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How to Track and Measure ROI on your User Generated Content

A young woman measuring ROI on user generated content.

Are you tired of spending time and money on copy and ad designs that fall flat and fail to have an impact? This is a common problem for marketers today. Customers have to sift through so much noise to hear your brand message.

But if you’re watching other brands that have a great connection to their audience, you know deep down that it is possible to experience the same. One marketing approach that is currently outperforming others is influencer marketing. 

The user generated content that influencers post can be incredibly impactful because of their authentic connection with their community of followers. Brands that leverage user generated content see a positive return on investment.

In this complete guide to tracking and measuring user generated content ROI, we will help you define a reliable strategy for you and your marketing team.

A Quick Overview of User Generated Content ROI

What is User Generated Content (UGC)?

Technically, all content on social media is user-generated. However, we mean something more specific when talking about UGC within the influencer and marketing community.

UGC is a third party mention of your brand online. It is any content arising from outside your organization and is perhaps the most valuable digital marketing tool at your disposal. 

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

A brand using marketing that pounds its own chest will not get the same reaction from consumers as will unbranded voices sharing authentic feedback. 

Social Media Today found that “user generated photos are 5x more likely to convert customers than non-UGC.”

Similarly, 3dcart – an eCommerce services provider – asserts that “70% of all consumers will look to reviews or ratings before making a purchasing decision, with at least 41% of consumers reading 4-7 reviews in their quest for product information.”

Consumers can increase your brand awareness through tagging your business, sharing hashtags, checking-in at a business location, creating videos, and more. Once you learn how to harness this content for increased engagement, your UGC will bring an impressive return on investment.

UGC as Part of an Influencer Marketing Program

UGC is the content you get from running an influencer marketing program and forms the backbone for influencer success.

Influencers create content on behalf of another brand, usually in cooperation with an established influencer marketing campaign. Your brand’s ability to create and track UGC through influencer marketing requires careful influencer relationship management.

“An influencer is not merely a marketing ‘gun for hire.’ Influencers care deeply about endorsing quality products and services that will help them and members of their audience” (Relationship Marketing – The Art of Influence and Experience).

That said, more and more brands are learning how to nurture relationships with their influencer team and expand their brand awareness.

Influencers Versus Creators

Many social media channels (like Instagram) view influencers and creators as one and the same.

Other social channels and experts distinguish the two. Influencers are those that build an online community through social media, blogs, and vlogs to connect with a niche audience and promote products/services. They are businesspeople. 

Some say that Creators focus more on content curation over brand affiliate partnerships. Still, most creators are influencers to a degree.

Perhaps a helpful middle ground is to view creators as those influencers with more authentic content and a deeper connection with their audience. Thus, UGC is most effective when originating from creator influencers. 

What User Generated Content Does for Your Marketing Strategy

Chances are, you have UGC out in the digital space regardless of whether or not you are running an influencer marketing program. For digital marketers, it is vital to stay on top of what is being posted about your brand and not underestimate the significance of that content.

The danger of underestimating your UGC is two-fold:

  • You may have a lot of negative sentiment floating around your target market. Knowing the substance of that sentiment provides you the opportunity to do something about it and improve your brand sentiment.
  • You likely have excited customers giving you unsolicited word-of-mouth. By ignoring it, you miss incredible opportunities to showcase that UGC and attract a host of new customers.

You should take the time to examine UGC. We will show you how and also provide you best practices for using and earning more UGC.

Stating Your Marketing Objectives

Whenever you calculate return on investment (ROI), you need to establish your objectives.

The best ROI tactics in business go more in-depth than reviewing sales objectives. You will get better results if you know all the moving parts that result in achieving those higher sales numbers.

For example, your customers take a journey from brand awareness to purchase. Do you know what this looks like within each customer segment? When you understand the steps they take – the number of pages visited, adding products to lists/carts, responding to promotions, etc. – you can create user milestones. These milestones track your customers through their entire journey before they decide to make the purchase.

The milestones within your customer segments become your objectives. You can also view them as key performance indicators (KPIs). Each objective, milestone, or KPI demonstrates how your customer inches closer to a sale.

UGC ROI should be closely aligned with your customers’ journey. Armed with this customer data, you will be able to know with precision when, how, where, and why your customers buy from you. Each milestone becomes an objective all its own, allowing you to calculate tangible ROI at all times.

Collaborative Relationships with Customers

After establishing your objectives and understanding your customer journey, you can collaborate with – rather than pander to or talk at – your customers.

Properly leveraged, UGC tends to stimulate more UGC. By working together with your customers, you will lower your costs, generate higher sales, and leave your customers feeling more empowered than if you had leaned upon outdated marketing techniques.

Some brands grow defensive at the idea of encouraging UGC because you are asking someone to represent your brand without controlling how or what they say. But how much sense does it really make to silence consumers that already love you?

In contrast, allowing your customers to publicly tell you (and others) why you are great and where you can improve is the purest relationship you can possibly attain with your audience. The authenticity achieved through your UGC strategy will endear customers to your brand.

How User Generated Content Can Be Used in Your Marketing Funnel

Another term for “customer journey” is “marketing funnel.” 

At the top, your funnel is wide, and your goal is to attract attention. As leads become prospects and prospects become customers, your funnel shrinks from top to bottom, guiding your audience toward a purchasing decision. 

Awareness Stage

The top of your funnel is the awareness stage. Your goal is to inform, attract, and otherwise spark interest among audience members that don’t yet know that your brand exists.

Whether or not you incentivize it, UGC aids the awareness stage in a remarkable way. Customers entering your funnel as a result of UGC feel a more profound sense of trust and excitement than those that stumbled upon your brand by accident.

Engagement Stage

After audience members arrive on your digital channels, your goal is to generate more engagement. 

Engagement is not the same as posting ads. Instead, it is encouraging conversations with members of your target audience. It doesn’t matter who starts the conversation: the key is to keep it going.

Customers engaged in UGC are fast-tracked, in a sense. They’ve either initiated or joined a positive conversation about your brand among peers. Instead of static ads seeking to persuade people to buy, communities form around these robust online conversations within which your brand is a hot topic.

Evaluation/Consideration Stage

Business today cannot rely solely on word-of-mouth. At some point, brands must engage consumers, but this is best done after UGC has generated brand awareness and meaningful engagement.

During the consideration stage – the point in time when customers are on the brink of a buying decision – your marketing strategy should begin to include outbound techniques.

More than any other stage, it is vital that brands know how to close their customers in the consideration stage. Brands should use calls-to-action (CTAs), limited-time offers, and streamlined checkout tools to make it easy (and fun) for customers to buy and create UGC of their own.

How To Track Your User Generated Content

After creating objectives and assigning those objectives within the correct stages of your marketing/sales funnel, it is time to begin tracking your UGC.

Gather the Numbers

The first step is to locate as much UGC as possible. Gather the number of branded tags, hashtags, and comments on branded channels. You can also Google your brand’s name and see if any UGC pops up in search results.

Using an influencer marketing software like GRIN will help you collect brand UGC. But if you lack a software tool, you can get started using a spreadsheet.

Gathering the numbers is labor intensive when done manually, but it is the best way to get a full scope of your UGC ROI.

Once you’ve found UGC, begin tracking how many UGC posts there are each month. Next, draw connections between UGC and any follower count increases. 

For example, your company’s Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn follower counts likely increase as a result of UGC on each respective social media channel. By noting how many new followers a UGC post adds to your profile, you can see a tangible increase in brand awareness.

Photos and videos are currently the most engaging forms of digital content. Identifying posts in these formats can help you find the most essential UGC.

Just as you made the connection between UGC and increased follower counts, take note of how many product orders each post generates. This allows you to set a dollar value to each post. Especially for influencer marketers, this is a critical metric.

Organize the UGC

When tracking your UGC, it can be helpful to your marketing team to categorize each post by:

  • Style (color, format, mood, etc.)
  • Quality (level of active engagement)
  • Audience
  • Influencer/creator
  • Season
  • The social context/conversation wherein the UGC took place (social media groups, forums, etc.)

Properly organizing your content will further help you identify which UGC will be the most impactful.  And this information can guide ongoing marketing and product development decisions.

Identify Trends

When we say “trends,” we are referring to how engaging each UGC post was to consumers. The best way to identify trends is by the engagement duration of each post. How many comments and shares did one post spark, and for how long?

By identifying these trends, you will better understand what makes your customers tick. You can use this information later in your next influencer campaign or when repurposing content for paid advertising.

Attribute UGC to Influencers

As part of a larger influencer marketing campaign, you will need to accurately attribute UGC to the right influencers.

If you’re using an influencer tracking tool like GRIN, you’ll be able to access this attribution and engagement information easily. What you’re most after is how well influencer UGC resonates with members of their audience.

For influencers that you’ve given an affiliate link, you want to track order efficiency. That is, how well do an influencer’s posts facilitate conversions (such as claiming a discount, sign-ups/subscriptions, or making a regular purchase)?

How Do You Measure Your User Generated Content

After tracking and sorting your UGC data, it’s time to measure them against your objectives. How well are you meeting your objectives? Is there a gap or disconnect between your stated goals and UGC results?

Growth in Brand Awareness

The most basic measurement is to identify boosts in follower counts and webpage visits. These numbers show you how well UGC has increased your brand awareness.

Calculate Engagement

Calculating meaningful engagement from your UGC is the most important metric to have. GRIN’s influencer relationship management platform will also do this automatically. But you can calculate engagement rates manually if you prefer.

First, add up the average number of engagements (i.e., comments and shares) per UGC post.

Total Number of UGC Posts /  Average Number of Engagements =  UGC Engagement Rate

This metric will help you identify how easily your UGC nurtures excitement among your audience segments.

To identify an influencer’s engagement rate, take the influencer’s number of posts mentioning your brand and divide that number by how many people follow the influencer. See the formula below:

Total of Influencer Posts /  Number of Influencer Followers =  Influencer Engagement Rate

This metric establishes how far that influencer’s voice currently reaches on your brand’s behalf.

A/B Testing

If you’ve developed relationships with your influencers, you can test different messaging, post placement, landing page designs, and styles (for example, picture and color changes) to dial in maximum engagement.

For A/B testing, make sure to establish a baseline post/landing page design as your control. Compare each variation’s results against your control design.

If your organization has the resources to invest in click map or heat map software, you will be able to observe audience response in greater detail. This technology tracks where users tap, scroll, and click on a post or page.

Even without click mapping, you should still notice changes in comments, shares, follower counts, and sales resulting from the different designs/formats you’ve tested.

Repurposing UGC for Paid Ads

While you can follow, foster, and optimize your UGC with the help of influencers, you have another powerful medium to further leverage your UGC.

Some of the best paid ads online are repurposed UGC posts. So long as you have the individual’s permission that posted on your brand’s behalf, you have the opportunity to transform your PPC program.

How User Generated Content Increases Your Digital Marketing ROI

Your UGC can be one critical piece to a broader digital marketing strategy. One of the most effective ways to take advantage of UGC is to repurpose it for paid ads.

Content is Authentic

UGC – particularly posts that launched ongoing engagement – are “consumer-approved.” As such, UGC is authentic and more attractive to consumers. 

UGC is Cheaper and Lowers Ad Cost

UGC lowers the cost of hiring a designer to create an ad that you want to run. It also lowers your ad cost, because ads built around UGC perform better. With better performance, you get more exposure, which in turn lowers your cost-per-click.

As a result, you get more “bang for your buck” since UGC is non-branded and created by fellow consumers. Also, you get more variety allowing you to test different ad messages and styles to further lower your costs.

Identify New Markets

When tracking UGC, you’re more likely to notice different markets and lifestyle niches with which your brand resonates. This information will inform your marketing efforts as you widen your target audience.

Additionally, UGC will help you identify new influencers within these new markets and lifestyle niches.  

Instagram UGC on Facebook Ads Manager

Instagram is the leading platform for influencer marketers. The platform caters to influencers/creators to forge more authentic relationships between influencers and their followers.

As such, Facebook Ads Manager makes it simple for marketing teams to repurpose Instagram UGC for paid advertising.

Ground Testing for Product Positioning

If your brand plans to launch new products, your UGC affords you critical data to help you target the right customer segments. Additionally, UGC shows you how you’re different from or similar to your competitors.

Product Feedback (in Real-time)

UGC tells you what customers really think. Influencers have a responsibility to be honest with their audience. However, they are going to make a considerable effort to be professional and positive in their feedback.

User Generated Content ROI: A Recap

In a quick recap of the UGC ROI guide, we discussed:

  • What UGC is
  • Why UGC matters to your marketing strategy
  • How to track and measure UGC
  • How to elicit more UGC with the help of influencers
  • How to repurpose UGC for better performing paid ads

Your brand will connect with and excite your audience by encouraging UGC. By teaming up with influencers, you will be able to have even more say in where, when, and what kind of UGC to expect. Further, your influencers will be able to collaborate with you on all future UGC.

For more information on influencer ROI and using the right influencer relationship management (IRM) tools, here are some additional resources:

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

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