User-generated contentWhether it’s a drool-worthy dinner that nobody can tuck into until it’s been photographed to perfection or a brand new foundation that needs to be vlogged to the masses, consumers can’t get enough of sharing their experiences with a brand via social media.

From perfectly filtered Instagram shots to quick-fire Snapchat stories, whatever your social channel of choice might be, you’ll find user-generated content (UGC) by the bucket-load, and the savviest brands are taking steps to harness the power of UGC in their content marketing campaigns.

The upside of UGC

It’s not too hard to see the argument for. After all, whose word do you trust more: the word of other businesses looking to make a sale or the word of the customers who have tried and tested what’s on offer?

It’s a no-brainer really – option B takes the crown. Even if you don’t trust your own judgement, the stats speak for themselves.

Back in 2012, a Nielsen report revealed that 92% of consumers from 56 countries around the globe trust earned media, such as recommendations from a friend or family, above all other forms of advertising. In 2014, Crowdtap and Ipsos Media CT revealed research that showed millennials trust UGC 50% more than traditional media. Additionally, Adweek recently reported research by content platform Olapic that discovered 76% of consumers believe that the content average people share is more honest than advertising from brands.

It’s safe to say that UGC has the potential to produce some excellent results, yet so many businesses that decide to give it a try simply stick to the old-school consumer review in order to minimise any risks of negative feedback. Those that are keen to spread their UGC wings creatively with competitions, creative hashtags and the like, might find themselves pleasantly surprised – UGC has the power to drive wider engagement and build trust with consumers. It can also, according to a recent report by Business.com, increase web conversions by 20%, boost click-thru rates by 400% and increase the time consumers spend on the site itself by up to 90%.

The downside of UGC

Of course, they do say that every silver lining has a cloud and utilising UGC does not come without its risks – risks that some brands have ignored to their peril.

One such issue is that of permission of use and the potential legal issues that can arise. Just consider the case of 15-year-old student Alison Chang whose image was pinched and altered by Virgin Mobile (in a rather unflattering manner) to be used on an advertising billboard. Or Katherine Heigl’s $6m lawsuit against Duane Reade who nabbed a papazzi pic of her to boost the profile of their store.

Ensure you have an air-tight user agreement in place that explains who the content belongs to and how it may be used – particularly if you think you might want to use this content in the future.

There’s also the argument, spelled out on Thenextweb.com, that the time, money and effort brands put into driving UGC can easily result in plenty of excellent content that has effectively been given away.

Additionally, if not approached in the right way, using influencers to generate content can negate the authenticity of UGC, taking away the trust factor and turning it into basic advertising.

Some brands might be nervous about trying UGC on for size. However, with the right precautions and comprehensive planning, it can be a genius method of connecting and learning about your audience whilst boosting your brand exposure.

If you need advice or assistance with your content marketing campaign, contact M2 Bespoke today.