by Brittany McSorley
As a Cape Cod social media marketing company, we spend a lot of time keeping track of the latest trends in the online landscape. This means asking questions like, “What’s going on with TikTok?” and, “Did Instagram change the algorithm again?” and, “I’m not complaining, but why is everything so short now?”
Today, we face a new question: What is user-generated content? Or, if you’re feeling snarky: When did advertising become the consumer’s job? Because that’s what user-generated content is, at its core: content customers provide that helps a business sell its products or services.
We’ve all seen UGC at work. At this point, you can’t use social media without encountering this kind of ad. This is how it happens:
Step 1: Everyone has a smartphone. Everyone uses their smartphone to spend time on social media and ignore their children. Their hungry, hungry children.
Step 2: Social media platforms have our attention, so of course they’re going to sell us things (and sell our data!), because capitalism.
Step 3: Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool. If everyone’s already taking selfies and posting videos and scrolling their lives away (please, the children!), companies might as well take advantage of the enormous audience.
Step 4: We’re seeing less “traditional” advertising on social media. In place of carefully scripted, highly curated, artistically directed marketing content, we have influencers (i.e., people with enough followers) peddling moisturizer or pillows or yogurt or leggings or seltzer or any number of things with personalized discounts. “Guys, I’m dying for you to try this shampoo. It has literally changed my entire life. This shampoo got me a raise. My boyfriend proposed. I no longer sweat. I am immortal. Use promo code COURTNEY, all caps, at checkout for 15% off!!!!!!!”
I’m being mean, but that is the basic idea. And this content does not require high production value. Most UGC videos are made, like, in a living room with a ring light.
I know what you’re thinking. Brittany, I don’t sell moisturizer-seltzer-pillow-shampoo-leggings. What does immortal Courtney’s promo code have to do with my small business? And here is my response: Firstly, I would buy something called shampoo leggings without a second thought. I wouldn’t even Google what they were. I’d be like, “Surprise me, universe. These babies sound great.” Secondly, you don’t need to sell shampoo leggings to benefit from user-generated content! It’s not limited to hot people telling their followers how a product gave them eternal life!
For small businesses, UGC can also be:
- A glowing Yelp review of your business that you share with your followers (“These shampoo leggings were not what I expected, but I’m so glad I bought them!”)
- A hashtag your customers can use to show off their products (#MyShampooLeggings)
- Contests that incentivize publicizing your product (“The best pet photo featuring shampoo leggings will win a $50 gift card!”)
- Seasonal prompts and promos (“It’s Arbor Day! Show off your shampoo leggings and tag us for a shoutout!”)
Happy customers are a valuable resource, so consider how user-generated content can boost your marketing efforts.
Or, sure, give a conventionally attractive person money to promote your stuff on their Instagram page. Follow your heart! Live your truth! Subscribe to Courtney’s YouTube channel for more inspiring content! She alone will be here when we’re all long gone!