User-generated content (UGC) is a powerful form of earned media. When your customers endorse your business, whether through photos, videos or any form of content, it can boost your brand visibility and improve brand image greatly. However, not knowing how to incorporate UGC will potentially result in a disengaged audience and weak brand image.

Here, we address the dos and don’ts of user-generated content to maximize the positive impact of your content strategy.

Dos:

  • Repurpose UGC

Marketers who know how to repurpose UGC across different channels can extract much more value out of each content piece. When starting to repurpose great customer content, make sure you've already obtained permission to use the content and shared them individually across social media channels. Another way to use UGC is by showcasing it in your newsletters, blog posts, and other marketing materials to maximize their reach. Remember that when repurposing UGC, you don't have to solely focus on customer photos. Reviews, Q&A or polls are different kinds of content you can mix and match in different ways.

Once you’re able to measure the best performing UGC, you can compile these to boost conversion rates using paid social ads. Ads that include UGC blend in with social media feeds by showing an authentic experience from your customers’ point of view. Authentic content is more inviting and less likely to result in customers blocking your ads.

  • Build a community

Your customers are your best brand advocates. When you build a community that encourages customer engagement, it can fuel more content for your brand. The simplest way to encourage brand UGC is by incorporating a hashtag for your business. When customers use your hashtag, it creates a sense of connection to the brand and to other customers. If you want to go further, try building community groups (such as a Facebook group) or website forum that encourages customers to take the wheel and create genuine connections with each other and your brand. While doing so takes time and effort, you will eventually move from driving conversations to moderating them – allowing relationships to blossom between customers and the brand.

You can also build customer communities in real life by incorporating in-store UGC galleries. When you include UGC galleries in digital signage around your property, customers feel a sense of connection and are more encouraged to share their own experiences with the brand. A tip is to include any sales promotion or trending themes into your customized UGC galleries, as this will create a sense of “FOMO" that supports purchasing.

Don’ts:

  • Publish without permission

Although your customers voluntarily create content for your brand, it does not mean they've given permission for you to include them in your ads or social campaigns. When you repurpose UGC without obtaining consent, misunderstandings can arise leading to breaches of trust with the customer.

Instead, make sure to always ask for permission before publishing UGC, even when a customer post includes your tag or @mentions you. Let your customers know how the content will be used in the future and across which marketing channels. This will reassure your customer that they can trust you, while enabling them to feel appreciated.

  • Move away from your audience

It’s one thing to curate an aesthetically pleasing UGC feed that makes your brand stand out, but it’s not the only thing that matters. While a strong visual style is part of UGC’s appeal for the brand and community, you must also consider what’s relevant to your potential customers. Since UGC helps visitors assess the look, feel and experience of the product or service online, you might be limiting the power of the content by not reflecting your actual customer base.

For example, if your audience is mostly middle-aged men but your displayed UGC mostly features fashion photos of women, potential male customers might not be able to relate to your brand when searching for a point of reference online. As such, the best UGC would allow all your brand visitors to identify with the brand they see represented online.

In an online world saturated with branded endorsements, there is still an opportunity to leverage user-generated content without your brand being labeled as inauthentic. It’s up to your business to master UGC and maximize its positive impact as part of your content strategy.