It’s no secret that word-of-mouth is one of the most influential factors in purchasing decisions.
When a recommendation comes from a real person, and not a brand, there’s an authentic element to it that can’t be replicated.

What brands can do however, is amplify the existing word-of-mouth conversation that’s happening organically online, in the form of user-generated content, such as reviews, Tweets, and comments. And within the realm of UGC, visual content is especially influential.

In this post we’ll talk about 4 ways brands can experiment with visual user-generated content (UGC) — the photos and videos people share online — to make the biggest impact with their marketing.

Just a friendly reminder before we get started to always pay attention to rights before using user-generated content in your marketing! If you need some guidance, this is a post we wrote up on UGC rights.

Alright, let’s dive right in!

Experiment 1: Include Customer Content In Your Digital Ads

On Facebook, user-generated content drives 6.9x more engagement than brand generated content.

So, if that’s the case, how about testing that against your social ads? Try using some fan photos for the visual component of your ads for a month — and see if there’s any difference in click-through rates, social engagement, or conversions.

If you’re a SaaS company, you might not have a lot of “customer content” floating around on Instagram. But here’s what you can do: reach out to a customer and ask if you can get a picture of them in their workspace to use in your UGC ad experiment.

And if your company is going to a trade show you might think of serving up some ads to attendees, like Sparkloft has done here.

For these kind of ads, you could experiment using a picture of you and a customer at a previous trade show for example.

Try it yourself, and you might just find a whole new approach to your digital ads.

Experiment 2: Showcase a Gallery of Social Photos On Your Website

As a marketer, you’re always looking for ways to optimize the impact your website makes on a visitor.

Well, guess what? UGC is 20% more influential on purchasing decisions than any other media, and also raises the effectiveness of branded content by 28% when combined.

So have you considered incorporating visual UGC onto your website? Consider curating some of the best content around your brand (say from your branded hashtag) in a social hub or a gallery of user-generated content.

For example, Visit Franklin, the destination marketing organization responsible for promoting tourism in Franklin TN, has an extraordinarily visual homepage:

In addition to creating quite a stunning visual experience, these social photos and videos allow Visit Franklin to show an authentic lens into what’s happening around their city, as told by its locals and visitors.

While Visit Franklin’s approach pretty all in with visual UGC, if you decide to test it out on your website, you can just add a few visuals, like on the top of Visit Phoenix’s homepage.

Pay attention to any changes in your website’s engagement metrics. We’ve found that visual user-generated content galleries on average contribute a 4x increase in time on site and 30% reduction in bounce rate.

If you are considering investing in putting visual UGC on your website, this article a good resource that’ll help you decide between using a plugin or a visual marketing platform.

Experiment 3: Spotlight Customer Photos and Videos on Social

Another obvious place to experiment with visual UGC in your marketing is of course social media.

If people are posting content on Instagram about your brand, it makes sense to amplify those voices on the same channel too.

For example, Buffer’s Instagram is gorgeous — and built using user-generated content from its #BufferCommunity.

In your case, one idea might be to test implementing a weekly #CustomerSpotlight where you post your favorite customer photo of the week.

In addition to measuring your follower growth and the number of posts with your brand hashtag during your experiment, it’s also important to take note of something that isn’t always directly measurable: brand sentiment.
Basically, how do people feel about this kind of content?

For example, with Buffer’s example above, there’s no doubt that their #BufferCommunity posts are great at cultivating a feeling of community with its existing users. And this positive goodwill from users in turn generates goodwill with people who don’t yet use their product.

Experiment 4: Integrate UGC in Video Content

As every digital marketer knows, video content is exploding.

Get this: 4x as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it, and 62% of B2B marketers rated video as an effective content marketing tool in 2016.

Video marketing is the direction the digital world is moving towards. And guess what? UGC has a place in video as well, beyond your typical influencer takeovers.

Take this video from Destination Canada, for example:

They acquired rights to social photos and videos taken in Canada (here specifically British Columbia) and organized them into a video — a groundbreaking way to use user-generated content. In under two weeks, it reached over 3 million views.

Chatime, the international tea company, also makes small video compilations of visual UGC to showcase the best fan photos from each month.

 

A good place to start experimenting with UGC video is to do a similar compilation like Chatime. Use cases? Post it on your social channels and test what the engagement looks like for this type of post, or use it in an ad campaign and measure it against your typical metrics.

Keep Experimenting!

While other brands have found a lot of success by tapping into visual user-generated content, it’s your job to figure out what works best for you!

We hope these examples have given you inspiration to find new things to keep testing, learning, and improving on. Best of luck!

 

Want to contribute to The New New Thing? Reach out to editor@newnewthing.com

Elizabeth Ching
Content Marketing Manager | CrowdRiff
Elizabeth is the Content Marketing Manager at CrowdRiff, the leading visual marketing platform for travel and tourism brands. She spends a lot of time daydreaming of vacation while looking at customer websites (unavoidable), and is always looking for new ways to delight readers on the CrowdRiff blog and beyond.
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