And the word is… UGC

In the world of social media marketing, there is one sentence that is mostly used than others when speaking about stronger integration of social media, and that is User Generated Content (UGC for short). I have dealt with two schools of thoughts: one that focuses on soliciting direct UGC from customers (or audience), and the other that monitor the web for content. This blog discusses both approaches.

UGC in General

Before I discuss the two approaches, I want to discuss quickly what is UGC. Social Media users love to share content about products everyday. They share pictures of themselves wearing their favorite brand, comments on their favorite show, and post a videos of themselves hanging out in their favorite restaurant. Sharing UGC by brands allow them to share positive stories about their products. This provides stronger brand image and lead to better brand loyalty, not to mention increase in buzz about the brand online, leading to better conversion rate and brand awareness.

UGC consists of many formats: text, pictures, and videos. In my experience, most social media users prefer the text model, as it is simpler and quicker to create content. Pictures is the second most created content, as it is simple to take and does not require a lot of editing by users. Although videos is not as high as pictures because it requires better devices and time to edit, the increase in mobile devices is making it simpler to create videos, which may topple text and pictures in the future. You will probably notice that I did not mention audio, as the use of audio (with the exception to podcasts) is very low in UGC.

Direct UGC

The easiest, most effective way for UGC is when it is sent directly to brands. Customers choose to share their content with brands directly when:

  1. Customers have strong brand loyalty
  2. Customers are well aware of how to connect with the brand
  3. Customers want to be recognized


Indirect UGC

Not all UGC is sent directly to brands. Many users choose to share their content privately for three reasons:

  1. Customers may have weak brand loyalty
  2. Customers do not know how or where to communicate directly with brand
  3. Customers may have privacy concerns


These points seem the exact opposite of how Direct UGC works. Marketers can still find content shared on social media, especially for point 1 and 2. However, searching social media could be difficult, particularly when customers do not use brands’ names in their content, making it very laborious to search for correct terms.


Best UGC Strategy

As discussed above, UGC is an essential part of any social media integration strategy. Whether to get content directly or indirectly, marketers should always search for this content to enhance the story telling in their marketing campaigns. Direct UGC, however, provides an additional advantage to indirect one, allowing marketers to find content quickly and increase online buzz about their brands. To increase direct UGC, digital marketers should consider the following steps:

  1. Campaigns to improve brand’s image: Loyalty
  2. Consistent social media campaigns, and clear call to actions: Connection
  3. Listen your customers, and show them you care about their voice: Incentive


How do these three steps work:


The brand image I discuss here is focusing on the social image. Brands must represent themselves as more “social” by providing great content on a regular basis, and having a strong social media presence for customers to interact with.

Simply ask your customers to send you content. Be consistent and creative. The ask has to be simple. As mentioned above, the easiest format of UGC customers create is text. However, there has been many strong social media campaigns that provided a very strong incentive to customers to provide videos and pictures.

This brings us to the incentive step. Customers want to know why they should create content for their favorite brand. Incentive must be creative and worthy of the ask. For example, BMW US created a campaign last year “0 to Desir3 in 5.9 Seconds“, asking customers to create a six-second filmic ad for the new BMW and presented a grand prize of new 2012 BMW 3 Series. More than 2,000 clips were entered, from which 30 finalists were chosen. Giving a coveted prize provided a very strong incentive for customers to create very creative content that created a strong buzz online about the BMW brand and their new product.

Final Thought on How Media Uses UGC

Media organizations strive to get UGC on a daily basis. UGC is not only about brand recognition or stronger loyalty for audience; it also allows media organizations to virtually be everywhere, especially when they do not have a reporter. Audience, in this example,  is an equal partners in creating the content.

Though UGC has major advantages for media organizations, there are few challenges to get it:

  1. Audience cannot decide to which media organization they should send their content. Similar to “regular” products, this is a loyalty issue
  2. There is not enough time to upload content to multiple organizations and choose to upload to one platform only, usually theirs. A good example of connection issue with products
  3. Audience may not have a clear reason to share with a specific media over another, or how their content will be used. Again, audience wants a clear incentive to why they should participate


Similar to regular brands, media organizations deal with loyalty, connection and incentive challenges to get UGC:

  1. Loyalty: Media organizations must work really hard on how to represent themselves within social media. They must have strong presence in all appropriate platforms and drive the social media conversation on a daily basis
  2. Connection: media organizations have something that other brands don’t–media. Media organizations should use their platforms strongly to promote their asks from their audience. The ask has to be specific, though, and targeting a defined topic. Call-to-action has to be clear and direct. Audience should not take long time to figure out how to submit their content
  3. Incentive: always provide a strong incentive. Many media organizations use different approaches to recognize audience who provide them with content. Finding the appropriate incentive is important


See a UGC example campaign in this other post

For more information on UGC, or social media monitoring, please 

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