User-generated content (UGC) is a key ingredient in the recipe many marketers have cooked up for their marketing campaigns.
It’s helped to add clarity and honesty to the buying process, and is incredibly effective at supporting sales. However, it is still an example of the one-way communication between brands and their audience—a stance that is becoming obsolete.
When brands think about UGC, most head straight for Instagram hashtags and product reviews. Too often they approach UGC with a marketing-first mindset, but it is so much more than reviews and a tool for content curation.
Far more value is found when you tap into the user generated content you find simmering away in online communities.
This is why we’re here. We want to help you spice things up.
So let’s take a look at why community user generated content is the cream of the crop…
Instead of using user generated content to promote yourself to new audiences, community generated content also helps to keep the people who already bought from you happy by solving their problems.
That’s the appetising thing about a community; there’s often no larger source of knowledge about your product or service than your customer base.
Customers approach problems in all sorts of unexpected ways and have experience with all kinds of use cases and scenarios, and many are willing to offer their time and expertise to help others.
If they can’t find an answer, they can ask the community a new question and have topic experts answer, adding to the constantly updating manual for your brand.
Not only does this provide a helpful resource for other people, it decreases the distance between those involved and your brand, and this increases a sense of partnership and loyalty.
A huge benefit that tends to get left on the shelf when it comes to online communities and the user generated content inside them is search engine optimisation (SEO).
In a thriving community that is integrated with your site, your members are constantly adding content, navigating around your site and engaging with existing content. Google is going to notice all that supportive community generated engagement and reward you with more visibility in search results.
Community members creating support content also means there is an increased likelihood of other users searching for the same questions and landing on your page, meaning new customers can arrive via all manner of questions, and your cost of customer acquisition sinks more the homemade sourdough you’re rebaking for the 6th time.
This kind of engagement is not easily replicated. It would take a team of marketers dedicated solely to SEO and content creation to achieve what an online community can organically produce.
While “why not let your customers do the work for you?” sounds exploitative, this is actually the kind of engagement users are craving. The added bonus of it assisting your SEO is the cherry on top.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that customers are in doubt and are hungry for trust.
Reviews and UGC cultivated on social media help but savvy customers are beginning to see how these can be fabricated. This is why sites like Fakespot have sprung up.
Cautious consumers are increasingly seeking out recommendations from someone they know OR from people who see things from their point of view.
This is why the user generated content that fills your community is so important, and a great way to build credibility and trust, as well as drive customer retention.
It provides customers with what they want before making a purchase; authentic messages from their peers around how products, services, or solutions perform in the real world.
No incentivised, marketing-manufactured stories. Just pure social proof, dished up in a format that provides greater transparency.
As members of the community share their genuine stories and advice, a clear picture of what the brand can offer emerges. It becomes a real, dynamic conversation held in an open environment for discussion, interaction and knowledge exchange.
The user generated content that fills customer communities is one of the most valuable marketing resources you can have because it’s content that is largely made by your most dedicated customers; your brand ambassadors.
These people are your secret ingredient.
The authentic impressions they paint makes it easier for others to identify with and acts as inspiration for new customers because it’s coming from someone who shares their point of view.
If you’re thinking this sounds too much like influencer marketing, think again.
This is genuine like-minded folk sharing stories and advice that resonates, away from the marketing campaigns.
If that means 1000 people resonate with a community post on a deep, personal level, instead of 10,000 social media followers on a surface level, those 1000 will have more buy-in to your brand and more buy-in to your products/services.
Remember; creating desire is all about getting people to experience your brand for the first time, but building brand loyalty and encouraging multiple sales is about creating long-term relationships. Both between yourself and the customer, and between customers themselves.
Customers want to be heard and valued. Why not give them a creative outlet to express their connection with your brand?
This is the power of community UGC; it has the ability to make customers feel heard by delivering their opinions, emotions and feelings to you and their peers.
Not only does this make them feel supported and engaged, the UGC they create gives you a candid glimpse into how your customers use your products and see your brand.
While there are countless ways to gather valuable insights from your customers about brand positioning, messaging, and consumer preferences, nothing will be as candid, honest or accurate as when customers talk to each other about your value and shortcomings.
Humans will always be a tribal bunch, but as we begin to distrust the info we find online, it’s natural for us to seek a way to connect with the people who share our viewpoints around our jobs, passions, experiences and more.
While the user generated content you find used in marketing campaigns scratches the surface of that trait, it doesn’t tap into the pack mentality found in communities that will eventually lead to deeper connections, more trust and more members making purchases in the future.
Incorporating community UGC into your brands ecosystem all boils down to offering a mutually beneficial experience and having a clear value for both consumer and brand.