Brands can face a mountain of challenges in their tenures — financial hardship, poor customer reviews, or bad management. Most brands, however, have not had to face a global pandemic where physical locations closed, employees worked from home, events were canceled, and traditional ways of marketing were drastically reduced or abandoned.
Even so, one word reverberated throughout the last year, despite all this — connection. It was something people had lost, but it was also something they were seeking. And while budgets and business as usual were disrupted, some brands were able to lean on user-generated content (or UGC) to help people find this connection.
What Is UGC, you ask?
UGC (user-generated content) is any content created by the user of a product or service. Typically, users share this content online to inform others about their experience. Brands often promote UGC because consumers view it as more authentic and, therefore, largely base their purchase decisions around it.
Just look at this recent Instagram post by Apple:
The #ShotoniPhone campaign, which showcases user photos captured on iPhones, has helped Apple increase consumer confidence, engagement, and sales. That’s without creating any of the content themselves!
Let’s explore other types of user content popping up on social media feeds, advertisements, and websites.
5 Examples of User-Generated Content
Whole Foods generously promotes UGC on its Instagram account, and this recent post shows why: What better promotion of your product than someone who included it during one of the most important days of their life? User-generated content for the win.
A Little Photo Studio
A Little Photo Studio does a brilliant job of sharing content from users on its social media. While their primary service is photography, this post shows how users implement those services with tangible products in the home. It’s also proof you don’t have to be a big-name brand to successfully integrate this type of media. Just ask your customers to share photos of themselves using your products or services, get permission to share, and then promote!
Dry Farm Wines
User-generated content doesn’t just have to live on social media. Dry Farm Wines shares UGC on the homepage of its website, too, as part of its social proof. The result? Website visitors see others having a good experience with the brand, increasing their trust and confidence.
Source: Instagram feed
Article takes another approach by incorporating UGC with its social media advertising. Now it can reach an even wider audience with ads that show its products IRL (in real life), making it more appealing to consumers. Gaining permission from the user and tagging them in the post, like Article did here, is an important step in creating UGC ads.
Peloton knows that content from its users is highly effective for boosting awareness and engagement. That’s why this post on Facebook is a smart move: it not only shows a real-life user scenario but also shares the product in an authentic setting. It’s a big endorsement, and it’s extremely influential.
How UGC Was Leveraged for Connection
Furniture brand Room&Board incorporated user-generated content into its website, sharing real-life, relevant photos from its customers on product pages. Images like these helped connect the brand to shoppers right in their homes where they were spending more time, serving as an ideal stand-in while retail stores were on lockdown. Not only that, but as online shopping increased during the pandemic, UGC could be seen as a key piece in facilitating sales with social proof that was relatable and trustworthy from the customers’ point of view.
The folks over at Adobe are experts at celebrating through creativity, and that’s exactly what they did with user-generated content during their #WomenCreateWednesday campaign. Sharing content from female artists helped connect women with their passions and the software that could help them do it, no matter where they were in the world. And with women exiting the workforce at an alarming rate last year, this campaign was a brilliant way to support this audience during tough times and show how the software could be used to help them express thoughts and ideas.
The hospitality industry was obviously hit hard this past year, but that didn’t keep businesses from connecting with customers over the internet. In fact, The Fields of Michigan — a premier glamping destination — regularly leveraged user-generated content to give existing and potential customers a glimpse into their brand and help people daydream about visiting in the future. With so many people stuck at home, photos like these were a nice escape to somewhere other than the same four walls, and it helped the brand stay top of mind for when travelers are ready for some new scenery.
When there wasn’t as much to do in 2020, many of us were doing the same thing: watching Netflix. One of the platform’s most-watched series, Tiger King, grew its audience through FOMO, or the fear of missing out. How did it do this? It relied on user-generated content, mostly memes, to create the sense of “you have to watch it to understand” — and so millions did. Interestingly, this is one situation where the brand (Netflix) didn’t have to push its UGC to the audience; rather, the audience created and pushed it out for them.
There’s nothing that makes consumers feel more connected to brands than content that reminds them of what’s familiar: the past. Nostalgia marketing was big in 2020, and one brand that consistently had us longing for road trips of long ago was Camping World. User-generated content was all over their Instagram page, featuring gorgeous images of RVing across the U.S. as well as camping and family time that many were searching in earnest.
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Learn More About User-Generated Content
Curious how you can develop a UGC strategy of your own? Read about how to get started with user-generated content and get more examples in this previous article.
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