How to use user generated content…and track results

It’s an incredible thought that 25% of search results for the top 20 brands are links to user generated content. From imagery and blogs to reviews and comments; fans of brands are obsessed with sharing their version of what companies mean to them, and companies obsessed with using them.

But is it really surprising? Recent research from Ipsos and Crowdtap dug deep into the communications phenomena and discovered that it’s over 50% more trusted than standard marketing in encouraging shoppers to take the final leap and purchase, and over 20% more influential in its reach. According to some reports, visitors spend up to 90% more time on sites with areas dedicated to user-generated content than those that don’t. But how can you actually use it? And how can you make sure it works? We dig deep into the technique to explain why it’s an integral part of any marketing campaign and not something to be ignored.

Why is user-generated content so successful?

First off, user-generated content isn’t necessarily that new a concept; it’s an updated, digitally-savvy version of the age old ‘word of mouth’ recommendation, where one positive sentiment from someone close to a consumer gives gravitas to the unknown.

Where it differs in the 2010s, however, is that modern customers seem to value the unknown over those they’re close to. More than 8 in 10 say that content from people they don’t know indicates quality and encourages them to buy, with 51% trusting more in strangers’ opinions than a family member or friend.

However, the appeal of user-generated content goes far deeper than this, and its association with fans means more than a simple recommendation. Allowing everyday members of society to become part of a brand (whether through marketing or feedback) intrinsically makes it their own; a shopper is no longer being sold to, they’re helping shape a company into what they want it to be and becoming part of the process, rather than a target.

And that’s an idea that fits all age groups; while many associate the wave of shares with younger audiences, consumers between the ages of 25 and 54 contribute more user-generated content than any other segment. The demographic is varied, but its appeal is widespread.

How can user-generated content be used?

There’s no set formula when it comes to how you should use your users but there’s a lot of options, depending on the personality and reasoning behind your brand. A theatre, for example, might conduct a survey to help shape the future of their programming - bringing home the idea that performance is for the people, while a traditional Scottish clothing company might ask fans to send in photos of their items at iconic locations around the country to give a nod to the heritage and drive behind the organisation. It’s all about going back to your core brand values and working out what you want your customer to take away.

Think about how would a consumer would want to get involved with your brand. It might be finding reviews and feedback from around the web which you share or respond to with a human touch, or asking your fans’ opinions on new lines you’re considering introducing. Even keeping an eye on any images tagged to your brand on social channels can provide a wealth of authentic content to attract new fans, and a huge supply of loyalty from those already engaging.  

Interestingly, a recent survey by Offerpop found that a multitude of shoppers were eager to provide content for their favourite organisations, but 50% wanted to see more direction as to what brands were after. With only 16% of companies currently asking or providing any direction on the type of material they’d love to see, are you doing enough to encourage user-generated content?

What methods are there to track UGC?

While impressive stats sound persuasive, like any marketing tactic, user-generated content is only as successful as it proves for your brand. Testing ideas, tracking results and refining strategies are all crucial to any user-generated campaign. Fortunately, they’re three concepts we absolutely adore.

Plan key KPIs as early as you can and decide on the metrics that matter to you; if you’re working on a competition, the amount of people you reach and the number of entries will often be a good starting point, while opting for a campaign-based hashtag for imagery sent in can be a fantastic way to monitor interest and engagement.

Most businesses find it difficult to monitor the sales impact of campaigns. And, while it’s not necessarily completely straight-forward, combining clever tools with clever insights can make it far easier. Utilise tracking tools for sales or site visits like Google Analytics, and align campaigns alongside results to monitor whether any changes in consumer habits could be linked back to activity.

When it comes to true monitoring, it’s all about the long-game. Immediate spikes and sales are obviously alluring, but remember to monitor true growth across more broad timescales and alternative metrics. Everything from the number of social followers or site visits, to general brand awareness through surveys all matter. Track and refine according to results and your campaign will run the greatest chance of success. 


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