There are plenty of myths out there. Aliens. The Loch Ness Monster. Leicester City as Premier League champions. But some of the most wildly inaccurate myths revolve around user-generated content (UGC). We help to dispel 10 of the most prevalent.

1. User-generated content cannot be controlled

One of the biggest fears marketers have is ‘turning over the keys to the kingdom’ by allowing users to create content for their brand. We get it – no brand wants to risk muddling its message or confusing its identity.

In reality, UGC is not a plug-and-play proposition. What makes it work is a good strategy and a little bit of know-how. By collecting content proactively, and at strategic post-purchase moments, brands can create an overwhelming flood of like-minded, high-quality content at multiple points in the buying journey.

Calls for UGC at multiple points in the buying journey allows brands to tailor the content to specific campaigns. And, as long as you’re not collecting an overall review, it’s perfectly acceptable to make some suggestions about the kind of content you’d like to receive from your customers. After all, even the best authors need some inspiration.

Here’s a good example from Mazda of content collected around a theme – in this case, MX-5 owners are talking about some of the best road trips they’ve taken.

2. User-generated content is a luxury

To some brands, user-generated content is an afterthought; a luxury. To many of those same brands, so is digital and social marketing in general.

Those brands are not long for this world.

According to a 2015 Nielsen report, customers trust their fellow customers far more than brands, marketers, and even so-called “experts.” In plain English, this means that the very best, most effective type of content for helping convince potential buyers is UGC. People trust one another; people like to talk about their own experiences; people want second opinions. This is the thrust of the impact of UGC, and why it absolutely must not be an afterthought for modern companies.

Fire used to be a ‘luxury,’ too.

3. User-generated content is not for luxury

On the flip side, some luxury brands don’t think UGC is ‘for them,’ despite some of the top luxury brands in the world like Burberry and Lexus using it to tremendous effect.

The primary misconception is that luxury brands must be exclusive, unobtainable, and therefore, not of the people. But what this misunderstanding fails to realise is that one of the primary appeals of luxury goods is that they are aspirational, and that asking your customers who’ve purchased the product to share their love for it encourages multitudes of potential customers to take notice and say, “You know, I’d like to have that lifestyle, too.”

Our own research backs this up: 58% of people (and 69% of millennials) say that they are very likely to read customer product reviews to help inform their purchase decision about a luxury product or service. Only 41% (and 49% of millennials) of those same people say they are very likely to read an expert product review for the same reason.

Appearance is everything, and when it comes to luxury marketing, a powerful thing.

UGC is, above all, a championing of authenticity. - Highlight to share -

4. User-generated content must be positive

When you stare into the marketing abyss, the abyss stares also into you; in terms of UGC marketing, this means that when you call for content, you open the flood gates for all content: good, bad, and ugly. No reasonable brand wants negative, unflattering content about itself, but the real value in negative UGC is deeper than appearance.

UGC is, above all, a championing of authenticity. As such, negative reviews are a chance for brands to respond authentically, in a public forum, to an unmistakably authentic review. By responding helpfully, politely, informatively, and – yes – charmingly, companies call upon potential customers to ask themselves, “if this brand is treating even its detractors with fairness and patience, how well will I surely be taken care of when I make my own purchase?”

No one expects perfection; negative UGC provides a chance to demonstrate something far more valuable: authenticity. In fact, taking reviews as an example: our data shows that consumers spend more than five times as long on site when they interact with bad reviews. They trust the reviews they see far more and convert nearly 85% more often. Find out why bad reviews are good for business in this ebook.

5. User-generated content only helps SEO rankings

Search engine optimisation is one of the larger battles marketers face every day. Content helps, and the more-trusted, clickable nature of user-generated content helps even more. UGC, like customer conversations and reviews, can provide incredibly meaningful data, particularly when you’re looking to improve SEO.

But the benefits of UGC don’t end when the user presses ‘search.’

The more UGC you employ, the more users will connect with your content. The more users connect with your content, the more they will share it. The more they share your content, the more varied locations it will appear on the web. This exposure helps drive traffic in a totally different way than SEO, and is equally as valuable.

6. User-generated content does not drive revenue

Across all industries, the reviews we collect result in an average 2.7x conversion uplift for our clients.

UGC is the most powerful convincing tool marketers have, and more importantly, it can be adapted to work at any point in the buying journey.

7. User-generated content must be professional

Well, that depends on what you mean by “professional.” Does it need to be high-quality, on-message and effective? Yes.

Does it need to be buttoned-down, stuffy, and traditional? Absolutely not.

Part of the appeal of UGC is that it gives the customer another, different glimpse into the world of that particular brand. They’ve seen the official side; now they want to see the “reality.” Human beings are not all dour, terse and polished. Giving customers a chance to see your products in the context of their actual lives, blemishes and all, makes the idea of ownership of that product more real, as well.

8. User-generated content must be fun

On the other hand, UGC need not be overly happy-go-lucky to be effective. Collecting content from customers is about promoting all the ways a product has improved lives, and – by extension – all of the ways it has the potential to.

For example, Heineken used UGC to great success with its Innovation Challenge that invited users to submit ideas for how to create a more sustainable packaging for its beer. Not only did the campaign drive traffic to Heineken, put it helped put the brand at the forefront of people’s minds on multiple topics like sustainability, corporate ethics and many others beyond the standard reach of beer companies. All through some nifty content marketing that puts customers at the wheel.

By using UGC in broad, and often, serious ways, brands can reinvent or reinforce themselves in any way they see fit.

9. User-generated content is not an opportunity for dialogue

Short-sighted brands see UGC as a one-way dynamic: brands need content, users give it to them. While this is, indeed, a major asset of user-generated content, neglecting to engage in a real dialogue misses out on half the potential benefit.

UGC enables brands to demonstrate their availability to customers and potential customers. It is, by its very nature, a conversation; brands create a product, customers react to it, and in turn, brands have a chance to respond.

Not only does this let brands respond and rebut potential criticisms, but it very publicly shows customers considering buying the product that, yes, the company does care, they are listening, and they will engage with me even after I make a purchase. The value of that is huge.

10. User-generated content only works for some products

Think of a product. It can be any product: a sailboat, a financial service, a bag of crisps, anything.

Now, imagine having feedback about that product from real users and customers who have purchased it, so you can make an informed decision about the true quality of that product beyond what marketing tells you.

Can you imagine any product you would not want this knowledge about?

We didn’t think so.

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10 myths brands still believe about user-generated content