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The Scoop on User Generated Content: Using UGC to Drive Your Ecommerce Brand’s Growth

The Scoop on User Generated Content: Using UGC to Drive Your Ecommerce Brand’s Growth
by Mo Harake
Nov 02nd 2016

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There are millions of people out there right now firing up their smartphones to take pictures and video of products they received.

They’re filming an unboxing for a YouTube channel, sharing new gear with fans on Instagram, humblebragging their goods on Facebook, and sharing photos of the stuff they love.

Some of them are probably your customers.

You might even have some customers posting pictures and dropping brand mentions in their posts with a “thanks” or some form of gratitude.

It feels good to see those, and brands are quick to show appreciation when they engage their fans, but how many of those brands stop there?

Do you do anything with that user generated content when you see it?

If not you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.

And that’s pure, untapped, growth potential right there.

An increasing number of ecommerce companies see the potential.

According to one study from Content Marketing Institute, as much as 70% of B2C brands are leveraging UGC AND plan to use it more in the coming months.


What exactly are brands using though? Is it just images from customers?

Let’s take a closer look…

Understanding User Generated Content

UGC is exactly what it sounds like – it’s anything that has been created by a brand’s customer, visitor or social follower.

This can be anything from video, to images, blog posts, forum comments, written reviews, audio files – any type of content, really.

That content doesn’t necessarily live on your website.

In most cases, it’s out there on the web in social and forum posts, on their profiles, and on other websites.

If it’s branded to you, it might generate some referral traffic, but the real benefits come when you actually take that UGC and utilize it as part of your marketing and conversion strategy.

The Benefits of User Generated Content

User generated content has the ability to rapidly grow your ecommerce business, if used properly – and if you jump on it as it occurs.

According to Kissmetrics, 25% of the most visible search results for the world’s 20 largest brands point back to user generated content.


Imagine the amount of traffic that could drive your way if you held the dominant share of product related searches in your market, all because of something your customers created?

It’s not just about organic search, though; this goes way beyond SEO.

More than 80% of consumers report that user generated content has some influence over what they buy, especially when discovered within a company’s website.

Even more, 86% of millennials indicate that user generated content is a good indicator of the quality of a brad or service.

That influence over a purchase decision has a lot to do with trust, and research from Nielsen has shown that some 92% of consumers trust peer reviews (UGC) over advertising from brands.

That’s how you win customers and close the deal.

Beyond increasing conversions, that UGC goes a long way toward improving engagement and growing your brand visibility.

One of the major driving factors behind UGC isn’t to praise a brand; it’s to share something amazing with others.

That can be an experience or just something consumers love that revolves around a product and a brand.

Consumers are twice as likely to share simply because they want a friend to know about a brand or product. Brands that leverage and encourage that see up to 88% more social activity:


How to Get the Best User Generated Content From Your Audience

So now you know you need UGC. But where do you find it?

There are lots of ways to get your hands on user generated content, and I could probably put together a whole ebook on this topic alone.

The best approach, however, is just to think about the ways you engage with your audience and how they use your product in order to come up with creative ways to source content.

To get your brainstorming session started, here are a few tried and true methods:

1. Discover what’s available first

Before you start asking your followers to produce content for you – which can come off a little pushy and kind of lame if not done properly – take stock of what’s already out there.

Search by product, brand, location and specific hashtags. Do some exact match searches by name, and then try some variations to see what turns up.

2. Check what they’re currently sharing

Dig into your followers and find out what kind of content they’re producing:

  • What are they sharing photos of, and who’s most likely to share content?
  • Where are they when they share photos?
  • When they share product-specific content, what’s the purpose behind the share?

Pay close attention to these questions when they involve your brand or your products. There’s insight there in what you can do to get them to generate more.


3. Encourage the community with a hashtag

Remember that user generated content isn’t necessarily about your brand – it’s centered around the customer and their connections.

You can help them promote their identity as part of a community by creating hashtags that let them show off or define their character while integrating your brand.

This can be particularly beneficial if you create hashtags that are more about them and less about you.

Come up with campaign hashtags that are personal and actionable; something that encourages your fans to use it as an identifier, but that still encourages them to produce user generated content.


While I don’t always like to feature major brands as examples – because their results can be difficult for smaller companies to replicate – Dove did an exceptional job using the hashtag #BeautyStory to collect user generated content from its fans.

It’s a great example of smart hashtag use that builds buzz, brand lift, and UGC the company can leverage.

4. Just Ask

Never underestimate the power of a strong call to action.

If you want your fans to generate content for you, then just ask them to. Ask them to send you pictures and videos showing off the products. Your biggest brand ambassadors will jump on the opportunity in a heartbeat.

Or, if you want to up the response, incentivize them.

Run promotions or campaigns that choose winners from submitted content. Everyone loves a freebie, and it can generate a ton of new content and engagement in your social channels.

Treat user generated content like social currency and you’ll drive up participation – especially from your younger demographic.

How to Implement User Generated Content for Scaling Growth

So you’ve managed to create a torrential downpour of user generated content from your fans.

Short of the work they’re already doing to build visibility for you on social media, what else can you do to leverage that UGC throughout your ecommerce store and funnel?

Here are a few examples and recommendations guaranteed to work magic:

1. Crowdsource Ideas for Growth

If you’re ready to expand your product line or offering, turn to your customers and task them with helping you come up with the next big thing.

Let them submit image ideas or content that can be voted on, like a contest. This could be around new products you curate for your store, or a new product you’ll manufacture.

Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” campaign is a good example of using your customer base to create new concepts – and promote them across social media.


2. Encourage Engagement and Build Visibility

Lululemon took the hashtag idea above to create an entirely new campaign.


With their Instagram account as a point of focus, the company tasked fans with posting images of themselves while they were working out and to use the hashtag #thesweatlife.

This generated visibility for the brand among user’s followers, while also staying true to the brands position of an active lifestyle.

3. Good Ol’ Reviews

Remember, UGC comes in a lot of forms. The reviews on your website go a long way toward helping with conversions, so utilize an app that gets your reviews front and center on your product pages.

A lot of ecommerce platforms are preloaded with a basic reviews system, but a more robust platform like Yotpo provides more attractive and engaging reviews that contribute to better conversions.


4. Leverage Testimonials

A review is great, but a testimonial is better.

When customers sing your praise via email or other social channel, you should leverage that.

Get those testimonials along with names and mugshots, then put them up throughout your site.

Use them in social media as well as on your blog, strategically creating subconscious trust in your brand and store as visitors read them.

5. Get Your Hands on Video

If your customers are creating videos around your product or brand, use them wherever you can. Shoppers who use video are nearly twice as likely to make a purchase.

Create mashups that feature customer shout outs, mock music videos, and even product explainer videos right on relevant product pages.

Let those videos show off not only the benefits of the products, but also the culture behind your brand.

6. Embed the Content

Is more of your user generated content coming in from social channels like Twitter and Instagram? Then embed that content.

To a consumer, it’s easy to fake a few lines of text in a review. It’s harder to fake an embedded post from a customer’s own Instagram account.

Those user generated content posts should be embedded in places where they’ll have the most impact – like your product pages.


If you get a lot of content, share it across your other social platforms to cross promote your social channels.

You can also create mashup lists, like “The best scarf/shirt/hat for the season” with a slew of content created by your customers.

Put them on your blog and let the content work its magic on customers searching for similar products.

7. Have Fun

Sometimes you just need to focus on having fun and driving up engagement.

Pizza Hut did this with a campaign where they asked customers to propose to Pizza Hut on social media.

Their #CommitToGreatness campaign didn’t try to leverage the content anywhere else – it was just meant to get people talking.

And it did.


Pizza Hut even created an OKCupid profile to enhance the game further. It got their fans talking and engaging with them, generating buzz while they created visual content that was pure entertainment.

Sometimes there’s no drive for a measurable ROI. It’s just about direct engagement that keeps your brand at the top of your audience’s minds.

There are countless ways to generate and leverage UGC to create tremendous growth for your brand.

To get the most return from your effort, remember to give your customers the power to create content and make sure that what you’re asking them to create is interesting and fun.

Make it easy for them to share the content and submit it to you, and don’t be afraid to incentivize the game to see a bigger return.

If you’re not sure where to start, check out other brands across a variety of markets.

See how their customers engage them and produce content, check out their UGC campaigns, and find inspiration to create something unique for your customers.

How are you leveraging user generated content for your ecommerce business? Tell me about your tactics in the comments below, I’d love to hear about your success:


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