Just what is user-generated content, and how can you use it to your advantage?

Danielle Wiley at Forbes refers to user-generated content (UGC) as “any content related to a brand that is voluntarily produced by its customers.” UGC can take a variety of forms. Wiley uses the example of GoPro cameras. Video filmed on a GoPro that is posted to the internet helps promote the brand by showing what incredible footage the camera allows you to film. Users are not paid to produce this content, and it shows authentic affinity for the product. Another example might be user product reviews posted to social media which tag the company account.

A significant benefit of UCG is that its authenticity motivates greater consumer engagement. Forbes relates:

60% of consumers say user-generated content is the most authentic form of content. According to one study, 90% of shoppers report that UGC influences their decisions to make purchases, outranking all other forms of marketing.

One of the best ways to tap into UGC is through influencers, who have a particular aesthetic and messaging style already cultivated, and are in tune to what their followers are most receptive to. Here are 4 tips on how influencers can help you capitalize on UGC, courtesy of Forbes.

1. Promote inspiration – Audiences are often inspired by influencers and go on to share their own images and stories as a result of something an influencer posts. Brands can support this by designing campaigns with inspiration in mind: recipes, DIY tips, tutorials, etc. With a little upfront strategy, influencer content can help foster more targeted and useful user-generated content over time.

2. Run a contest – Contests and giveaways are a popular option for gaining exposure and driving engagement, and a contest can be specifically designed to pull in more user-generated content. For instance, influencers could ask their followers to enter a contest by sharing their own brand-related images and content along with a hashtag.

3. Post questions – It sounds almost too simple, but encouraging user-generated content for your brand can be as easy as asking a question. Influencers can ask their audiences to join the discussion with brand-related prompts, such as, “How would you style this sweater?” or “What are your favorite ways to serve this food?”… The best, most interesting comments can be highlighted on brand websites, social media accounts, email marketing and more.

4. Run holiday, event or seasonal campaigns – If you run a business and wish more people were sharing recommendations and images of, say, your backpack line, an influencer campaign timed with back-to-school shopping might be just the ticket. A spice brand can use influencers to drive holiday associations, and a chip brand can partner with influencers during the Super Bowl.

By tapping into the power of influencers to help build brand connections during times of peak consumer interest, you’re encouraging a wealth of UGC — just when it will be most useful.

User-generated content can demonstrate authenticity and showcase stories and positive real-life experiences with your product. We hope these tips are useful to you!