Social media is continually growing and changing, as is the way we consume it. Professionals like photographers, designers, and marketers used to be the main sources who create content for advertising and public consumption. But with the explosion of the internet, the ubiquity of smartphones, and social media rising in popularity, just about anyone can create, post, and share content. This is called user-generated content or UGC.

What is User-Generated Content?

Stakla defines user-generated content as “any form of content—posts, images, videos, reviews, etc.—created by consumers on an online or social network.” It has swiftly become one of the most popular types of content on social media.

Reasons to Use User-Generated Content

Real people lead to more real people. Embrace user-generated content! Think of UGC as free publicity for your brand—while having the opportunity to amplify followers within your community. It’s a win/win. And the numbers don’t lie: a recent survey revealed that consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view UGC as authentic compared to brand-created content. Gain your followers’ trust (and ultimately their business) by sharing user-generated content that is relevant to your business, product, or brand.

Helps Connect with a Larger Target Audience

UGC allows other people to connect to your brand, which is a huge part of earned media. Earned media is when your product is promoted by likes, comments, shares, or organic influence. Every share, every like, and every click helps promote visibility and credibility online and propel a business forward.

Web influencer, marketer, and entrepreneur Neil Patel notes that “shares are the currency of the social media world.” User-generated content is included under this “earned marketing” umbrella.

Provides Social Proof for Your Brand

User-generated content is proven to influence users and help them make buying decisions. By sharing content from people and/or other well-known companies who have used or liked your products or services, you are providing social capital which increases your credibility. Providing this kind of social proof makes it more likely that people will want to do business with you.

Shows Authenticity

Branded content is primarily created to sell or promote a service, product, or brand. User-generated content doesn’t have that same end game. Because UGC isn’t paid for and is created by real people, rather than a brand, it shows authenticity your target audience will appreciate. And since 90% of consumers say that authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support, it’s a savvy business decision to incorporate UGC into any social media marketing strategy.

Gains Followers’ Trust

One of the biggest elements of building a successful and reputable online persona, business, and community is creating a feeling of trust with your users. Trust goes hand-in-hand with authenticity. And people trust others who are like them. We want to hear about why everyday people like us prefer something, not what the brand thinks about itself.

Sharing UGC on your website, app, or social media channels is one way to cultivate this sense of trustworthiness. It’s also a way to create more engagement and interaction between the company, product, or brand and the consumer.

Build Relationships

A crucial element of social media marketing is engaging with followers, niche groups, influencers, and experts in your industry. User-generated content offers a way for businesses large and small to build their online presence as well as connect and strengthen relationships with current and potential followers/clients. And let’s face it: user-generated content is just more fun! If you’ve ever had a post, review, comment, or image shared by a brand, it’s exciting. It’s a way to feel connected. Because UGC is authentic content created by everyday people, it helps bridge the gap between business and consumer and creates a sense of community within a brand. Businesses and brands simply can’t survive without building relationships.

How to Incorporate UGC Into Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

Now that you’ve decided to embrace user-generated content as part of your social media marketing strategy, how do you incorporate it?

Share Images on Social

Sharing regular peoples’ images on social media is a great place to start. If someone has tagged you, share that on your platform. You can even use UGC in digital advertising campaigns.

Include UGC Video Content

Even without paying for ads, businesses and brands can embrace user-generated content on TikTok to help reach their marketing goals. TikTok is successful at inspiring people to create user-generated content, which in turn creates buzz. Why not share unique content created by friends, fans, and followers? TikTok not your thing? Try adding video content on other platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Sharing others’ videos is a way to genuinely amplify your followers, boost engagement, create brand awareness, and even make them unofficial brand ambassadors.

Add More Hashtags

Hashtags are a perfect way to share user-generated content. Users on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn can use hashtags to stay on top of trends, see what their competitors are up to, and share a topic or a theme. These simple additions to your tweets or posts can help current and potential followers find and keep tabs on you and your company, and keep you connected with your followers as well.

Take your hashtag use one step farther and start a branded hashtag. A branded hashtag is a unique hashtag you create especially for your product or business, and it’s an inspired way to connect with your target audience. It can be the name of your company, a tagline, a specific product—basically anything that defines you and your brand. Once you’ve determined what it will be, use it on every post. Using your branded hashtag will help generate conversation and buzz around your product or brand, and once others latch onto it, the hashtag will help create user-generated content.

Don’t Forget Testimonials

User-generated content is not just for social media. You can incorporate it on your website as well—in the form of testimonials. Including testimonials on your homepage and throughout your site introduces users to your company, product, or brand in an organic way. How many times have we turned to Yelp, the comments on Amazon products, or Google reviews before making a decision? We want to hear real peoples’ thoughts. Checking reviews can often help tip the scales one way or the other when making a decision.

Learn Social Media Marketing

Those ready to learn skills and concepts to help launch a career in the field or upskill current social media marketing strategy can check out Noble Desktop’s 30-hour Social Media Marketing Certificate. The curriculum gives participants a comprehensive overview of the industry. Hands-on training over five distinct units allows students to master various elements of social media marketing. Certificate program participants will learn how to determine the right social media platform for their goals, develop a successful social media strategy, and create content that increases engagement and drives sales. Expert instructors teach participants how to gain a following and underscore the importance of market positioning and using social media analytics to improve results. Noble even offers students a chance to retake the class for free within a year to drill down on challenging concepts or refresh their skills.

If you want to take a shorter course or focus on a specific platform, look into Noble’s wide variety of social media marketing classes. Individuals can attend in-person classes at Noble Desktop’s New York City location or attend live online social media marketing courses from anywhere in the world.

Noble’s Facebook Marketing class provides an in-depth look at creating targeted ads, leveraging Facebook groups, and creating business pages within the platform. The Instagram Marketing class helps students learn about advertising on Instagram as well as how to build a following by creating resonant content. The course delves into the Instagram algorithm and how to use it to develop content and posting strategies as well as increase engagement. The course’s expert instructors go over best practices and tools like Instagram Stories, marketing, and advertising.

With Noble’s LinkedIn Marketing class, you’ll learn how to craft a marketing strategy for LinkedIn, create dynamic content, and advertise on the platform. The course also covers prospecting with LinkedIn search as well as how to use LinkedIn analytics to your advantage. Finally, Social Media Video Marketing: TikTok & YouTube teaches how to use the platforms for video-based campaigns and techniques for creating content. Students will also learn how to monitor video trends, and identify and engage their target audience.

You can also find local and/or social media marketing courses, bootcamps, and certificate programs in your area using Noble Desktop’s Classes Near Me tool.

Other social media marketing resources offered by Noble Desktop include its blog which has detailed articles about various social media marketing topics, and the Intro to Social Media Marketing seminar on YouTube, which gives in-depth descriptions about various social media platforms and strategies.