How to take advantage of UGC (user generated content) as a small business

People buy from people they like! And they buy based on recommendations from others. User generated content is one of those types of recommendations! Here’s how to take advantage of UGC (user generated content) as a small business.

What is UGC anyway? (for more, click here)

UGC or user generated content is content that your audience creates not because they are promoting your brand or operating as an influencer or brand ambassador, it’s content they are sharing as part of another post or another experience and you’re in it. For instance, sharing a pic of their Tropical Smoothie while they are at the beach, or their beer when sitting at your  brewery, or sharing a pic of your products that they’re wearing, or using. UGC appears across all ages, product types and platforms. Even in industries where you’d not think UGC appears, it does. People take photos of and share aspects of their lives in increasingly detailed ways. One of our clients, a residential HVAC contractor says that “no one ever takes a picture of your furnace, so we do it for you” – although customers HAVE taken photos of their new furnaces (but he’s right, it’s pretty rare.)

To take advantage of User Generated Content, you first have to know about it. Set up three things:

 – Hashtag follows on Instagram and Facebook for your product and brand names

 – Google Alert for your business or product brand name (this is especially helpful for finding bloggers)

 – Save searches by hashtag topic on Twitter

 – Search/save by keyword on YouTube

Once you start monitoring content that your users produce, you can start sharing. If they’ve tagged you, you can use their photos (but tag them back) on the same platform – but if you’re using it elsewhere, ask them if OK to do so. The answer will almost always be a very flattered yes.

If you’re sharing UGC, be sure to follow and engage with your customer. Don’t just take their photo and run with it. Like their posts, comment on them. Thank them for tagging you.

Compile the best UGC into your own social and web site content. Ask permission and use video, still images in a compilation video or reel of your own, share it on your website and blog.

If a customer is taking the time to blog about your product, reward this! In the sewing industry, many customers take detailed step by step photos and blog about using your product. What an endorsement! Reward this by amplifying their reach across your e-mail and social channels (with their permission, of course.)

Using UGC makes your customer your marketing department. But they are already your marketing (and sales) department, and they’re going to be far more successful at convincing a stranger to buy your product or service than you are. Their recommendation is far better than any online review (although testimonials are still important.)

Fostering UGC:

You can ASK your customers to share their pics by having unique product brand or corporate brand or even yearly brand hashtags. Creating your own hashtags is important, as important as using generic hashtags your customers use.

Ask your customers to share your product by sharing ‘friend discounts’ and coupons. Make it super easy for them to share / tag friends.

Provide customers with hashtags with product purchases – build hashtags for your brand, product or service and encourage them to use them to be featured

Use those same hashtags yourself when talking about and promoting products and services

Search for the hashtags (and save the searches) to keep tabs on when clients are using them. Comment favorably on their posts with your hashtags and ask if you can share these posts.

Use UGC as part of a contest – share pics, win a prize!

Using UGC as a small business puts your customer in the marketing seat – and there’s no better marketer for the next customer than the recommendation from an existing one!