Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most valuable forms of marketing a company can capitalize on. It is leveraging positive comments and customer sentiment. Online, this is called user-generated content (UGC). UGC is the online recommendations, comments, and sharing of customer options online, and there are multiple platforms that are used to share these opinions. Leveraging this content, which comes with a very high value, is not only easy, it is essential to the marketing of your brand.

What Is User-Generated Content?
User-generated content is any content, such as photos, recommendations, and videos created by people who are not connected with your brand but are commenting on your product.
UGC generates powerful social proof. Consumers trust the opinions of other customers more than they trust brand marketing. It’s the reason that apps, restaurants, movies; any number of products, have customer reviews. They are easy 5 start ratings that are given by customers and used by brands to generate feelings of trust.
UGC is powerful. A 2020 report found that:
80 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase a product online if its website features videos and photos from real customers.
56 percent of consumers say that they are influenced by UGC posted to social media when shopping online.
79 percent of online shoppers say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions, while only 9 percent are persuaded by influencer content.

UGC does more than improve your sales, it improves your brand image, and can even heighten the messaging. If you have done your research and are targeting your core customer persona correctly, the UGC that follows will build you a loyal customer base.
In terms of your marketing costs, UGC costs much less than producing your own content in-house. It can also be more creative than what your team might have in mind. As long as you get the right permissions from your customers who post content, you can get very cost-effective, creative, and trusted content for very little cost.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways you can use UGC to enhance your brand, support your marketing and connect with customers.

When you ask your customers to post using a specific hashtag, your brand can reach further than a standard marketing campaign. Add to that, when you have permission to use UGC, you can pull the best images into an on-site gallery that is linked to your eCommerce so people can shop in complete convenience.
This type of UGC performs so well for online retailers because people can imagine themselves wearing the clothing, shoes, or products, as compared with looking at a model. Shopping online keeps the shopper at a distance, so having peers model items makes it more relatable.
To make the best use of Instagram UGC for your marketing:
Create a hashtag for the campaign. Make it easy to remember and easy to spell correctly.
Don’t use a hashtag that has been used before. This makes each campaign unique.
Share the hashtag and explain how users should use the hashtag when posing content of them wearing or using your products.
Bonus: Consider doing a giveaway for users that tag you using the hashtag.
Share the best UGC on your social channels and your website.

Many companies fear UGC because of negative feedback. It is a reality that not all people who buy or use your product will be totally satisfied. However, negative feedback can be used in a few different ways to change the narrative.
One of the best examples of this was the Apple campaign that embraced the low quality of its cameras on its very expensive phone. The #ShotOnphone campaign encouraged those who had bought the phone to post images taken using the camera and change the conversation. The campaign had 24,093,156 posts featuring the hashtag and even showed the capability of the camera, despite its shortcomings.
Constructive feedback can be used to respond as a caring company that listens to feedback. Your company can build trust with customers by stepping up to accept responsibility for things that might not meet consumer expectations and by making a promise to do better.

Social Promotion
People enjoy recognition. That is why social media is so successful. We feel like people are paying attention to us. This is also why UGC is so successful.
By simply running competitions that aim to promote the content of your users, you can have a stream of content that is provided to your almost free of charge. If you run a competition that places the winner on a social media pedestal or promises to give them a prize in return for their content, your costs will be remarkably reduced on marketing and your social trust will be improved.

Write the Campaign
Your customers are not your marketing team. You need to think of creative ways you want customers to engage with your brand online, while also speaking the message of your company. For example, people have recently become jaded about traditional holiday periods as the pandemic has kept people from friends and family. It can be anticipated that this year, in many nations, health mandates will lift and people will be safe to gather again.
Your UGC doesn’t need to feature your products. You can start a campaign based on a statement. Some US companies, wanting to move away from Black Friday sales, promoted the idea of being outdoors rather than shopping. Their UGC showed families BBQing on their grills and they closed their stores. This prompted other brands to follow as people jumped on the brands’ hashtag to forgo Black Friday sales, and just enjoy a public holiday.

Reusing content is a great way to reduce time and cost when planning digital content marketing. UGC can be used for more than just images on social media. By using UGC in creative ways, you can prolong its self-life. Using UGC on your website, such as testimonials when a product is selected for browsing, or images of people using the product/s you sell on different points of the customer journey, especially at pain points where UGC could be far more influential than branded marketing.
For example, your brand might sell kitchen wares. A customer might have questions about the quality of an oven dish. Customers might have sent reviews that detail the quality of your product, by inserting these reviews in the browse section of a product description, you are making better use of UGC than simply posting the comment on social media with a nice picture. Repurposing content and using social trust to your advantage is a smart way to do reduce digital marketing costs, as well as build loyalty and trust with consumers.

Showing Service
One of the better-known software campaigns was launched by Adobe to show prospective customers what is possible. Hashtag #MadeWithPhotoshop asked customers to share their work made using their software. This not only showed potential customers what is possible using the software but also showed the talents of those who submitted their work using the hashtag.
This creative way of leveraging UGC to show how a service or an intangible product can be used is one that is difficult to replicate. You need to not only understand your product and brand as a package, You also need to understand how your customers use your service and in what way that can be leveraged.