Get Others to Paint the Fence: The Benefits of User-Generated Content
One of the rules of the content-generation game is to get the most out of everything you create. The most eyeballs. The most likes. The most interaction. The most bang for your buck. Everything you generate needs to be able to work in multiple mediums, speak to multiple audiences and be digestible in multiple ways. And a reality of the content world is that it often spins on a shoestring budget.
But what if you don’t generate it yourself?
As Mark Twain once posited, Why paint the fence yourself when you can get others to do it for you, and happily? If your brand is successful, people want to talk about it. Play your cards right, and they’ll be your advocate at no cost (financial or otherwise) — and since that content is coming from “real” people, it can be incredibly effective. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of letting others paint your brand’s fence.
User-generated content is cost-effective
The bottom line is that user-generated content is good for your bottom line. Using fan photos, videos or other content to fill your channels means you don’t have to produce them yourself, which saves time, money and effort that you can apply toward other marketing plans.
Organic amplification through gratification
You may have noticed that people love sharing stuff on social media. And what they like even more is when other people share their stuff. We’ve all experienced that endorphin rush when someone not only smashes that “like” button on our post but then shares it as a post of their own. Now imagine the size of that rush when it’s a beloved brand (with tens of thousands of followers) sharing your stuff. The first thing a user is going to do is re-share the brand’s post, and then encourage his or her followers to do the same.
If you’re the brand, you’ve accomplished a lot, simply by hitting a digital button. First, you’ve filled a spot in your social schedule without creating something yourself. Second, you’ve made a fan (hopefully) very happy. Third, you’ve made it so that fan wants to talk about your brand. And finally, you’ve created goodwill with that fan and (likely) whoever they’ve shared your post with. It’s the circle of engagement fulfilled. And you used practically zero resources.
Advocating for advocates
The ultimate goal is to get your audience to engage with your brand. But by engaging with their personal brands (however limited they may be) first, you create a domino effect of fandom. It’s a little thing, but the gratification that comes with seeing a brand interact with its fans, or even those who aren’t its fans yet, makes people want to like you, and what they like they want their friends to like. And on a more practical level, if your “share” of a fan’s post leads that fan’s post to blow up, others will get in on the act. Everyone wants to be like Jennifer, after all.
Authenticity is real
We don’t want to say this too loudly, but many people can smell an ad campaign, even if it’s through guerilla marketing or casual-seeming social tactics. And a certain percentage of the world is just pre-disposed to mistrust anything that seems like marketing. (It’s true! But SHHHH.) Anyway, there’s nothing better than a positive review or a good testimonial, and the same goes for real content from real people. A brand sharing a real-life person’s brand-related content has a ring of authenticity that is really hard to replicate. Most potential customers relate to actual customers first, so if you can leverage that kind of content, you should. Hearing someone say why they love a brand just hits closer to home than a brand telling you why you should love it.
No carrots without some stick
Sharing user-generated content can be great for you and your fans. But like everything rewarding, there’s some risk.
Copyrights can lead to wrongs
The legal waters are a bit murky when it comes to user-generated content. Most digital platforms have restrictions stating that you must have clear permissions from the original poster to share their content. So in order to cover your bases, you need to have a plan in place to cover those bases. Most fans are more than happy to sign a consent form for the trade-off of being exposed to millions (congratulations on your following!) of viewers.
Brand control? Where we’re going, we don’t have brand control.
This is slightly obvious, but when you rely on user-generated content, the content isn’t going to be as branded as your own might be. The typical Instagram user isn’t too concerned with the rules for your logo lockups or chosen fonts. Sometimes a competitor’s product may be in the shot, or the user may be using your product slightly incorrectly. The simple fact is that most people outside of your marketing team aren’t concerned about your style guidelines. But it’s a risk well worth taking, as the previous 900 words have hopefully explained.
This kind of content usually doesn’t point as directly to a sale as other content, like your “Where-to-buy” posts or pre-roll advertisements. You have to balance the user-generated posts with your own product-driven posts, but once you find that balance, you’ll never have to paint an entire fence again.