The last several years have seen a near-seismic shift in the way marketers think of customers. As the marketing flywheel takes the place of the marketing funnel, customers have gone from being the end result of the marketing process to being at the center. Content isn’t just for customers anymore — content should also be by and about customers. This is where user-generated content (UGC) comes in. 

UGC started as a way to lump together reviews, customer photos, and pieces that didn’t easily fit into more established marketing categories. As the internet has grown, the amount of UGC has grown with it. This is especially important to direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketers because now there’s a wealth of low-cost, customer-driven content to fuel their content marketing machines. Let’s explore the UGC available, and where they can fit into your content marketing plan. 

Customer Reviews 

People love sharing their experiences with brands. So much so that 52% of shoppers report having written at least one review in the past year. According to the same source, a full 15% have written reviews as often as they’ve consulted them.

While marketers use positive reviews for case studies, testimonials, and video sales letters, ignoring negative reviews is dangerous and disappointing to customers. Customers use negative reviews to tell companies exactly what their challenges are. If brands address these pain points in their content, it helps circumvent these issues in the future and serves as heartfelt apologies to bring lost customers back into the fold.

Blogs, Websites, and Other Long-Form Content 

Let’s take a look at an example of excellent UGC. The brand Supreme has countless blogs, websites, podcasts, and microblogging pages dedicated to them. They’re a testament to the passion of Supreme’s customers: These are people who are so committed to sharing their experiences that they’re writing hundreds of thousands of words about Supreme’s products, all without being paid or rewarded in any way.

Most brands aren’t Supreme, but they still have an opportunity to create dedicated fans and supporters to blog, write, and produce content about them. Here are a few ways to bring customers into your content marketing machine: 

  • Offer customers an opportunity to guest post on your company blog. Guest blogging is a popular inbound marketing strategy for a reason — it drives qualified traffic, promotes relevant links, and attracts leads and sales to your business.  
  • Spotlight your customers via social posts or blog posts. Why? Because consumer trust is at an all-time high, and storytelling around customers is a great way to build brand awareness and authenticity. You can do something as simple as creating a social campaign around customer quotes to build social proof. 
  • Grant your customers exclusive access. This could include interviews with staff, early access to review products, and coverage of events and news. 

Photos, Videos, Streaming, and Other Media 

Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and TikTok control almost all social media activity for millennials and Gen Z. Over three-quarters of teens and young adults say they use one of those platforms as their primary social media outlet, and that’s unlikely to change as they get older. The content posted on these platforms is also intensely visual, short, and to the point. Content marketers need to take note: The future of content isn’t all long-form or in-depth — sometimes, it’s a quick one-liner!

Taking advantage of visual and media content doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, you can scout for followers who post about your products and share their posts on your feed. Collecting social proof generates a tremendous amount of goodwill and content for your brands’ marketing engines.

Taking the leap from curating to collaborating, however, is the real holy grail of multimedia UGC. Forming partnerships and collaborating with influencers has the biggest payoff. Brands spend billions on influencer marketing, and that figure will only grow — it’s estimated to reach $15 billion by 2022. Bringing influencers on board to create content on behalf of the brand and in collaboration with the marketing team can yield some of the most powerful assets a brand can produce.

D2C brands take note: While influencers with millions of followers can get your brand great exposure, choosing an influencer with a smaller fan base is also an excellent way to drive conversions and sales.

Let the Customer Drive

Brands need to listen to what customers say and to let them control the content. This means that companies need to create content based on how the customers experience the brand, not how the brand wants customers to experience it. Marketers and brand managers need to pay close attention to the communities that spring up around them and open up a dialogue with their fans that allows them to control the conversation.

While we’re on the topic of customers, let’s explore how collecting customer intelligence can be helpful to your business

Jaime Lee
Author