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The small business guide to user-generated content marketing

june 24, 2024

Creating engaging and original marketing campaigns on social media requires hours of time and years of expertise. Small businesses have smaller teams and smaller budgets, but that doesn’t mean you should skip out on growing your online presence. By taking advantage of user-generated content, your small business can make the most of digital marketing while staying within your budget.

What is user-generated content?

If you’ve ever watched a friend rave about their favorite products on TikTok or scrolled through brands reposting their favorite customer outfits of the day, you’re already familiar with user-generated content. User-generated content are social media posts that haven’t been paid for or sponsored, usually created by customers who have purchased your product or service. Any social media post, from Twitter to LinkedIn, that mentions your business in a positive light can be repurposed into marketing content. Even more traditional customer reviews, found on retailer websites or personal blogs, work as effective user-generated content.

Brands also sometimes share user-generated content that doesn’t directly include their product. Repost relevant videos and posts that fit within the lifestyle of your brand to increase engagement and solidify your brand’s voice.

Benefits of user-generated content

At its core, user-generated content works effectively because it gives credibility to your brand. On social media, people tend to trust photos, videos, and reviews about your products from real customers even more than your professionally edited posts. It’s also an affordable option to bulk up your social media scheduling without having to pay for sponsorships or original content. User-generated content helps you gain valuable audience insights about your customers to use when creating new products or brainstorming for your next campaign. Remember that you’ll reap the most benefits of user-generated content when using it alongside other marketing content. Because of the unpredictable nature of user-generated content, you won’t be able to reliably schedule those posts using social media automation tools.

How to find and use user-generated content

Most user-generated content should be easy to find—if you haven’t already noticed. People typically tag brands within their social media posts, making it easy for your business to find the best user-generated content. If your business isn’t directly tagged, try searching your brand or product name directly within your favorite social media platforms. Once you know what you’re looking for, make sure you avoid common missteps before hitting post. Avoid reposting user-generated content without asking permission from the person who created the content, as posting unauthorized content can give your brand a bad reputation or end in a social media disaster. By reaching out before resharing, you’ll build trust with your customers and post with confidence.

Set specific goals

In addition to your general marketing goals, set specific goals around how you plan to use user-generated content. Although you won’t be able to predict the exact content your customers create, setting goals and guidelines helps make sure you’re not missing out on the benefits of user-generated content. If your business spends a significant chunk of time and money on producing original social media content, set a goal to replace a percentage of your regular posts with user-generated content. Setting specific engagement goals also helps ensure the content you’re resharing continues to resonate with your audience.

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Choose the right platforms

Even after you’ve stumbled on a great post from a loyal customer or taken time to seek out user-generated content, your marketing work isn’t over. Not all user-generated content works effectively as marketing content, and you’ll need to understand the types of content that perform best on the platforms you use.

  • Instagram. Share customer posts to your Instagram story for an easy, effective way to boost user-generated content. Another option for reposting on Instagram is to share customer images directly in your feed—just remember to always credit the original creator. Find free customizable Instagram templates on Microsoft Create.
  • Twitter. Retweeting customer posts is an obvious way to use Twitter to share user-generated content, but you can go the extra step by sharing short videos or images from other platforms. Encourage customers to share reviews and pictures by using branded hashtags. Save time with free customizable Twitter templates on Microsoft Create.
  • Facebook. Longer video content performs well on Facebook, especially videos that feel authentic or uplifting. Share images or videos from other social media platforms to your Facebook page to cast a wide net for engagement. You won't need to start from scratch when you use these free customizable Facebook templates.
  • TikTok. Known for viral videos, TikTok is a great place to find compelling user-generated content. Repost content directly to your brand’s TikTok account or share videos on your other platforms, like Instagram or Twitter. Get your creativity started with these free custom TikTok templates on Microsoft Create.

Encourage user-generated content

If your customers aren’t currently creating user-generated content, don’t give up on your strategy. By encouraging your audience to post original content about your brand, you’ll build deeper connections with your customer while having some guidance over what they post. Host a social media contest or ask customers to use a specific campaign hashtag when posting pictures and reviews of your product. Remember to include information about brand rules and regulations when asking for user-generated content.

Collaborate with your community

Not only does user-generated content provide your small business with a gold mine of high-quality social media posts to reach new customers, it also builds a sense of community with your customers and expands your business’s network. Receiving a mention or repost from a brand encourages customers to continue engaging and purchasing. Encourage community by recognizing high-quality content and answering customer questions in your comments and messages.

Incorporating user-generated content into your digital marketing strategy helps expand your brand’s online platform without adding additional costs to your budget. By encouraging and strategically resharing content from your customers, you’ll be one step closer to your next viral social media post.

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