For many companies, making enough relevant content is a continuous struggle. According to research done by the Content Marketing Institute, 50% of B2B content marketers say they struggle to create content consistently. 44% of B2C content marketers suffer the same.
However, companies have long had the solution to this problem, and in recent times, they have been willfully taking advantage of their most natural resource for content – customers. Some of the most popular brands have begun to look to their customer and fan base to create natural, frequent and more relatable content, known as user-generated content (UGC).
User-generated content has become a ‘must-have’ strategy for a large number of brands. In the US alone, 63% of adults talk or post about products and services online, while 81% read what other people have posted about those products. But UGC is not solely a tool for brands and external marketing; the same principles of authenticity and real-life stories can also apply to internal communications.
What better way to ramp up employee engagement than to have them engage with each other? After all, your employees live and breathe the company. It’s only fair to assume they understand what customers (and other employees) need and want to know about the company. Furthermore, content shared by employees is often more trusted than content directly from the organization.
UGC is one of the most influential forms of content today, and as such, should be implemented in any successful internal communications strategy.
What is User Generated Content?
UGC, or User Generated Content, is defined as the practice of encouraging, curating, and utilizing content produced by clients and audiences. Instead of content produced directly by the organization for external audiences to read, companies take on the role of editors; collecting the work from clients, unpaid contributors, and often time fans and then reprocessing and displaying it as positive coverage of their brand.
The concept of UGC seemingly entered mainstream usage in the mid-2000s, gaining exposure in the web publishing and new media content production circles. The BBC adopted a user-generated content platform for its websites in 2005, and TIME Magazine named “You” as the Person of the Year in 2006, referring to the rise in the production of UGC on Web 2.0 platforms.
UGC can refer to a number of mediums: pictures, videos, testimonials, tweets, blog posts, etc. User-generated content has also been characterized as Citizen Media as it is the act of users promoting a brand rather than the brand doing it themselves. People give their reviews and share their stories in a way that is more appealing to the public due to the authenticity of real life reviews.
Why is UGC so Successful?
The answer is simple: as humans, we all crave connection. And not just any connection. Humans require real and authentic relationships, whether it be with a brand or another person. We like personalization; so, the more connected individuals feel, the more likely they are to engage with a product. Customers are no longer falling for old-school sales tactics like ads or billboards.
It is just the opposite: they find those old age strategies to be sleazy and untrustworthy, leading to a loss in engagement and sales. What users and consumers truly want is a say in these organizations, to feel like what they learn and experience from these products is taken into account by these larger organizations—to feel heard.
Brands are consistently trying to win over and maintain users, however, content produced from them directly often creates a “them” versus “us” mentality. In reverse, UGC brings audiences together through a shared emotional connection.
MacMillon and Chavis’ 1986 theory presented four major points that encouraged community between people: membership, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs and shared emotional connection. UGC touches on all these, as those users who create useable content not only get the chance to share the truth of their experiences, but also feel like they have a say in the needs of both organization and user. This sense of community is one that can easily transition from external marketing, to your internal communications plan.
Big Brand Examples of User Generated Content
Discovering that 92% of people are more likely to trust a recommendation from another person over branded content makes it clear just how much value is behind the concept of UGC. Seeing how a direct approach to persuasive marketing only generates skepticism and doubt, organizations now have even less influence on the minds of their consumers. Users are more active in their choices of what brands they choose to support and what brands they reject. Marketing has become more of a human market, meaning that users and consumers base their choices more on the word of real life people, instead of corporate generated content.
After their successful 2016 campaign, “Thanks, 2016. It’s been weird” campaign, Spotify turned UGC into a marketing success with a new fun loving and user-friendly campaign. We all know Spotify as the music streaming service that lets you create your own playlists based off anything from your favorite artist, to your mood for the day. In this new campaign, Spotify took a lighthearted approach to communicating its core message to its users – that they were not just a music streaming service. That their creative capabilities and customization abilities provide a freedom to their users that is unrivaled.
This campaign featured billboards, videos and memes that exhibited extreme and hilariously named playlists created by their users, as well as videos where music artists comment on playlists that contain their songs.
For example, one video featured Joe Jonas of DNCE reacting to the fact his song “Body Moves” is on a playlist called “Play this at my funeral”. The ads are humorous, odd and relatable; this method making it easy for Spotify’s campaign to resonate with its users.
Why do Spotify’s campaigns work? The main reason is that subscribers can relate in a way that would not be possible if they had no stake in the matter. UGC thrives because of our natural attraction to storytelling. Users are constantly creating new content in the form of playlists and get excited at the thought that their playlist might be featured on a billboard in the heart of Times Square. By leveraging this content, Spotify is getting access to a cost-effective campaign that positively shows their ability as well as make sure that users feel connected to their service.
Apple’s #ShotOnIphone campaign has been running for about two years as an ongoing customer content strategy in Apple’s marketing strategy. This by far is one of the most useful UGC campaigns as it takes advantage of the customer and their real-life experiences to provide a believable and trustworthy reputation for their product. This brand understands that customers of today no longer buy into the old spiel of modified and perfected photographs. Rather, they rely on real life people and pictures to give them an idea of what it would be like to have this product. In this way, they are able to more easily trust the results instead of succumbing to any doubt that the organization may be in any way doctoring these results.
Apple addressed the idea that customers were having a hard time with the iPhone camera, especially when it came to night time shots. Because of this they were losing fans at a rate that they were not able to resolve on their own. What they were missing was the word of their actual consumers, the people that were using this product on a day to day basis and knew it inside and out. For this campaign, they decided to bring on several amateur photographers to take real life photographs with their iPhones. The final shots were then blown up and posted on billboards all around the world.
This campaign gave users the chance to see what the product is capable of in the hands of real iPhone users, providing them with results that they could not only trust, but could also hopefully duplicate.
How to incorporate user-generated content into your internal comms strategy
Incorporating user generated content into their marketing efforts is a successful plan of action for any organization. However, external marketing is not the sole way that UGC can be used. Incorporating user generated content into your internal comms strategy can yield the same successful results.
Lack of frequent quality content tends to be detrimental to a business, but integrating UGC into your communications strategy and onto your intranet can boost your business’s traffic and employee engagement. According to Edelman’s trust barometer research, company experts are trusted about 66% of the time. This trust is not only necessary between an organization and user, but is also required for all company to employee relationships. A giant way for you to take the lead and build the most useful internal comms strategy is to incorporate Employee Generated Content (EGC) into your plan.
EGC is a variant of UGC; both refer to material produced by the users (or employees) of a website (or intranet), but the main defining difference is that EGC is created, published and accessible within the walls of the company. Through this method your own employees can be responsible for creating content that may provide education and training for other employees as well as motivate them on a daily basis with personal stories about real life experiences within your company. With an easy to use platform, proper incentive, and positive feedback any employee can be encouraged to provide content for your intranet.
Some ways to incorporate user-generated content into your internal comms strategy include:
- “A Day in the Life of “Pieces – highlight staff members’ stories and perspective.
- Competitions – get employees engaged and passionate about their work with healthy competition.
- Video Testimonials – Provide positive reinforcement to the ones who take initiative and watch others follow suit.
You have to make it easy for your employees, particularly when it comes to distributing content. Provide them with wider access to company stories through intranets. You can also provide content in various forms, as well as promote their work internally.
Our partner, Dupaco, does a great job of this for their intranet “The Burst”. Their homepage is a unique one, made up entirely of user generated and employee generated content. They created an employee only space where workers could create, such as ‘Brand Activists’ (where people share their experiences with their colleagues) and ‘Flair Awards’ (Employees can recognize other employees for great service, etc.). Such a large amount of employee generated content, successfully empowered the company while also encouraging communication by developing a trustful relationship between employees.
They launched their intranet on March 4, 2015 and by the end of the year, averaged 90% of active users and over the first ten months with 274,059 visits.
Creating quality content is a necessity for any company and it is important to remember to utilize those experts that you already have in your establishment. With the right incentive and reward, your employees and users will be more than happy to generate content that will produce a more genuine and trustworthy face for your organization. These types of pots will not only create a sense of community for your employees, but will also boost the nature of your company culture, ultimately improving your internal communication.