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Leveraging Free Content From Users & Influencers for Rapid Growth on Instagram
Leveraging Free Content From Users & Influencers for Rapid Growth on Instagram

Leveraging Free Content From Users & Influencers for Rapid Growth on Instagram

For the majority of businesses and marketers, 2018 was a turbulent year on social as a steady decline in consumer trust and organic reach forced marketers to turn to pay to play strategies.

At the same time, an increasing number of brands continue to ride the social media marketing wave. Despite the fact that many CMOs and agencies still struggle to measure the ROI of their marketing efforts on social, 73% of marketers believe that their efforts have been “somewhat” or “very” effective for their business.

The constant change of the digital marketing landscape requires constant adaptation and more and brands are utilizing the slew of social marketing strategies available.

The two strategies that have emerged as favorites are influencer marketing and user-generated content (UGC).

In this article, I’ll explore how your business can leverage free content from micro-influencers and users in order to maximize ROI and experience rapid growth on Instagram.

Why is Branded Content Performing at an all-time Low?

In order to understand why your business need’s to leverage User Generated Content (UGC) and content from influencers, it’s important to understand why branded content is performing so poorly.

First and foremost, there is an issue of trust amongst consumers. In a study done by 4As, marketers, and advertisers emerged as the least trusted profession.

The deterioration of trust coupled with the fact that consumers now have more control over the media they consume on social has transformed the marketing landscape.

Tips to Leveraging Instagram Direct Message in Marketing
Tips to Leveraging Instagram Direct Message in Marketing

Secondly, there is an over-saturation of content on platforms like Facebook and Instagram competing for News Feed space. Not only has this damaged organic reach and made these platforms more of paid marketing platforms than organic ones, but it has also created an extremely competitive paid marketing environment that is increasingly expensive.

How to Create Online Buzz and Build a Community Using UGC

 UGC isn’t a new concept, yet it seems marketers are only starting to realize it’s potential in creating online buzz.

UGC is essentially word-of-mouth at scale in the modern internet era. It has allowed users to connect with other users en masse. compressing space and time.

For brands, utilizing UGC is the embodiment of the good old quote “killing two birds with one stone.” Your business get’s free content while simultaneously engaging with the customer and building a community.

Not only is UGC the most effective free marketing for your business, but it also increases brand engagement, and most importantly, creates a social proof which is an essential component in building trust amongst your potential customers.

Here are the statistics.

  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from their personal contacts
  • 74% of consumers rely on social media to inform their purchasing decisions
  • Effective UGC can generate 9x higher engagement than brand generated content

Incentivizing Users to Share Content

Unlike influencers, creators of UGC aren’t partners of your business. However, you should still view them as such.

The fact that they’re fans of your business as opposed to professional partners that are contracted means they have no obligation in sharing content. This means you have to create incentives.

In order to get people to create value, you need to provide them with a reason to be an active member of the community. They need to be a part of the tribe. This means that as a brand you need to engage with your audience and set the example. This will inevitably encourage users to participate.

Building a community takes time. Deploying patience and listening to your audience in order to know them and give them what they want is crucial in this phase.

Once you have a small community, you can boost participation by creating strong incentives. The most common incentive brands deploy to leverage UGC is to use a certain hashtag in order to be featured on the brands Instagram feed. This can be effective, but there are more creative and exciting campaigns you can create to truly generate a buzz.

Take the brand Aerie, for example. Their campaign is simple and effective. By donating $1 for every un-retouched photo Aerie users share, they are incentivizing their users to post photos of themselves under the hashtag #AerieREAL.

This campaign is effective because it builds the community created around women empowerment while donating money to a social cause.

The Aerie is extremely well-executed and was a success that generated $10,000 in donations. It should serve as a piece of inspiration for your UGC campaigns. There are many creative iterations of this that can be fruitful for your business. If it inspires you, make sure you make it relevant to your niche and the values of the community you are building.

The hashtag you use can be as simple as your brand name, but the most effective UGC strategies use hashtags that are specific to a certain campaign.

This is where you need to exercise your creativity. The more creative and exciting you can make your campaign, the better the incentives and the chances that you’ll generate plenty of good content.

Leveraging User-Generated Video Content

Although brands have over-saturated social platforms with content, the digital marketing world is in a state of constant change and of the most exciting and fastest growing trends in the content marketing sphere is video. The video is the future, and the future is here.

Millennials between 25-34 years old consumed the most video content online. More pertinently, in the United States, most of this video content was consumed using a mobile device.

Now, when it comes to leveraging video content from your users, you might have concerns regarding quality. Rest assured, not all of them will be usable and very few will be of high production value.

But does that even matter anymore?

Think of how many viral videos were shot with an iPhone camera.

Think of how many influencers rely on their smartphones selfie camera to communicate with their audience.

The answer is a lot!

Break Down the Barriers

Many brands fear video content because of the belief that video content should be of studio production value They also fear that they don’t have video content that’s “sexy” or exciting enough.

This has led to many brands trying to challenge themselves to create inventive video content, which has created fictional barriers and limited them from fully exploiting a massive opportunity.

The internet is the era of the ready-made, ad-hoc approach to everything. Brands need to embrace it and leverage video content from users and influencers.

Leveraging Content from Micro-Influencers

Before selling my eCommerce fashion brand, I heavily utilized both micro-influencers and user-generated content (UGC).

Now, you may not know what the difference between a micro-influencer and a mega influencer is. A micro influencer is simply someone who doesn’t have celebrity status and has built a following on social media. They could have anywhere between 5,000-50,000 followers.

The reason we worked with micro-influencers as opposed to mega influencers (apart from the fact that they are cheaper) is that they are more likely to be able to commit to a longer-term working relationship and provide a continuous agenda of content.

In collaborating with micro influencers, I never paid them for promotions. The collaboration was always done on the basis of an exchange. Free products for promotion.

This allows for a more organic partnership as the influencer is actually interested in your community and can promote your products authentically.

Working with a micro-influencer provides you with more control over the content you receive as opposed to content from users. However, the influencer should always have full creative freedom over the content that they create. They know what work’s best with their audience, and the content should be authentic.

Keeping that in mind, more control also means that you can ask the influencers you work with to give you different content formats, such as video. Make sure the type of content you’ll be receiving is clearly laid in the initial terms of your collaboration to avoid any complications.

What is the ROI of UGC and Influencer Marketing?

Obviously, this will differ from business to business, but the most direct and quantifiable returns are sales, website traffic, and followers.

On average, businesses generate $6.50 in revenue for each $1 invested in influencer marketing. 70% make $2 or more, and 13% make $20 or more.

Revenue per $1 spent on influencer marketing
Revenue per $1 spent on influencer marketing

If you take advantage of UGC and micro-influencers, you’ll need a tiny investment for the free content and community you’ll begin to build

This means that there’s a huge potential upside with very little downside. It’s low risk, and you essentially have nothing to lose, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t see instant results. Your ROI will be realized through patience and consistent work.

Putting in the work means engaging with your community, experimenting and measuring results to see what works.

Final Thoughts

The phrase “content is king” has been abused and overused by content marketers, but it still holds true. It’s just our understanding of it as marketers that has changed.

The social media era is beyond purely promotional branded content that goes for the hard sell. Consumers want authenticity, the want to engage with real people.

If you haven’t started to leverage users and influencers for your content strategy, get on board and give your consumers what they want!

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About Stefanos Bournias

After building and selling his first online business, Stefanos began writing and working with start-ups and software companies as a consultant and content marketer. His primary areas of writing focus on Saas, Start-ups, E-commerce & Marketing.

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