User-generated content (UGC) took off with, first of all, the advent of the internet and, subsequently, social networks. Everyday consumers were given keys to the kingdom, so to speak, so that they, too, could compose and post content, simultaneously engaging with others online. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok—the networks through which we can create and publish content have grown exponentially, and brands are becoming aware of the benefits of tapping into the gold mines offered by those networks.
When advertisements strike consumers as being unrealistic, out of touch, exaggerated, or irrelevant, consumers would gravitate toward more authentic advertising from brands—ads that look like native posts from friends or peers on a scroll through the newsfeed. No wonder that, eager to bring that networking into their own digital landscape, brands are turning to UGC as a way to more authentically connect with consumers.
By infusing UGC into their digital marketing strategies, brands elevate consumers as a part of the brands’ community. Doing so requires an understanding and adoption of best practices vis-a-vis UGC and effective management of the content.
The primary benefit of taking advantage of UGC is pervasiveness because UGC wields a high influence over 79% of web users’ purchasing decisions. Hence, including UGC in website visuals, social-media ads, or other marketing campaigns can really pay off. Since UGC breeds authenticity and relatability, you must preserve those advantages by being deliberate and thorough in harnessing UGC’s power. Here’s what to do:
Ensure that your content is brand safe and supportive of your brand’s mission. When posting user-generated images and videos on your digital channels, verify that nothing harmful sneaks into those channels. Besides malicious or inappropriate content, you must fend off content from the competition and fluff, worthless material.
Also, share your specific content needs with your users and encourage them to create relevant material that contributes to, say, a particular campaign, seasonal trend, new collection, or product feature. If it highlights the visual elements you desire most, your UGC would be more valuable.
Erect safeguards for usage permissions and influencer disclosures. As important as it is to ascertain that UGC promotes your brand’s identity, you must also protect your customers and prevent others from snapping up your UGC without permission to do so. In addition, be at the top of your compliance game with influencer-involved campaigns. After all, UGC shared by raving fans varies from the content promoted through campaigns aided by social-network influencers.
When consumers shop online—as almost everyone does during the current pandemic—they do so without the assistance of store associates and independent of fellow shoppers in store, who might volunteer suggestions. That explains why UGC is valuable to e-commerce—people crave and respect the authenticity of inputs that are not paid advertisements or staged photoshoots. Product pages on e-commerce sites, such as those on Lulu’s Fan Photos, are an excellent example of where UGC can really shine.
By elevating UGC as an integral part of your marketing efforts instead of offering only promotional ads from your brand, you give shoppers an authentic look at what customers think of your merchandise, inspiring trust and interest. The benefits are long lasting and heartening.
As a start in leveraging UGC, offer clear guidelines to shoppers on how to upload content in a way that accelerates the time to value for your brand. However, avoid excessive format and size stipulations that would inhibit participation.
Many robust features in Cloudinary smooth your way with UGC, among which are the following:
- To mitigate bandwidth concerns, Cloudinary’s built-in downsizing capabilities prevent images from exceeding the file-size limit during upload. Not only are you then relieved of a resizing burden, but also your UGC would not complicate your creation process or slow down page loads.
- With Cloudinary, you can fine-tune saturation, brightness, and contrast of UGC with a one-time setup of calibration parameters.
- Through special algorithms, Cloudinary optimizes and reduces file size without visual degradation.
- Cloudinary automates crucial management tasks, for example:
- Transcriptions and creation of thumbnails.
- Secure and malware-free user uploads of assets.
- Blurring of irrelevant image background or text as configured by you.
- Cropping of assets to spotlight their most relevant parts on all devices and browsers.