User-generated content (UGC) is quickly becoming one of the most efficient ways for brands to market themselves.

No longer is UGC viewed as a niche that brands try every so often. It’s fast becoming a regular fixture in content strategies of marketing teams worldwide.

Not only do companies value content created by ‘regular’ people, but audiences now have a platform to vocalise their voice. Content creators, brand ambassadors, fans – whatever you want to call them – are becoming the lifeblood of businesses.

UGC wins and provides companies with a layer of authenticity big-budget campaigns can’t guarantee. Influencer marketing is the fastest growing channel for customer acquisition.

Businesses make around £5 for every £0.75p invested in influencer marketing. 93% of marketers say they see improved results. 92% of consumers heed advice from people they know for referrals above any other source.

87% of brands use UGC as a medium for providing ‘authentic content’. 72 percent believe it creates stronger engagements with audiences. 20% of millennials say UGC is more influential than any other media.

It’s clear to see the impact UGC has on brands trying to strike a connection on a deeper level with their audiences.

Here’s how to use the right UGC tactics to increase engagement and improve ROI.

1: Authenticity rules

Visuals have been at the forefront of marketing ever since billboard ads in the 40s and 50s.  The TV boom only solidified its position as a bona fide way to capture people’s imagination. It’s no surprise to find that after 70-odd years of advertising, audiences became weary of seeing the same thing over and over.

The rise of social media has afforded a voice to the everyday consumer. Now brands are tapping into that voice because of its legitimacy. Non-professionals offer an air of authenticity that contrived marketing campaigns struggle to capture.

It doesn’t matter if it’s reaching out directly to influencers or using a UGC marketplace, a new wave of content has come to the fore, one that is hard to replicate in marketing boardrooms.

2: It’s more than marketing

UGC offers a form of engagement like no other because it’s talking directly with its target market, a ground-level community where conversations between brand and consumer arise.

Trust building is an after effect of successful UGC. Website visitors and social media browsers – people who come across brands and see their dedication to UGC – feel more warmth towards projects.

The result is a community of people who interact and champion products and services. Not because they feel obliged, though. Instead, a feeling of affiliation emerges, which forms the spine of brand ambassadors and influencers.

3: Conversation starter

It can be hard to find a connection in a 30-second advert – especially when you know actors are playing a role. The same goes for deriving emotion from a photograph that is clearly staged. UGC avoids such problems.

Identifying with UGC accomplishes more because we know that the people behind it are like us. Brands evoke emotional responses from their audience with content that speaks to them rather than at them. For years brands said they wanted to have a conversation with their customers but didn’t know how to do it. UGC and social media have provided the platform.

4: Budgets

UGC can be relatively inexpensive – and even free if you go straight to social media. Of course, any company reaching out to content creators must get permission to use their work.

It can prove tricky – and time-consuming – to reach out to each social media user. That’s why most companies invite their followers directly. They ask them to send photos with specific hashtags that act as a way to let them use the content.

Another way to get around the licensing issues is by using a UGC marketplace. Content creators list their work so brands and the media can purchase it without worrying about legalities.

5: Have a UGC-dedicated webpage

When a brand is in full flow, connecting with its audience, the stream of UGC is constant. Dedicated websites for UGC are worth exploring at this point, ones that offer a home for fans to tell their story through the brand.

A web page offers a dedicated place where people can go to see peer interactions, drive traffic and generate even more conversations.

There are many different ways to incorporate your audiences, such as photo content competitions and guest blog posts from brand ambassadors. Having a dedicated webpage or website creates a feeling of belonging.

Everyday people provide authenticity, something that businesses struggle to do by themselves. The costs are relatively cheaper than regular marketing spends, and conversations come thick and fast. The visuals create an atmosphere staged photography can’t.

UGC is the driving force behind many campaigns, whether you’re using hashtags on social media or dipping into dedicated marketplaces. The future of marketing is already upon us, and it’s generated by everyday users.