The new year is coming up, and most of us are eager to turn a new page.
2020 has taught us that it’s not always possible to plan life too far ahead—but this shouldn‘t stand completely true for your yearly marketing strategy.
Preparation is key—it helps you manage stress, saves time, and gives you better control over content creation. But when plans are upended, photoshoots canceled, and activities rescheduled, it can be tough to stick to the plan you created.
As brands move into 2021, it’s imperative to understand that change is a constant, and in moments of change, relying on your community to support your marketing activities can save your campaigns. Enter user-generated content (UGC) – the strategic fulcrum of your campaigns and content shortages.
Not all content is created equal
The content you put out can help you achieve important goals—build brand awareness (marketing campaigns) and get conversions (sales campaigns).
You want to plan your sales campaigns around the ecommerce holidays and shopping events, sticking to specific dates will help you create a backbone for your calendar.
It’s just as important to plan for content that’s not bound to specific dates, so make space for flash sales and campaigns your audience will perceive as spontaneous—they’re a great way to activate and excite your customers during the quieter time of the year.
We’ll now tell you about another type of content that’s evergreen, engages your customers like no other, often costs nothing to create, builds credibility in your brand, and should be the cornerstone of your 2021 social media calendar: user-generated content (UGC).
Why you should include UGC in your social media calendar
You can and should blow your own horn to spread the word about your brand, but it’s your customers who are your best marketers. And their power goes far beyond leaving a review on your business page. Brands of all sizes have been using UGC—images, text, and videos created by their customers—in their marketing activities, and have seen tremendous success. UGC is 35% more memorable than any other media, and 50% more trusted.
UGC is perfect for ads. Shoppers don’t want a picture-perfect brand ad on their feed, they want to see testimonials and media created by other buyers. To avoid legal problems, you must get the customer’s permission to use their content for advertising purposes.
Allow your customers to do some of the promotional work for you, and leave room for UGC in your social media calendar.
Don’t wait for your customers to create posts that you can repost—offer incentives to your followers. For example, a social media contest is a great way to bring in a substantial amount of UGC quickly. Ask your customers to share a photo with your product and tag your brand account to enter a giveaway. Create a unique hashtag so it’s easy to filter and sort the relevant content.
To help your feed look consistent when you start adding UGC, make sure to set the rules for creating the post. Athletic apparel brand Hylete not only features inspiration galleries of UGC on the brand’s site but also regularly reshares customer photos on Instagram Highlights through a unique hashtag.
Another way to generate UGC is to involve your followers in the creative process. People love to be a part of decision-making because it makes them feel invested in what your brand does. Ask them questions like what to name a new product, what designs they want to see, or invite them to come up with a fun new slogan.
Pro tip: Create a content library early on—you’ll want to save all the UGC and repurpose it later.
Just because a user has tagged you or used your branded hashtag doesn’t mean you have the rights to repurpose their content without permission. Always request permission to use the content the user has posted. Here’s an example how to ask:
Revel Nail permissions content from Instagram user @nail_dip_sami
Once you’ve received permission to use the content, make sure to credit the creator. If you want to share their content on various social media platforms, make sure to tag their corresponding channel. For example, if you’re sharing their Instagram content on Facebook, check with them if they have a Facebook page or mention their Instagram handle in your caption.
How to include UGC in your social media calendar
Now that you have your key dates added in your planning spreadsheet, make notes on the type of content you think could go well with the sales or marketing campaign for the particular date or season.
To avoid being repetitive with the content you repost, make sure to mix the types of UGC. Here are most common forms of user-generated content you can work in your calendar:
- Social media posts
- Reviews and testimonials
- Video reviews
- Influencer marketing
- Pre-made stories
Customer’s story on Printful’s Instagram account
Most of these content forms work well year-round, so the purpose of adding these to your social media calendar is to help you diversify the content.
Even if you don’t yet have the specifics in mind for each post, having an outline in place will help you think long-term and generate ideas for marketing campaigns so the content your users generate is fresh and exciting.
Social Listening with UGC
User-generated content will serve as a great learning resource for your brand.
Take a look at the words people use in their UGC posts. What language are they using when describing your product or brand? Are there any repetitive patterns? What hashtags do they use in combination with your branded hashtag? You might discover new ways of talking about your brand that align more precisely with the way your customers perceive it.
You may also notice that consumers are using your products in ways you hadn’t considered. Or perhaps they like using your products in combination with a product from another brand—this can inspire co-marketing activities with other brands.
Planning Ahead with Gaps in Mind
You can never start your preparations too early, so I hope you already have another tab open with your 2021 calendar draft.
When you prepare the plan for your social media calendar, experiment with content forms, be consistent and post regularly, and make time for more detailed planning every week. Keep in mind that you’ll want to repurpose your social media calendar the year after next, so lay a solid foundation. As you move through 2021, take notes on what type of content has the most engagement and helps you achieve your goals—conversions, sign-ups, impressions.
Most importantly, have fun with your customers and help them have a good time when they see your brand on their feed! If you do, the UGC will come easy and the feedback you’ll get will be invaluable for growing your business.
Madara Zalcmane is the blog manager and content marketing specialist at Printful.