Brands are right to go bonkers for user-generated content, or UGC. Some have even built their entire Instagram presence off it (see: REI and Petco, but warning: highly distracting cute dog photos ahead).
UGC works because it comes directly from consumers — no photoshoot or editing required, and the brand also doesn't need to *try* to come across as authentic. The content speaks for itself.
Brands with seriously devoted followings rarely have trouble coming up with user-generated content. Creating good products, sharing enjoyable store experiences, and guaranteeing great customer service can encourage users to share of their own accord.
But what if the UGC isn't flowing naturally for your brand? Many brands attempt to boost user-generated content by creating their own hashtag and sharing it on their profile. Anthropologie is one example; They encourage shoppers to use the hashtag #myanthropologie to curate content.
By reposting UGC that uses their hashtag, Anthro encourages more customers to take note and jump in, too. (Few Instagrammers would be unhappy with the free publicity of a regram from a huge social media account.)
Other examples include clothing brand Madewell's #everydaymadewell and give-one-get-one shoe brand Tom's #standfortomorrow. (The problem with non-branded hashtags is that the hashtag can be hijacked for other purposes, and it can be difficult to isolate content relevant or unrelated to your brand in particular.) Hashtags can be a great step in encouraging and also curating UGC from loyal customers.
Another tactic brands use is to launch a challenge, like REI's simply named #REIchallenge, in which they encouraged Instagram followers to share photos of how they "sustainably sip" in an anti-plastic campaign. They then reposted some of the most interesting content on their feed, earning even more engagements and building community with like-minded followers.
Similarly, brands can get Instagram followers excited by sharing free product, offering discounts and promos, or inviting social users to an event. While all of these tactics are solid strategies for building authentic UGC, they're limited. You only reach people who are already following your brand Instagram account, and you rely on social users to seek out and find the relevant hashtags to use them, or see them in your advertising elsewhere. This doesn't open you up to expanding your reach and drawing new customers into the fold.
Influencer marketing has a host of benefits, but one that goes understated is the "bonus" of earning UGC. Influencer marketing is a paid or incentivized exchange, so in and of itself, influencer sponsored content or "spon-con" is not necessarily UGC. However, influencers definitely widen your brand's reach and inspire the creation of UGC by a bigger net of followers.
The most important consideration? Finding influencers who can create content that has niche appeal and feels authentic, in the vein of UGC.
Not any influencer marketing campaign will generate UGC. You'll need to evaluate influencers carefully and make sure you strike the right chord. Overly posed and gimmicky content won't inspire. And if the influencer doesn't have a high engagement rate with their followers, it's unlikely you'll really inspire much of a ripple effect.
A major airline wanted to advertise its decision to ban single-use plastic straws on all its flights. To do so, they used HYPR's influencer marketing platform to find influencers who cared about sustainability, travel, and the environment. It was important to find influencers who were already aligned with the mission so their content would be genuine. They launched the #StrawlessSkies campaign across 18 influencers.
The paid campaign earned 1.4 million unique followers and 2.3 million impressions. But a secondary benefit — one that cost the airline nothing — was the UGC. They overall earned an additional 72 pieces of content and a reach of 280,000, for an astonishingly high 12.85% engagement rate. This cost them nothing, and was just an exciting byproduct of the influencer campaign.
A few reasons their influencer campaign worked so well for generating UGC:
Brands who invest in influencer marketing can drive important conversations and set the first domino in place for a viral campaign that results in UGC — a golden currency of social media marketing — that can be used to engage new customers and build brand affinity.
Read the full influencer travel case study here.