No one wants to be sold to on social media. It’s just the truth – if you’re trying to connect with your business’s audience, overproduced and heavily branded content is out.

As social media advances, users are becoming less and less interested in interacting with content that isn’t personable. They want real, genuinely crafted content that they can relate to on a basic human level. So what’s a business owner with product to sell on social media to do?

Customers want to feel connected to your brand. So why not allow them to do just that by sharing and posting their brand-related content? That’s right – say hello to the powerful world of user-generated content (or UGC). UGC relates to any content created and published by your business’s customers that shows off a product or service you provide. This content can come in the form of photo, video or text, and it’s a great way to help customers visualize your brand through a real-life example of the value you provide.

But if you still aren’t sold on the value of good UGC, this guide will show you why you should be incorporating user content into your current social media marketing strategy. Let’s talk about the importance of UGC, as well as how to properly curate and incorporate UGC into your social media content. 

The Importance of Curating Great UGC

So why should you really care about curating user-generated content?

User Generated Content Increases Brand Value

Have you ever visited a friend’s house and found something valuable in the home that you wanted to purchase for yourself? That envy and desire is what exceptional UGC should spark in your social media followers. 

A well-curated UGC post should make your social media followers want to purchase what you’re selling. Whether you sell products, promote services or advocate for a cause, great UGC images can increase brand value and create a richer image in your customers’ eyes.

Let’s take businesses with products as an example. 

From this photo, we can clearly see the product being featured is the daybed, but we can also see how its surroundings add to the product’s value. Now, customers can clearly envision what this product would look like in their own space, as well as understand how to increase the value and design of their own home.

UGC can also be used to increase value for businesses that do not necessarily sell products. Here, we can see Austin’s travel advocacy brand using UGC to increase desire to visit specific locations around the city. Choosing photos with great composition, lighting and emphasis on what your brand is trying to convey will help sell the message that your brand is high quality.

User Generated Content Promotes Authenticity

How inclined are you to purchase from a brand that does not share real-life, everyday content of products being used? Most likely, the answer is not at all. 

Curating and sharing UGC doesn’t just increase product or service value – it also allows your brand to build up trust and authenticity with customers. In fact, consumers are actually over two times more likely to perceive UGC as authentic compared to branded content created by a business. So why not put your business in the position to boost its credibility and consumer relationships?

Here, we see UGC that exemplifies the brand well but that also promotes a relatable familial scene that consumers can get behind. We know the image is coming from an outside source – someone who enjoys the product enough to use it in his own photos – rather than from the  business trying to sell to the consumer. Authenticity always shines through in UGC!

Developing trust from consumers is especially important for brands that promote lifestyle or health products. Here, we can see Korres – a skincare brand – using UGC to promote proper skin care using its products. This shows consumers that real people like them are on board with the brand and trust it to protect and take care of their skin. 

User Generated Content Influences Growth

Influencing growth is third on the list but first in terms of its impact. UGC has a major influence in the growth of both your audience and your purchase orders. 

About 80% of consumers claim that UGC has a high impact on their decision when looking to purchase. That means over three-quarters of consumers take UGC into consideration throughout the purchase decision-making process – so you better start posting!

In addition, a well-curated feed, including a good mix of product, lifestyle and user-generated content, can increase overall social media following and growth over time. The higher-quality content you curate and the more you include real-life accounts of a product being used, the better chance you have of attracting an audience based on relatability and value. 

UGC can be curated and re-purposed into evergreen content like Instagram Story Highlights.

Showcasing user content on your Story and saving it as a Story Highlight allows profile visitors to view amazing UGC the second they view your highlight reel. This is a great way to keep providing value and purchase opportunities going forward.

How To Curate and Share Great UGC

At this point, you’re probably excited and ready to get started curating your own UGC. But where should you start?

Start with the basics!

While you may see larger brands rolling out post after post of UGC, you can’t expect your brand to be raking in photos and videos from your customers. Building up a stockpile of UGC takes time and effort on the part of both your business and its audience – you can’t expect success overnight!

The best first step is to audit the current number of tags and mentions your brand already receives on social media. Are you being tagged in Instagram Stories and Facebook posts? Are customers sharing photos of your products being used? Is the content you’re receiving high quality, aesthetically pleasing and brand friendly? These are all great questions to keep in mind when auditing your current UGC influx. 

You may also want to create some way to track your current UGC content. There are a few different ways to do this:  You can save your content in a shared folder with your marketing team, create a spreadsheet documenting your content collection and more. You’re the best judge of what works best for your business.

If during your audit you find your brand just isn’t securing enough UGC to move forward with social media incorporation, you may want to start reaching out and asking. 

Asking for Content

If you’re looking to feature and collect more UGC from your customers, here are a few steps you can take.

Set Guidelines for Content

Sharing content from your customers is great, but if it doesn’t align with your brand, it could do your media presence more harm than good. Setting up your own brand guidelines can help you collect content that actually elevates your brand and product. While only 16 percent of businesses set content guidelines for users, it’s actually more preferred by content creators looking to share UGC with their favorite brands.

Your brand guidelines can be as extensive or as broad as you prefer – there are no rules so long as they help users get a better sense of what they should create and share with you. Just make sure to analyze where UGC can fit in with your social media marketing goals, create simple statements that creators can understand and follow, and place your guidelines on your website and social media profiles. 

Always Ask Before Using

Once you’ve found your perfect piece of UGC, it’s time to ask for permission to use it. 

You can use a few different methods to get permission to use UGC. You may find creating your own branded hashtag and having customers tag their photos using it works best for your brand – it’s less maintenance and there’s no need to scour your platforms for photos since they all populate under your hashtag! 

You can also craft your own request to leave under photos and videos you’d like to use. As seen above, many brands are creating their own automated message to send out to users for content use permission. This is a great example of something you can craft yourself for your customers! 

Give Credit to Creators

If possible, you always want to give credit to those customers who have provided you with UGC when you use their work. Not only does this give credit where credit is due, it also allows you to build up that authenticity and trust with your audience. 

Recognizing the work your customers put into the photos they share with you helps encourage them to keep on sending content your way. It’s also a great way to motivate others to share content with you, knowing it’ll be shared with and seen by your following. If you can’t tag the creator, you should always at least try to give the person credit within the caption of your photo. 

Offer Value in Return

And finally, once the process of curating and posting your content is all said and done, you should always offer those who have allowed use of their content a little thank you by returning that value.

While some users share UGC with the hopes of getting a discount or free product, a lot of creators are also just looking for a boost in likes, more followers or even just the bragging right of being featured by their favorite brand. The value you bring to your creators doesn’t always have to be a discount or deal!

Incorporating UGC into your current social media marketing strategy is one small change that provides massive growth and value for your business’s brand. You have the power to increase your customer engagement, product value and authenticity all by curating the proper content.