In fact, according to a recent study, more than half (56%) of social media consumers now prefer to follow ‘everyday’ influencers like friends, family, and peers, when compared to the ‘typical’ influencer model.

As this trend continues, brands everywhere are starting to integrate an alternative approach that leverages organic content from new and existing customers, known as user-generated content (UGC). While UGC is not a new concept, recent social media platforms, including TikTok, have helped showcase the impact UGC has on pushing brand awareness and adoption forward. For example, the recent viral TikTok trend of #BamaRush has shown marketers across the nation that content produced straight from their communities is a rewarding and effective method of gaining traction and engagement on social media. As more companies realise the value of UGC, here are a few ways brands can incentivise their communities to share authentic, brand-approved marketing assets:

The first step is activating a creator community

When starting a UGC programme, brands must first find a way to convert their communities into a loyal network of creators. Consumers who already use the product or service provided by a brand are likely already posting about it on their own, but the idea behind UGC is for brands to have an improved way to leverage this content, and the first step is activation.

Tapping into followers and encouraging them to act as an extension of your brand is a great way to create more compelling marketing materials that will resonate better with target audiences. However, an important part of activating your community is establishing an effective means to manage and engage with them. This way, brands are able to easily keep track of all the active members of their community and provide coaching and feedback on the type of content they’re looking for.

Some of the best ways to activate brand communities are sending an email to current customers with details about the UGC campaign and including a link to a portal where they can easily upload their photos/videos, or sharing a post on a social media platform such as Instagram or Twitter and encouraging users to post their content on that same platform using a certain hashtag and tagging certain handles. However, a key part of getting consumers to feel inclined to share content is being transparent about how it will be used and offering an incentive.

UGC should be mutually beneficial

Before launching a UGC campaign, brands should have a plan in mind for how they’ll be rewarding creators, and share that reward up front when making the ask for content to encourage more submissions. An easy way to offer incentives to each creator is to offer a discount on their next purchase upon submission, and have a larger reward for those whose content ends up being chosen and used. Or, if you choose not to offer a reward if the campaign is to gather content to be used on social media, but still want to provide incentive, a good idea is to gamify the submission by labeling it as a challenge.

Regardless, not all submissions will be featured or rewarded, but in any circumstance, it’s important to communicate with creators that brands are appreciative of their hard work and effort in submitting content. In some cases, the opportunity to be featured on a brand’s social media page is enough incentive, while other options to consider include cash payment, discounts for future purchases, and free brand swag. If planning to use the content generated for specific marketing initiatives outside of a traditional social media post, such as a commercial or print/online advertisement, it’s best to provide monetary compensation for the creator’s efforts. To avoid any confusion surrounding compensation, consulting with a marketing team is a great way to decide what form of incentive would best fit an organisation’s needs and intended goals for using content.

Now that you’ve created a seamless experience that streamlines content expectations, creator compensation, and creator management, brands will be able to establish trust and loyalty amongst their creator community. The next step is organising and managing the content to ensure the right creator receives credit, whether the content is used for a campaign in the immediate future or one down the road.

Manage and organise to understand creator rights

After growing a creator community and establishing a communications programme, it is critical to acquire the legal rights to the content shared. Clearing rights allows brands to easily gain access to users’ content and use it for any current or future campaigns. While this can be a time-consuming task, there are solutions available that allow brands to receive these rights upon content submission. It’s critical to have secure processes in place for rights clearance to avoid future lawsuits and creator unrest.

Lastly, brands will also need to invest in an archiving solution that allows them to organise and sort content based on different campaigns, messages, and styles. This will not only make it easier for them to search for content as they develop ongoing and new campaigns but also to keep track of which creators are most active, creating another opportunity to reward creators for their loyalty.

UGC programmes are continuing to increase in the marketing industry and if brands are hoping to achieve a competitive advantage, they must effectively activate and reward the creators in their community. Simplifying the process, providing direction, and ensuring clear communication is the best way for brands to show appreciation for their advocates and secure the high-quality content they need to stand out in this competitive market.

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