Visual channels of communication have changed how people discover, form opinions about, and shop for products. Inspiration is everywhere. In order to appeal to consumers, brand imagery now needs to encapsulate emotion, rendering the boring stock photo of yesterday—you know, that product on a stale, white background—less effective than ever.

But why am I telling you this? You’ve already made the decision to implement a user-generated content strategy in order to assemble more of these creative, experience-driven images to use across your brand channels. Great! Easy, right? You just need to see a few demos, get some small snippets of code, and then say hello to engaging, authentic images that drive up digital engagement, conversions and average order value on your ecommerce site.

If only it were that easy.

user-generated content marketing

The reality is, for most brands, there are many more questions that need to be answered prior to launching an effective user-generated content program. We know, because we work with hundreds of the world’s most recognized brands – brands that leverage our platform to drive discovery, traffic and revenue with visual content throughout the purchase funnel.

We compiled feedback below to provide you with a thorough understanding of what you need to consider when evaluating and implementing your UGC strategy.

Have a look, and feel free to contact me directly with any follow-up questions.

1. What About All the Other Cs?

2015 really drove home the power of UGC for brands. Authentic and inspiring, this editorial style of content consistently delivers across numerous channels, driving increased engagement, conversions, ad performance and average order value.

But to maximize lift, you need to maximize the compelling visual content you have at your disposal. User-generated content is a great start, but remember, fan-sourced imagery represents only a portion of the merchandise—on average, a mere 6% (!!)—that lives in your product catalog.

Don’t make the mistake of ignoring all of the other types of editorial content that are available to you. The savviest brands recommend using not only fan photos, but also blog content, catalog content, social content, influencer content and relevant content sourced from your physical locations (for example, retail stores, restaurants and hotel properties) as well.

2. Going Beyond Your Website

An obvious starting point for your user-generated content is your website, but it shouldn’t stop there. A well-rounded strategy considers all of the major consumer touchpoints. For example, PBteen pushes imagery to their blog using Curalate Reveal to 1) extend the life of fan photos from Instagram, and 2) ensure these images are shoppable, no matter where they live.

shoppable UGC on your blog

And here’s another example from Guess. The brand automatically syncs all their productized Instagram content from Like2Buy into their native app, creating a unified experience across multiple user touchpoints as well as opportunities for discovery and shopping.

Curalate_Like2Buy_Guess

Forward-thinking brands are using the Curalate API to push their top performing content out to all of the channels that matter to them, including ads, blogs, emails, apps and even to in-store digital displays. Additionally, many of the brands we work with are looking to integrate with their internal business systems like CRM, Ad Retargeting and others. As a best practice, make sure your partner’s API can support these advanced use cases. Otherwise, you risk limiting the reach of this powerful content.

3. Every Second Counts

As you very well know, uptime is critical when it comes to any on-site implementation. You wouldn’t tolerate a slow-loading product page, so why should your top converting visual imagery be any different? This becomes increasingly important when you consider the following:

A one second delay in load time can increase bounce rate by 8%.

As social images continue to serve as major drivers of engagement, conversions and revenue, keep this intel top of mind, and ask about load times when choosing a provider for your on-site implementation.

4. Habla Español?

localization

If a customer living in Spain lands on your UGC gallery, the last thing you want them to see is a bunch of products that are unavailable in their region with descriptions in a foreign language. Talk about a bad customer experience!

If you’re not serving up localized product images on your website, you’re missing a major sales opportunity. The global brands we work with tend to agree. Here are some of the specifics that you should be considering:

  • Ease of implementation. What is the workflow required to support different regions? Will I have to tag images multiple times to support all of the different countries in which a product is available?
  • Localized languages. How much work will be required to localize product names and descriptions based on a region’s native language? Can this process be automated? (For example, if your product feed is the same across Canada, is it possible to serve up French descriptions to consumers in Quebec?)
  • Don’t forget about traffic. The fact that more than 75% of Instagram users live outside of the U.S. makes localization even more important for brands. Especially if you have one global account for all of your fans. Creating a good user experience means directing your customers to the right ecommerce pages, where they can shop for products that are available in their region.

5. The Proof is in the Products

Most brands come to us with a solid understanding of how to handle content contributors at the user level as well as image-level analytics. This intel is important, but to monetize visual content, you need to be able to pinpoint not only which images are driving engagement but, more deeply, which products within images are fueling that fire.

Brands that work with Curalate have the advantage of measuring their visual content at the image, product and contributor level. After all, building an audience is only valuable if you are able to activate them.

6. Can You Do It For Me?

The number one question we get from brands that are looking to implement a UGC solution is: Should I moderate this content in-house? I can’t emphasize the answer enough.

Brands and agencies that don’t moderate UGC in-house have no control over optimizing its success.

If you’re putting the time and resources into building out a UGC program, it’s essential that you have full control and final approval over any content that goes live on your website. This will ensure that you maintain brand consistency and avoid product errors.

To make your life even easier, make sure your provider has an integrated workflow in place. That way, you can continuously add content to your UGC gallery from a variety of consumer touchpoints, including your social channels as well as any brand campaigns, contests, etc.

For example, Curalate can automatically pull any image from your Like2Buy gallery into your Fanreel, making it easy to enhance the ecommerce experience with inspiring Instagram imagery.

how to use fan photos

Another idea is to get your fans involved: Allow them to tag products (pulled from your product feed) when submitting a photo via an upload widget.

User-Generated Content Upload Widget

Of course, all of this becomes a lot easier if the platform you use provides some level of recommended moderation. This is especially important for brands that receive dozens—if not hundreds—of images per day. Lucky for you, Curalate does this too. Our technology analyzes image characteristics as well as social cues to understand what content will perform well for you. Best of all, as you approve and reject images that reflect your brand, our technology gets smarter with you.

7. Show Me The Money

If you’re investing time and money into building a user-generated content program, chances are that you also want to get the most bang for your buck. One way to do this is by sharing these inspiring images across your paid marketing channels. Leveraging emotionally engaging content within your paid media—your retargeting strategy, for instance—can help increase your click-through rates.

There is, however, one very important caveat. While sharing a fan’s photo on your social channels or website can create cause for excitement, it can be a little suspect to go using that content without permission within the context of an ad. So, make sure to explicitly ask to use your fans’ photos within a paid campaign, and always provide credit to the photographer. (BTW – Curalate makes rights management easy for marketers. You can learn more about it here.)

Lastly, keep in mind that there’s no reason to box yourself into a paid media strategy that relies solely on UGC. Fan photos can be an excellent source of editorial content, but as mentioned earlier, the smartest brands are pulling from content libraries that represent a variety of contributors. Plan accordingly, and give your team options.

Facebook DPAs

8. Investing in Yesterday’s News

As I mentioned earlier, UGC isn’t exactly new; lots of brands have embraced the power of fan-sourced imagery. But every day at Curalate, we work tirelessly to come up with new, innovative use cases that enable the hundreds of brands we work with to get ahead in this fast-moving space.

How can you make sure that the partner you choose will continue to out-innovate competitors while keeping your brand ahead of the curve? Ask! Evaluate what they’ve released in the last six months as well as what cool products and features are coming down the pike. This should help provide insight into their ability to evolve with your business.