A Complete Guide for Your User-Generated Content Strategy

This is the first part of our blog series on user-generated content where you can learn everything that brand and social media marketers need to know about using user-generated content in their marketing strategy.

User-generated content is becoming an important part of any brand's marketing mix increasingly. No wonder why its ability to spread authentic brand truths and connect with the audience is proving to be far more effective than hundreds of dollars spent on expensive photo shoots or advertising campaigns. As a result, these days brand marketers are experimenting with the new formats of advertisements, campaigns and website designs that use user-generated content.

Now that all of your consumers have a good camera smartphone with 24*7 internet connectivity, it's quite easy for them to generate content about your products in any format at any time and share it across our beloved social media. The good news here for marketers is they have this plenty of user-generated content available for use. And the bad news is that the time and effort spent in searching, curating and publishing the best UGC increases alongside. Well, having a well-thought-out UGC strategy can help here.

As they say, a vision without a strategy remains an illusion. And the way you have a strategy for social media, digital marketing, and advertising, you need to have a well-defined strategy for your user-generated content.

Having a UGC strategy for your brand will help you:
- Manage your UGC effectively right from the start.
- Monitor the performance of your UGC campaigns.
- Plan the work of your teams involved in UGC campaigns.
- Minimize the risk of failure from UGC campaigns.

In this blog, I am going to discuss the things you should know or figure out before you start a UGC campaign for your brand or simply decide to use UGC in your brand's marketing mix.

I have categorized the blog into following four major steps that you can follow while launching your next UGC campaign:
1. Understand your needs
2. Understand your audience
3. Plan for the logistics
4. Monitor the performance

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1. Understand Your Needs:

Before starting a new UGC campaign, you should first do your homework to understand your needs from the campaign. To be more precise, you should clearly define the following things.

The purpose behind the UGC Campaign:
This is an answer to the question, why do you want to use UGC in your marketing mix? You must have this answer before every UGC campaign you run.

For example, UGC campaigns can be used for:
- Spreading the brand awareness.
- Asking general product feedback.
- Launching a new feature/product.
- Advertising some promotions.
- Promoting occasional campaigns.

Duration of your UGC Campaign:
Once you find the purpose behind your UGC campaign, next is to decide the duration for which you want to run the campaign. Deciding the duration at the first place will help you in proper planning and execution. You can break down duration into smaller timelines and align them to smaller and measurable goals like the number of submissions.

For example, if your campaign duration is one month and you are targeting to get a total of 1000 submissions, you can always divide your total target of 1000 submissions into a weekly target of 250 submissions and plan your promotions accordingly to increase the submissions.

In case your campaign is for a general purpose like spreading brand awareness, it would be an ongoing thing. For such ongoing campaigns, you should analyze the campaign performance at regular intervals and plan accordingly.

Type of user-generated content you need:
User-generated content comes in various formats like text, ratings, images, selfies, short videos, long videos, unboxing videos, boomerangs and what not. But before you ask your consumers for user-generated content, you should know exactly in what format you need this content.

Tip: To keep your UGC consistent and easy to use, you should always use one content format for one campaign. If you want to try different content formats, I would recommend to try it for a different UGC campaign.

You can decide the content format for a particular UGC campaign based on the following things (BTW, you need to be a bit forward looking this time):
- The places where you want to use this content like social media, your website or advertising.
- The theme of your campaign which can be fun, creative, adventure etc.
- The type of products/services you sell. For example, if you are a restaurant, user-generated images of your food would work while if you are selling an electronic item, short unboxing videos would work.

2. Understand Your Audience:

Now, we have defined our needs, the next big thing is understanding your audience. User-generated content is tricky as on one hand it is generated by a segment of your users and on the another hand it is used to influence the other and bigger segment of your users.

So, understanding both the segments the one who generates and the other who consumes this content is important. And the trick is that these two different segments are only hypothetically different.

As you are reading this, we assume that you already know a lot of things about your audience like their age group, their preferred social media platform, the cities where they live, their interests etc.
We are going to use this information to craft the UGC strategy. Let's see how.

A. Understand users who generate the content:

Before you decide the important things for your campaign like the way to reward users, the social media platform for promotions, how about we try to explore few more things about our user.

What Incentive they look for before sharing their content:
Clicking a photo or shooting a video about your products is a form of extra appreciation your users give to you. It costs them a fair amount of time from their busy lives. And, you should be ready to appreciate their effort with some form of incentive.

Choosing the kind of incentive totally depends on the type of audience you have. For example, if your audience are artists, a simple print of their art-form on your product would be a huge appreciation for them. But for the audience who are very busy and money-oriented, an incentive in form of money would be a motivation.

Depending on what brand you represent and what type of audience you have, you can decide the incentive for your UGC campaign. Here are some examples:
- A special feature on your website.
- A special mention on your social media channels.
- A surprise free gift.
- An early view of your upcoming product/feature.
- Any promotional discount on your products.

If your UGC campaign is a contest, you should give a grand prize to the winning submission.

Tip: It's always a good practice that you announce the incentive at the start of UGC campaign to motivate your users for participation.

How they generate the content:
Some users are quite tech-savvy and use mobile phones to generate the content while in other cases users use high-end cameras and use the desktop to process the content. Depending on which devices they use, you should decide on the mode of submission and social media platform for your campaign.

For example, if your users are heavy mobile users, Instagram is a better choice but if your users use their desktops to process the content, Instagram would not be a preferred choice.

Tip: The choice of mode of submission and social media platform also depends on the kind of brand you are and how users interact with your product/services. Again, if you are a restaurant, users will click images on your food on their mobile phones but if you are an adventure wear brand for travel enthusiast, your users would generally click from their digital cameras and use desktops to process them.

Where they generate the content:
For this, just find which is the social media platform your users are more hooked to. When you use the same social media platform for your campaign, it will be easy for your users to share their content on that social media. And their existing friends and followers will give your brand an extra exposure.

Tip: You can use the multiplier effect for UGC campaign. Remember the UGC campaign contests where the user with the maximum number of likes on his/her shared photo gets the prize. The engagement for such campaigns increases exponentially as your users ask their friends to like the contest photo for winning the contest.

B. Understand users who consume the content:

Now, let's see the other segment of our users who will see the UGC and influence their purchase decisions. What do you think, which segment plays a more crucial role? Well, I will wait for your answers in the comment section.

Now, back to our UGC campaign strategy.

What they like to see:
Understand what your users like to see. The detailed demographic information of your users can help you a lot here. Here are some hints. If your users are young parents, they would like to see small parenting hacks by other users and you can run a campaign on this theme. Another case is if your users are fashionistas, your users would simply love to see more images of your product worn by real-life people.

Tip: You should use these insights in deciding a proper theme for your campaign.

Where they like to see:
The place where your existing users are generating content and the place where your prospective users are spending time need not be same. You can target new users from your industry who are not on your preferred social network with your UGC. In fact, you should try out these different platforms which are not where your users are generating content.

For example, if your target users are middle-aged corporate folks, Twitter is a better option. And if your users are young fashionistas, Instagram is a better option to promote the user-generated content.

Tip: See this example. One of your employees shared a good testimonial of your company on Facebook with a lovely image. Now, LinkedIn will be the best place to share this type of content rather than Facebook. I hope you get the point.

To show you, how you can use the insights from our first two steps, I have created this self-explanatory table.

User-Generated Content Strategy Example

3. Plan for Logistics:

Now, that you know answers to 'why' and 'what' of your UGC campaign, it's time to figure out the 'how' part.

Planning:
Set the measurable goals that you want to achieve from the campaign in terms of the number of shares, the number of submissions, amount of reach etc. Now, break them down into smaller goals and align with a timeline to achieve.

Promotions:
List out the places where you want to promote your UGC campaign and create a buzz around it. Think about some communities, your website, in-store ads, printing in your packaging, email campaigns, advertisements and not to forget your preferred social media platform.

Few points to consider:
- Make sure you don't over-promote the campaign.
- Don't choose irrelevant places for campaign promotions.
- Plan for consistent promotions and frequent timely checks throughout the duration of the campaign.

Communications:
Figure out the primary place where you will put all the information related to your campaign. We suggest it should be your website but you can also try out buying a separate domain specially for your UGC campaign.

Make sure you provide the below information in a simple and unambiguous language:
- Clearly, define what you expect from your users to share.
- Clear and visible CTA for submitting the entries.
- The mode of submission.
- Submission deadline.
- Rules and guidelines for submission.
- Your contact details.
- Permissions and rights management policy.
- In the case of contests, please mention prize, judging criteria and jury explicitly.
- Frequently asked questions, if applicable.

Tip: Put some sample content in your communication, so that your users can take inspiration from it. You should also keep sharing some great submissions during the campaign to create the buzz.

Mode of submission:
You can ask your users to share the content with your brand hashtag on your preferred social media or give them an option to upload the content on your website or keep both the options. The upload option on your website should be for the users who might not be comfortable in sharing their content on social media. Try out different modes of submission and see what works well for your users.

Permissions and rights management:
This is an important part and should not be neglected. Before using a user's content, you must ask for his/her permission. Figure out a standard mechanism for asking these permissions. It can be through a simple comment or email. Make sure you clearly inform the users about the places where you intend to use their content.

I strongly recommend having a fool-proof policy here. Take help from your legal team in drafting your brand's UGC agreement. This agreement must contain all details about the ownership of the content, places where content can be used further and consent for the single use or multiple uses.

Prize and judging process (In case of contests):
If your UGC campaign is a contest, decide the prize for winning entries, the judging criteria and the jury. You should mention all these details with the announcement of your campaign.

4. Monitor the Performance:

Monitoring the performance of the UGC campaign is crucial to check the progress and quality of shared UGC during the campaign. This will also help you in handling some unfavorable cases like fake and irrelevant UGC. There might be some pranksters who will try to corrupt the original intent of your campaign by sharing inappropriate content. You should share some pre-defined guidelines with your social media managers to handle such cases like how to reply to these pranksters or just ignore them.

Tip: One way to monitor your UGC campaign is establishing a voting system for your UGC. It can be in a form of community of your users where they can up-vote or down-vote the submissions.

Over to you:
This blog is a comprehensive list of important things to be considered for a successful UGC strategy. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. It majorly depends on your brand story and the audience segment. So, start with a UGC strategy and find out what works and what doesn't work for your brand and then feedback your original strategy with these gained insights.

Now, you have a well-defined user-generated content strategy in place, the next thing is searching and curating UGC. Read the next blog of this series on how to search and curate user-generated content.

We at Artifacia help brands curate, publish and analyze their owned and user-generated content at scale. Our customers are driving high-quality traffic by using our solutions that spend 37% more time on the site, view 48% more pages and have 64% more e-commerce conversion rate.

If you are also looking to leverage your user-generated content, then request a demo below.