Mark Zuckerberg announced a new feature to his social network in 2007 that would change the buying landscape permanently. At the time, most brands thought of it as an innovative advertising platform. Facebook Ads would undoubtedly give brands a new channel to reach their consumers.

What we didn’t realize was that one day, that advertising platform wouldn’t be just a channel for ads. As “Shop Now” buttons make their way onto Instagram posts, pins on Pinterest, Twitter, TikTok, and other social media sites, the future of shopping is becoming apparent. The online buying journey is very much driven by the use of social media in eCommerce.

Once again, Facebook is at the helm. In 2020, Zuckerberg announced Facebook Shops, a mobile-first shopping Facebook feature that gives businesses the ability to create an online store on Facebook and Instagram for free. In collaboration with Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and more—Facebook started the pivot towards building an entire buying experience that rarely, if ever, leaves its platform. One-click can help a customer check out directly on the social platform or take them directly to the product page after seeing the price and product description.

Retailers that have spent hours, weeks, and months of their years trying to build their marketing strategy across Google paid ads, Instagram ads, and website conversions all linked together now have additional opportunities to drive awareness and create new customers.

Campaign efforts have to focus on creating the most conversion-friendly social content possible. Fancy ads mimicking Super Bowl commercials used to impress consumers in the past, but nowadays, internet users want to see real customers talking about products.

They care less about paid, strategically attractive actors and more about the real people using the products and what they have to say about it. A customer review holds more weight than a scripted commercial. Seventy percent of consumers will consider user-generated content reviews and ratings before making a purchase decision.

As the shopping experience stays on mobile, user-generated content is becoming more essential than ever before. Let’s take a look at how companies are using user-generated content in their social media marketing and eCommerce strategies.

Rising Trends in Social Media eCommerce

User-generated content (UGC) is a photo, video, review, testimonial, or comment created by customers about a brand, product, or service. It can be created organically by happy customers, through paid influencer marketing, or by employees. The key to user-generated content is that it isn’t coming from the brand’s marketing team. It’s coming from the people interacting with the brand, either as a customer, an influencer, or an employee.

Aside from saving brand’s money by not having to hire a dedicated content producer (an average $72,000 per year cost), UGC creates a constant stream of new content that performs better than the content they used to pay to create. eCommerce brands use UGC as a sustainable content strategy from the budget side and as high-converting content from the social media strategy side.

Using a platform to find UGC online, automatically request rights to use it, organize it through AI tagging, repurpose it for all necessary social channels, and publish it, brands create a watermill for their content. Users create content; they repurpose it. Users create content; they repurpose it, and so on, creating a mill of high-quality content that can be tagged to become shoppable.

Shoppable UGC is repurposed from a customer, paid influencer, or employee and given product tags that allow a social media viewer to buy the product right there and then. Here’s an example of Shoppable UGC in action by The Five-Minute Journal:

Social Media in eCommerce buyers journey

In this example, The Five-Minute Journal repurposed content from @MireYang and placed a product tag on their journal. Viewers can click on that tag, get product information about The Five-Minute Journal, and then go directly to The Five-Minute Journal product page to checkout.

The other trend we see in the social commerce space is the rise of UGC product testimonials.

UGC product testimonials are either created organically by customers or in paid collaboration with influencers. For example, MudWtr uses product testimonials on their Instagram profile paired with high-quality images of their products. Here’s a recent Instagram post and caption:

Social Media in eCommerce testimonial

The rise of user-generated content in advertisements has created a flywheel of never-ending, high-quality content that converts better than expensive, brand curated content. We’re watching the shift in business and consumer behavior because of it.

How Social Media Helps eCommerce Business and Consumers

Marketers are always looking for their next flywheel—the strategy that runs on its own and continues to drive brand discovery to becoming a customer. User-generated content puts some serious momentum behind social commerce.

  • What happens when brands don’t spend time or money making their own content and replace it with repurposed UGC?
  • What’s the long-term revenue impact on using UGC vs. traditional, company-made advertisements?
  • How does this impact customer service, loyalty, and retention?

What happens is a UGC-powered social commerce program that spins faster than any content flywheels have been able to in the past.

As UGC is created, brands can collect and organize it. They can create automated systems that repurpose that UGC across channels (after getting the rights to use it).

Brands use customer voices to talk about products and boost promotions. Ads based on user-generated content receive 4 times higher click-through rates and a 50% drop in cost-per-click compared to average ads. →

Customer recommendations get repurposed across the brand’s platforms, and customers reshare themselves being featured on that brand’s page. Customers become loyal to the brands who recognize them and show gratitude for their purchase. All of this happens without a content team creating brand new content and instead focusing on showcasing their customers as the main characters of their brand.

Brands are already taking advantage of the new social commerce changes incentivizing their customers to create engaging content for them (and it performs better than company created content!).

How To Gain an Advantage in Social Commerce

The best way to take advantage of social media in eCommerce is to get your flywheel set up. Create a place where you’ll collect customer testimonials, reviews, and social media content and organize it according to topic or product. For example, you’ll want your UGC organized with:

  • UGC images or videos taken directly after a transaction takes place
  • UGC images or videos of customers unboxing your products
  • Customer testimonials about the result a person got from their product (ex. How they liked the fit of a swimsuit, how they liked the taste of their coffee, how they enjoyed their stay at a hotel, etc.)
  • UGC images or videos specific to each product you sell and tags that differentiate content about one product from another

You can add more hashtags as you want, but starting with these will help you organize your UGC by the 3 most exciting stages of the buying journey and by product.

Once you have your UGC organized, you can repurpose it as ads and social content. Create shoppable social media experiences by tagging your products with product tags so users can shop them, as we showed in the examples above. These tags will live on your social platforms.

Your campaigns and contests can work around bringing visibility to social media users that promote your products, and include nano-influencers and micro-influencers with high-engagement (7%+ engagement rates). You can also add new revenue streams like a swag shop to incentivize your audience to share your content in return for winning swag.

For example, Morning Brew incentivized their audience to get 5 people to subscribe to their newsletter by giving away a pair of Morning Brew joggers.

Not only did this incentivize Morning Brew’s audience to share their referral link with 5 people, but it also promoted creating UGC around getting 5 people to sign up with their link.

Social Media in eCommerce joggers thank you tweet

Using UGC, brands (like Morning Brew) can create viral moments with their audience with a $0 content production cost.

When Mark Zuckerberg decided that he would monetize his social platform through ads, even most marketers hadn’t realized what the future held. One day, they’d be able to pull their customer’s content from social media, repurpose it on their channels, use it to sell their products, and create a special interaction with themselves and their customers that hadn’t been utilized before.

That time is here, and brands are already shifting over to the social commerce model. They’re capitalizing on user-generated content and creating the most sustainable, remote content production their companies have ever seen.

Met with higher conversion rates, the future of shopping is in the consumers’ voice—and the brands that give them a platform to share it.

Join TINT and Searchspring to learn more about the hottest trends to drive conversions and keep eCommerce sales going well beyond the holiday season.