customers.

However, managing every piece of UGC content can lead to unbridled chaos if it’s not done right.

So, first things first: use an affordable and flexible digital asset management tool, like Dash, to store your UGC. You can tag your video content by how well it performed and share it easily with your team. 


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2. Get consent before using UGC
Get consent from the creator before you repost any content on your social media or use it for other marketing purposes.

Not doing this can create a negative brand image and annoy your customers–a big no-no! Respect user content rights and shoot them a quick DM asking if you can use their pic.

UGC example - ForthgladeFourthglade’s UGC submission form asks users to confirm they’re happy for the brand to use their photographs.

3. Check if you really should start
UGC campaigns work best for brands with a pre-established social media presence. If you’ve got 3 followers (including your mum), it’s highly unlikely you’re going to get inundated with UGC.

Hold tight, though, there’s still hope.

You might not be aware of just how many people are talking and posting about your brand on social media. Use a social listening tool such as Hootsuite to find out who’s talking about you and where—this will also give you an insight into how your customers feel about your brand and products.

4. Choose the right social platform for your campaign
It’s all about being in the right place at the right time. Here’s a breakdown of what works on the top social media platforms.

  • Facebook is great for sharing longer videos and stories about your brand. You can post compelling and authentic content to get more views.

  • Instagram is the epitome of visual sharing and the go-to platform for UGC. It has various features to play around with, such as stories, IGTV, feed posts, and reels.

  • TikTok is your big chance to go viral. Encourage customers to hop on trends or create your own brand challenge.

  • LinkedIn is the world’s largest network for professionals. Use LinkedIn to promote employee-generated content.

  • Twitter is the go-to platform for sharing product reviews and experiences. You can also host Twitter spaces by inviting current customers to share their experiences and stories with the audience–or host a Q&A.
5. Encourage people to post about your brand organically
Use these strategies to encourage more people to post about your brand.

Notice your customers tagging your brand a lot? Create a hashtag to bring all that juicy content together. For example—Forever 21 uses #F21xMe.

UGC example - Forever21

 

  • If you have physical stores, add social and digital CTAs in-store to engage customers at a pivotal point in their shopping journey.

  • Developing trust among your audience is essential for your UGC campaign. Hosting events can help you with this; it will motivate your audience to talk about your brand.

  • Scour each platform for existing UGC content before you create a fresh UGC strategy. You can search by location, hashtag, or by your brand mentions

6. Incentive or no incentive?
Incentivising or not depends on your brand vision.

It can be a “nice thing” to offer discounts or freebies to customers who share UGC, but it’s definitely not mandatory. That being said, shoppers are likely to stay committed to your brand and recommend you to their friends and fam later down the line if you do a little “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine”.

Maisha Lifestyle hosted a 200-second gratitude sale to thank their audience for helping them reach 200K followers.

UGC example - Maisha LifestyleIt worked, and the campaign was a hit. Everything was out of stock within two minutes of the sale going live.

If you think incentivising your customers will help you get your hands on more UGC, you can use a platform that offers money in exchange for a post.

Olipop uses Bounty—it offers money to customers who post about their products. Once a shopper receives their product, they’re prompted to shoot a video through Bounty to get paid by Olipop. You can read more about TikTok marketing strategy in Barney's blog post.

 

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