6 Ways Brands Can Extend the Value of User-Generated Content


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Written by Roxanne Parnell, Senior Sales Executive at The Shelf

There’s no denying that influencer marketing is the new wave of connecting brands with their consumers. In fact, Bloglovin tells us that 63% of marketers increased their influencer marketing budgets in 2017, with 67% saying that influencer marketing campaigns help them reach a more targeted audience.

As a professional in the business of facilitating these influencer and brand collaborations, I have clients asking every day: “Why should I use influencer marketing, and how can it positively affect my bottom line?” While I could write a series of articles about that topic alone, I’ll start by sharing my tips on how brands can integrate user-generated content into their overall marketing strategy.

1. Utilize authentic content for a brand’s social channels

As the social media space continues to grow, one of the biggest values that UGC has shown is its ability to be repurposed as authentic content for a brand’s own social media channels. According to Marketing to Gen Z: the rules for reaching this vast and very different generation of influencers, a 2015 study showed that 63% of Gen Z respondents said they prefer to be marketed to by a “real person” versus a celebrity. This proves that as consumers age down, they crave more authentic content from a trusted source, such as an influencer.

I always advise my clients that they can’t simply place products in a pretty picture anymore; influencer marketing requires an authentic and unique storytelling component to truly make the connection.

When brands share user-generated content on their own social platforms, they begin to recreate that authenticity and bring the influencer-consumer-brand relationship full circle. This tactic is also a fantastic way to encourage follower engagement across social media.

2. Increase e-commerce gallery impact

Goodbye stock photos, hello e-commerce-friendly UGC!

Some brands are starting to catch on to a strategy that Walmart recently launched where they repurposed user-generated content to showcase their products online. This is an ingenious way of making the coveted online review more tangible.

According to Social Media Today, 61% of consumers say that social media is their most important source of information when shopping. When brands feature an online gallery of user-generated content, it makes the product more relatable, as opposed to seeing it on a stock model with a white background. This type of implementation allows brands to further influence their customers’ purchase decision.

3. Update third-party platforms

Additionally, brands of all sizes are utilizing online retailer giants, like Amazon, as an e-commerce outlet, and user-generated content is perfect for third-party platforms.

4. Utilize user-generated video for Youtube and sponsored posts

Recently, a client mentioned to me that they wanted to find a way to incorporate user-generated content into their other ad strategies, which got me thinking. Social media and e-commerce platforms are certainly two powerful outlets for user-generated content, however, UGC can become an even more powerful tool in a brand’s overall marketing strategy – and it’s easier than you might think!

Depending on the KPIs and budget my client has, my strategy recommendation can vary. For example, while Instagram is great for instant gratification and spreading brand awareness, blog posts, Pinterest shares and video content on YouTube are much more SEO-friendly and evergreen. I believe in a well-rounded, omnichannel approach when rolling out a campaign, and I encourage clients to do something with every piece of UGC and implement further marketing strategies by using that content.

Although the combination of retargeting strategies and display ads can be very effective in reaching customers, in my experience, video content garners higher engagement and tends to perform far better than static display ads. User-generated video content can also be used for YouTube pre-roll ads, and across other social platforms, as sponsored posts.

5. Grow your brand’s content archives

Blogs and Pinterest are a source of long-form content that I believe every brand needs. It lasts forever, it’s searchable, and brands can essentially piggyback on an influencer’s domain authority to rank higher in Google search. This is KEY for startups and smaller brands! In addition, when brands gain the rights to their user-generated content, they can use it as a way to build upon their existing blog content, and continue to grow their archives.

6. Use UGC in email marketing campaigns

Lastly, email marketing campaigns are not going anywhere. Seriously, if I had a dollar for every time an email marketing campaign worked on me, I could better justify my recent shopping spree at Nordstrom (come on, we’re all victims of the Anniversary Sale!). Take BarkBox for example, they send out an email after every shipment with cute photos from real customers enjoying their monthly box. By doing this, brands can continue to reach their customers with authentic user-generated content, even after they make a purchase.

UGC and the Bottom Line

Now time for the age-old question: how does this affect my bottom line? It’s fairly simple; when brands repurpose user-generated content, they spend less toward professional photographers, graphic designers and creative. I would argue that those dollars should go towards a larger influencer marketing campaign…but I’ll save that for another time.

Overall, user-generated content helps cut costs on content that would otherwise be created by third party vendors, or in-house departments, while also continuously promoting the brand and connecting with consumers. The real bottom line here is that the people have spoken, and they want brands to be real and relevant. The brands who are listening are already light years ahead of the competition.

About Roxanne

Roxanne Parnell is the Senior Sales Executive at The Shelf, a Brooklyn-based influencer marketing agency and SaaS platform. Roxanne started her marketing career in 2015 after moving to NYC and has specialized in influencer marketing since 2017. She is passionate about helping brands connect with their audience via social media and aims to always build a story through a consumer’s eyes. Brands and agencies can contact her on LinkedIn or via email at roxanne@theshelf.com for a free consultation.