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How to kickstart your UGC engine to start firing on all cylinders

If you’re a DTC (direct-to-customer) brand and struggling with producing content, UGC might be your way out. What’s the fuss about UGC? User-generated content is any textual or visual content, produced by people using your brand’s product or services, i.e. users. While high-end branding photos and videos will give you a premium touch, raw, and unedited UGC will give you genuine credibility. People trust people easier than they trust ads - simple as that. 

Acquiring UGC might be a hard nut to crack from the start and it might take more time and effort to build a solid base of it. Start with encouraging existing customers to leave a review on your website or Facebook page. From our perspective, there are 3 solutions to fix the content creation problem with cost and quantity:

  • Outsource it to a content-creation specialised studio or agency
  • Create your in-house studio
  • Create your campaign, using UGC-dedicated tools and platform

If you’re at your raw beginning, you might want to postpone trying out the first option due to lack of budget and longer delivery times. If you have the knowledge, the resources, and the place to set up your studio, give option 2 a go. Keep in mind that aside from those things, you also need an experienced team to back you up. A strong plus to this option is having complete control over the execution, production, and delivery of the content. Let’s focus on the last option - creating your own UGC creative engine. 

But why even choose UGC? For starters, it’s cost-efficient without any massive prior investment. A lot of people are willing to share their experience with your brand in the form of photos, video testimonials, or reviews in exchange for your products.  

  1. The foremost and most golden rule: Define the goal and deliverables of your campaign

Influencers + reach = exposure

influencers + influence = conversion

Briefing, briefing, and more briefing - content creators and influencers cannot deliver on-point content if even you yourself aren’t sure what your objectives are. If you’re aiming at gaining more brand awareness and recognition, do mass outreach to a lot of nano and micro-influencers. What might come in handy here is engaging with your actual clients and nurturing your user-brand relationship. When you feel you have the experience and the budget, contact macro influencers and your local celebrities.

If your goal is getting more conversions, search for more medium-sized profiles rather than placing all your eggs in one mega influencer basket. A small investment or giving away a collection of your products might start a great partnership with your chosen influencer and if your product is at the right place at the right time, it will result in conversions. 

2. Don’t go balls to the wall, take it easy.

Define the scale of the influencer profile you’re looking for - nano, micro, macro. If you’re on a tight budget, start with nano influencers. While it may be time-consuming in the long run, this is a fast way to get a lot of raw and unedited content from genuine people. Profiles with a smaller following might not have the desired reach, but they often have a more loyal audience. They are more likely to collaborate in exchange for fair compensation and free product. 

Be open to people that reach out to your brand with their proposal - you probably already won them over and caught their attention, so they are ready to take it up a notch and become your brand’s ambassador. If they reach out to you and their profile has a decent engagement-to-following ratio, propose a fair deal for both sides.

“Okay, where and how do I start?”

There are 2 ways of creating your very own UGC engine. Either start reaching out and acquiring content on your own or find an existing influencer marketing and on-demand content creation tool. If you want to avoid third-party commissions, start sending emails to chosen profiles or message them on their profiles. 

A simple summary of the said options is: 

For on-demand content creation campaigns, stick to existing tools. There are tons of up-to-date software and tools that let you open your first content creation campaign and there’s tons of material on how to do it. Our personal favourite is Influee, mostly because it offers everything we need to create a killer campaign brief and negotiations: Campaign guidelines, mood board, clear overview of applicants, deliverables, and delivered content. 

For collaborations with macro and mega influencers, go with cold pitching and personalised email outreach. The primary goal of said collaborations is incorporating your product into the influencer’s lifestyle and appearing on their profiles to reach their audience. While these collaborations are often a lot more pricey, you can ask them to deliver the content they posted and use it as social proof on your website or ads. 

Let’s focus on the first and more time-consuming option - Reaching out.

  1. Source the experts in your niche. Do they have the target following and credibility? Will their audience be susceptible to your brand? 
  1. Prepare a list of your top picks and create a sheet where you’ll be monitoring the process of all negotiations and deals. 

3. Create an unique pitch. Make sure to introduce yourself so the addressee knows who’s reaching out and which brand you’re representing. State the obvious facts why you think your products will fit their lifestyle and how you differ from other brands. What always did wonders for us is highlight a few things about their presence that caught our attention. For example, a certain influencer is Youtube-native and you’re enjoying their vlogs on Youtube. Tell this person which episode was your favourite and what part of it stuck with you.

4. Send follow-ups. Always log negotiations and deals you made with each person, even if you only reached out and did not get an answer yet. Try again. And then again in 2 weeks. They might be preoccupied with other projects at the moment and missed your email or they weren’t sure if they had the time capacity to start a new collaboration just yet.

5. Always negotiate the price and deliverables. The most common mistake is closing a deal without a brief description of what your expectations are about the content. Propose the deliverables first, then negotiate a price. If you’re planning to use their content on your profiles and advertising campaigns, make sure to mention it forward and ask for content rights. 

6. Set the date of content delivery. If the content will be posted to the creator’s profile as well - ask about the expected date of posting. If you're working with macro-influencers with over 10K followers, generate a UTM link that they can include in their stories and bio. It costs you nothing to generate a UTM, but it gives you an insight into the traffic they drove to your site and how profitable this posting was for you. If you're aiming for more conversions, agree on a discount code for bigger profiles and track profitability by monitoring promo codes as well. 

Option 2: Using on-demand content creation software

The assets needed to start this campaign are as follows:

  1. A proper mood board - visual inspiration and guidelines.
  2. Content brief - describe the theme and expectations of delivered content, using simple and clear words.

After you have checked the two above, move on to opening your very first campaign and talking with content creators. Check their previous work and decide if their content style fits the vibe of your brand. Keep in mind that most content creators have a distinguished style that differentiates them from others. While they probably will be willing to follow your brand guidelines, it is still better to leave them with at least some creative freedom.

3. Having an Instagrammable product and paying loads to a mega influencer does not guarantee any conversions 

Enter the user-generated content campaign journey with a simple mindset - it will not give you a direct or measurable ROI, at least not to all extents. 

RELEVANCE x REACH x RELATIONSHIP 

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: There are no secret formulas to creating a million-dollar campaign and there are no shortcuts to discovering your winning collaboration. The sooner you start reaching out and closing deals, the sooner you can test different formats and pieces of user-generated content. 

Do your homework and explore the most influential people in your niche. For starters, aim for medium-sized profiles and find the profiles that fit your target persona best. When reaching out, be friendly and speak their language, while maintaining a professional approach at the same time. Don’t try to sell them your products at all costs and use cringe-worthy email templates. It will backfire and you will be filed directly under the “Do not answer” category. 

4. The best for the last - double down on successful collaborations and try dark posting

Scale the organic content that reached the KPIs and put it on steroids. If you can allocate more budget to the influencer marketing and UGC, work on your ambassador program. There is no formula to say how long your trial ambassador contract should last, but for starters, we recommend 3 months. In 3 months, you should receive a decent batch of content, decide if their following fits your target audience (or if they helped to reach a brand new audience group), and form a mutually satisfactory partnership. 

If you feel confident that this person should be the face of your brand, try dark posting from their profile. Influencer dark posts are ad-only purpose posts from the influencer's profile that cannot be seen on their feed. The brand does not gain control over their social media profiles, only the permission to advertise from them. Dark posting renders the conventional direct-response ads less effective. Dark posts appear more user-friendly and trustworthy and as we said at the beginning: people trust people more than they trust ads.

Additional resources:

UGC: One of the biggest secrets of 7- and 8-figure brand: https://wescale.agency/knowledge/ugc-one-of-the-biggest-secrets-of-seven-and-eight-figure-brands/ 

Contact us
Nika Pestotnik
Digital marketing specialist
WeScale Agency
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