Content generation and social commerce can be an Achilles heel for mid-market merchants. Until recently, ecommerce businesses in this bracket could get away with a heavier emphasis on advertising and more “technical” or methodical means of promotion, while maybe throwing a bone to social media. The most visible social commerce tactics were being waged only by the biggest brands. Changes are afoot that increase the relevance of User-Generated Content (UGC) for merchants of all sizes, whether consumer-focused or even in the B2B space.

The Rise of the Micro-Influencer

Remember influencers? While celebrities and their attendant sponsorships and endorsements will always be with us, their grip on consumer trust has waned in recent years.  Like media, the influence marketplace has fragmented and brought along an influx of sponsored and incentivized posting by “regular” people. Because consumer trust in traditional influencers has weakened, consumers are  showing a growing desire  for genuine content generated by relatable creators.

The content creation space is being broadened and revolutionized by consumers who are now looking for authentic content that resonates with their lives.

What is UGC? 

In short, UGC is content (ie. videos, images, podcasts, etc.) created by people instead of brands. Consumers see this type of content as more authentic and trustworthy. Think of it this way; instead of seeing an obviously scripted skincare commercial or endorsement, consumers can scroll on Tiktok or Instagram and stumble across a person who looks just like them sharing their skincare products used in their morning routine. In short, there is power in relatability that UGC is able to harness and turn into consumer trust.

How To Generate User-Generated Content

Ideally, your brand receives positive reviews without doing anything to encourage it.  But in most cases, User Generated Content is paid or incentivized. If a brand works with a great creator to produce endorsements for their products and that content is well received (it receives a high level of engagement), more people may want to try the product and make their own reviews.

When UGC is done well, your brand could get hundreds of free reviews through a sort of social media “word of mouth”. Good UGC can help fuel more UGC.

This is one of the tricky parts – merchants have to create an amazing experience that creators will want to share with their audience. Customers may do a lot of the work for you, but you still have to prime the pump. 

A few different options exist for incentivizing and encouraging your brand’s users or customers to create positive content. 

Platforms like Upwork or Fiverr allow you to hire creators. The market for user generated content is booming and there are now plenty of options for content creators who have portfolios sharing brands they have previously worked with.

Selecting UGC Creators

When selecting UGC creators, it is important to choose people who align with your brand. Plan this deliberately and clearly, or you’ll risk falling into micromanagement, which will kill the campaign.  Establish clear guidelines explaining the desired content. Specific hashtags, language, imagery and goal KPI metrics for the content should be specified and should be a major part of the conversation when hiring. You will also want to specify where this content can be posted. Is this something you would like the creator to post on their personal social media channels, or will this be used only for your brand to post? Relatability and authenticity is the most important component of great UGC, so you will want to work with creators that emulate the kind of customer you hope to attract. 

Another option for generating content is to offer incentives such as discounts or giveaways to customers if they produce a positive review. This method will allow actual customers to share their experiences with your product, however it is less controllable so the specificity of the content generated can be a bit of a wild card. If this method is chosen, it is smart to monitor the content being created to ensure it stays positive and continues to align with the vision you have for your brand.

Social Commerce for B2B?

Traditional social media – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and others  – isn’t always the first thought for B2B merchants. After all, you’re not selling to everyone, right? Not so fast.

The built-in community development tools on these platforms mean you can sculpt a place for your customers and attract more, drawing from their wide audience pools. Even if your products are highly specialized or technical, you might be surprised how many of your customers are looking for crowd affirmation when they’re shopping or searching for a solution. Another plus – a community doesn’t have to be enormous in order to be helpful for your business and the support required for these channels is usually minimal. 

Google my Business – Don’t neglect your Google profile because you don’t consider yourself a localized business. A pile of 5-star Google reviews will get you more mileage than that old static testimonial page on your site. In addition to Google, 3rd party review platforms like TrustPilot can provide a great space for collecting additional reviews and building customer trust. 

Consider a user/customer forum if you don’t have one already. Use crowd support to verify, augment and prove information you get from your sales and customer service groups. Even if you don’t host the forum, you should participate anywhere your products are applicable or being discussed (ie. Reddit, for sure). The information you can glean from these interactions will be super valuable – it’s like having a continuous focus group session. Businesses of all types monitor forums for product development tips, discovering problems, identifying new markets and unmet product niches. 

What to do once you have UGC? 

Once your brand receives user generated content, it should be showcased! Engage with and respond to the content that has been created. Share or link to content on your company website, social media, reviews and any other marketing channels. Leverage user reviews in advertising and marketing campaigns, and continue to foster a community of user generated content by interacting with users’ posts. 

PRO TIP: Tools like Gorgias can be incredibly helpful when it comes to monitoring your social content.

Analyze content created for your brand and do not be afraid to learn and adjust based on its feedback. Social media is constantly evolving and trends can last seconds or months. Going “viral” is many brands’ dream, but for many brands, building consumer trust through time and consistent effort is much more impactful for actual sales and conversion. When executed well, UGC can create a community of loyal customers who not only trust your brand, but actively promote it to others through their content and recommendations.m

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