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Guidelines to Produce the Best On-brand Influencer UGC (without stifling creativity)

A person snowboarding on a mountain peak.

The Value of Influencer User-generated Content (UGC)

Marketers are taking notice as buyers lose interest in a strictly branded approach to advertising. Authenticity is the new standard, and this disruption is notably more urgent as social channels become more popular among consumers. 

As a result, marketers have shifted their focus to online user-generated content. 

For example, experts found third-party brand mentions account for a 500% ROI on photos (according to Social Media Today). User-generated posts, videos, online reviews, tags, and hashtags cut through the noise of traditional marketing.

Influencer marketing has allowed marketers to partner with authentic voices to produce on-brand influencer UGC. Influencers, brand ambassadors, and KOLs are responsible for some of the most impactful UGC on social media. 

What is UGC?

UGC, or user-generated content, is content about your brand from outside your organization. Product reviews and social media tags are typical examples of UGC.

Within the influencer industry, nurturing authentic UGC should be the marketer’s chief goal. When followers see their favorite social media personality using and praising your products or services, many of the followers convert to customers.

Why is UGC the most valuable content available to marketers? Because it puts the customer – not the brand – first. UGC provides unfiltered insight into the quality of a brand’s products and services.

How Can You Use Influencer User-generated Content in Your Marketing Strategy?

To a degree, UGC should happen organically. Even if you are partnering professionally with influencers, the best influencer UGC is 100% genuine.

That said, there are steps you can take to leverage available UGC toward more conversions.

  • Step 1: Locate as much UGC as possible. Particularly during an influencer campaign, be sure to get links and screenshots of your influencer UGC. You can also search hashtags and tags or look for comments/shares on your branded social media posts. 
  • Step 2: Organize the UGC. After locating UGC, organizing those posts by style, color, and type can help you to repurpose those UGC posts across other channels.
  • Step 3: Identify trends. Not all UGC will have the same effect on every audience. Pay attention to which UGC posts (voice, tone, social context, etc.) get more attention than the others.
  • Step 4: Attribute UGC to influencers. When sharing UGC from influencers, give them a shoutout. You can also reach out to them directly with appreciation and an invitation to partner in future campaigns.
  • Step 5: Calculate influencer UGC engagement. One indicator of UGC authenticity is engagement. You can manually calculate engagement by dividing the number of shares and comments by the number of followers/views. If you’re using an IRM automation tool like GRIN, the software will identify engagement metrics for you. 
  • Step 6: Experiment with influencer UGC. Using trends and engagement metrics, collaborate with your influencers, and experiment with different kinds of posts. This approach will help you dial-in your on-brand influencer UGC to convert more customers.
  • Step 7: Repurpose the most successful UGC. Assuming you have the rights to do so, repurpose your top-performing UGC in your other marketing channels. On-brand influencer UGC makes great content for email newsletters, PPC ads, and more.

Guidelines to Produce On-brand Influencer UGC

Amassing the right amount and quality of on-brand influencer UGC doesn’t happen by accident. With a little intentionality, your brand can tailor your influencer program to produce the kind of UGC that converts.

Few brands illustrate this kind of on-brand influencer user-generated content as well as Lume Cube. In a recent Brands Working Remote Talking Influencers webinar, Trevor Farrow and Audrey Van Vark from Lume Cube tell the story of how they scaled their program from 50 to 450 active influencers focusing on top-notch UGC.

With the help of our friends at Lume Cube and feedback across the spectrum of GRIN clients, we’ve outlined the following critical guidelines for producing on-brand influencer UGC.

Find influencers that align with your brand.

The quality of your UGC comes down to your influencer vetting process. You should identify influencers that already exemplify the tonality and vision of your brand.

Audiences can spot inauthenticity – especially during influencer marketing campaigns. Those you select to be ambassadors for your brand should already demonstrate an organic connection to your brand.

“You want influencers that ‘talk the talk’ and ‘walk the walk’ – not just post the post.” – Katya Allison, Brands Working Remote Talking Influencers: Lume Cube + GRIN

For Lume Cube, Trevor and Audrey were able to spot this organic connection among specific kinds of influencers, such as those living the active, photography-based lifestyle. These influencers had strong engagement metrics because they focused on showing their followers how to improve their skills and overall quality of life.

“We know their stuff is awesome, and we just want them to use this tool [Lume Cube] to keep doing what they’re doing.” – Trevor Farrow, Brands Working Remote Talking Influencers: Lume Cube + GRIN

When you find the right influencers, your work as an influencer marketing manager is much more manageable. Ongoing UGC from your properly-vetted influencers happens naturally, and audiences can sense the authenticity.

Give your influencers guidance on the product/service.

Some of the best on-brand influencer UGC occurs when you give free products or complementary services to influencers

That said, don’t assume that everyone will use your products/services the right way. Taking the time to guide influencers on how to get the most out of your deliverables will be time well-invested toward authentic UGC.

Give influencers direction.

Especially with new influencers, have a conversation about expectations. Even if your only criteria is, Your posts are great – please do the same thing while incorporating my product, explicitly tell that influencer what you’re looking for.

But even in situations where your influencers need less guidance, you should help your influencers grasp your brand vision

Most successful influencer marketing managers use creative outlines to onboard new influencers. These outlines include your brand vision, as well as direction on post tone, marketing angle, and a color palette.

When you want your influencers to post is essential to your campaign objectives. Be sure to discuss timelines (or date ranges) wherein you would like an influencer to post.

Lastly, be upfront with your influencers about your campaign objectives. Your influencers will be more effective if they know you’re looking to drive sales, web traffic, brand awareness, etc.

Offer influencers examples of what you’re looking for.

If you know that a particular approach to post style will convert, share it with your influencers. 

By offering screenshots or links to posts that illustrate your expectations, your influencer will be able to flex their creativity within the right parameters.

Pull content from past campaigns that met your objectives. You can use these examples to illustrate what you’d like to see in your upcoming campaign. Discuss these examples with your influencer team and point out specific attributes that made the example post a success.

Allow influencers to be creators.

As important as it is to discuss expectations before an influencer campaign, you shouldn’t have to micromanage your influencers.

If your creative outline prevents your influencers from being able to experiment with different locations, angles, and backgrounds, you may need to relax a bit and allow room for your influencer to achieve the authenticity you seek.

Influencers are successful because of their own creative choices. If you’ve adequately vetted them, you can depend upon your influencers to be effective brand ambassadors.

Influencer Creativity = Impactful Content

Successful influencer marketing managers also collaborate with their influencers. If your organization plans to launch a major marketing initiative – such as an experiential marketing campaign – discussing creative ideas with your influencers can raise the effectiveness of your other marketing campaigns.

Measure success by your ability to repurpose UGC content.

At the beginning of your influencer program, you’re hoping that your influencers will post. And you’re likely to feel content with their willingness to work with you at all.

But before long, you’re going to prefer quality UGC over quantity. Instead of just hoping that an influencer will post, exert effort to collect UGC that can be repurposed across your owned and paid media channels.

The best influencer UGC is authentic and versatile. You will be able to reuse that content across multiple marketing channels, including branded social media, PPC ads, and email marketing.

Add IRM tools to scale your influencer UGC.

Brands like Lume Cube, MVMT Watches, and Organifi quickly learned that using spreadsheets to manage their influencer program can get overwhelming.

At first, managing your influencer relationships on spreadsheets will work. Because influencer marketing is a data-driven approach, you must keep track of your influencers and critical campaign metrics.

But to scale your influencer relationship management (IRM) team like a pro, you will eventually need a platform that can automate all the time-consuming parts of your influencer program.

For example, spreadsheets do not help you create campaign briefs and creative outlines. With GRIN’s IRM platform, you have scores of campaign templates and content filters to choose from. You can select the template best-suited for your campaign, customize it to your brand, and send to your influencers.

Manual tools for influencer campaign tracking do not usually help you with qualitative metrics – such as campaigns based on color, style, and product attributes. When you need to guide your influencers onto the right aesthetic, the influencer automation tools you choose should save you time and increase the effectiveness of your campaign.

Conclusion: Give Influencers Creative Freedom to Produce Authentic UGC

Authentic, on-brand influencer UGC will flow naturally from influencers that are fully aligned with your brand. When your influencer outreach targets those individuals that embody the lifestyle you wish to promote, you can trust them to create the kind of UGC that will meet (or surpass) your expectations.

You must find a balance between guidance/direction and creative freedom. Partnering with your influencers means holding respect for their creative genius while supporting their efforts to promote your brand. 

As you gain more experience, you’ll grow in your ability to anticipate the needs of your influencers while also choosing those influencers best-aligned to your brand.

This article originally appeared in the Grin.co blog and has been published here with permission.

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