Whether uploaded when you create a website or integrated into your social media feeds—user generated content helps audiences instantly connect with your brand. Not only that, but it can also empower other areas of your marketing strategy.
User-generated content can increase brand awareness and solidify your business as both competitive and trustworthy. But before opening your platform for customers, employees and business stakeholders to post their images, videos, audio and text, you need to know a few important components about building a user-generated content strategy.
This article will tackle the benefits, best practices and how to make user-generated content part of your marketing efforts. We'll review:
What is user-generated content?
User-generated content (UGC) is any content that didn’t originate from your brand, but rather your audience. This can refer to a range of content types—including photos, videos, reviews, comments or even blog posts. Essentially, UGC includes your brand, but your in-house marketing team doesn’t create the assets.
While this may seem like a fancy new type of marketing, user-generated content is essentially just word-of-mouth referrals for the online age. Think of a user posting about a brand’s product just like a recommendation from a friend.
In some cases, the advertised brand doesn’t sponsor user-generated content, but someone who finds inspiration in the brand or its products creates content about it. This makes it, oftentimes, feel more authentic and trustworthy than traditional advertisements. Brands can also pay for user-generated content, but this can cross over into sponsored content territory, which doesn’t touch audiences in the same organic way.
Top 4 reasons brands should implement user-generated-content
Few other content marketing forms allow you to accomplish so many goals simultaneously. From increasing traffic to your websites to interacting with customers, user-generated content can check off almost all your boxes when it comes to running branding campaigns.
Let’s dive into a few ways user-generated content can grow your company into a recognizable and profitable brand.
01. User generated content promotes authenticity and trustworthiness
In an age where most people perceive the staging and photoshopping associated with traditional advertising as inauthentic, user-generated content shines through as more transparent and trustworthy. Brands today cannot afford to overlook authenticity. In fact, 86% of consumers say authenticity drives them to decide which brands to support, and a further 81% agree that they can’t purchase from a brand that they don’t trust. Using user-generated content in campaigns to promote their brand, companies can prove their authenticity.
02. Allows potential clients to evaluate your brand
93% of consumers read reviews before committing to make a purchase. To grow a successful brand, you must collect online reviews, but that doesn’t mean you have to do with a cut-and-dry product review page. While these help customers, clients can learn about a brand or product in more engaging ways.
User-generated reviews are powerful, and their unfiltered nature resonates well with audiences. Whether an Instagram user uploads a story about their favorite coffee brand and explains what they like about it, or a YouTuber films themselves unboxing a product and showing off its features, UGC highlights the visual. It gives a potential buyer a close-up, unfiltered look at the product or service.
03. Highly affordable and effective
User-generated content won’t break the bank. Rather than pouring your social media marketing budget into creating ads, your users do it for you. Unless you offer sponsorship in exchange for content, organic user-generated content doesn’t cost a brand anything.
Given this fact, user generated content can produce a high return on investment (ROI). Asking clients to share free content online can result in increased brand awareness for your business, influencing audiences that haven’t yet converted.
04. Inspires brand loyalty
While many established brands like Coca-Cola, Starbucks and GoPro have elevated their marketing campaigns with user-generated content, newer and smaller brands can also find this strategy particularly helpful. User-generated content’s community-oriented nature can help you build up your fan base and connect with consumers. Instead of interacting with your brand from the distance of email campaigns, audiences will engage with other real customers who have tried and tested your brand.
These long-term relationships also encourage repeat sales. Through sharing content that supports your brand, they become loyal advocates for your business.
How to incorporate user-generated content into your marketing strategy
Once you’ve inspired users to generate buzz around your brand, leverage it with your own content strategy.
First, determine your goal
Before you start asking your customers for user-generated content, assess your ultimate goals to understand the best route to success. You may want to:
Create brand awareness
Increase social engagement
Cut down on marketing costs
Establish trust and credibility
Listen to users
Once you decide your goals for user-generated content, you'll decide details like which social network will be most effective or which content you’ll request from your audience.
Encourage reviews and content
When creating a UGC-based marketing campaign, make sure you know what you want.
To host a contest that requires content creation as an entry, write out clear instructions for your audience. If you want to create a hashtag that your community can use to show off their purchases, make sure to show them an example of the images or videos you’d like to see paired with the hashtag. The more specific, the better.
Give these campaigns time to grow. Just because you asked for content today doesn’t mean it’ll happen right away. These campaigns often have a snowball effect.
Create a user-generated content library
Once you’ve launched your campaign and amassed a good amount of user posts, try creating a content library for future use. You can either save users’ posts to use in your future Instagram marketing campaigns or just for when you need to fill out your feed. Many users love seeing their posts on brand pages, so once your campaign finishes, you can still use the content.
Best practices for sharing user-generated content
These content marketing tips will help you build a successful user-generated content campaign:
Search on social media
Before you begin a campaign, search on social platforms to see what user-generated content already exists. Generate authentic content ideas from there. For example, you can look up hashtags on Instagram that relate to your brand or include your brand name, search for reviews online and look at Twitter mentions of your brand.
Ask permission and give credit
Before you repost a user’s content, always ask for permission. When you do repost, always tag the creator or mention them in a caption.
Just because a lot of user-generated content stems from social media, it doesn’t need to stay there. Use your audience’s posts in promotional content on your website.
Encourage users to share content by giving them something in return. You can offer them a repost or share, a grand prize giveaway or a discount on future purchases. Be clear about your offer so users know what to expect.
Maintain your brand identity and voice
When you source content from different people and accounts, using it while keeping your brand’s voice or visual aesthetic intact can be tricky. You don’t need to reshare everything you receive. Instead, highlight the content that fits your brand and marketing style. You also don't sacrifice your goals of evergreen content, user generated content can also stand the test of time.
Examples of user-generated content to inspire your next campaign
You can do a lot with creative user-generated content. Perhaps the best way to get inspiration for your next campaign is to browse through successful content marketing examples from the past few years. Learn from these user-generated content examples below—but remember to add your own spin on things to make your brand stand out among the rest.
H&M does a good job of inspiring its customers to leave reviews and create visual content for the clothing brand. On its website, visitors will find written reviews about each clothing item. H&M encourages its shoppers to leave these reviews by offering points, which they can redeem as cash on a future purchase.
Alongside the product page and the reviews, H&M also features a “Styled by you” section which shows off user-generated content from social media demonstrating how everyday shoppers wore their pieces. This gives shoppers a solid idea of what to expect when purchasing and makes them feel like they can trust H&M.
In 2014, Starbucks launched the White Cup Contest, encouraging its fanbase to design the next special-edition Starbucks coffee cup. The brand asked its customers to put their own design on a blank cup, snap a picture of it and upload it to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag # WhiteCupContest.
The contest was born when the brand’s marketers searched through social media posts to see what customers already doodled on its white cups. Then Starbucks decided to take it one step further. The White Cup Contest resulted in thousands of creative and engaging entries from around the world.
Video content works well across social channels, like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, where users can upload stories, posts or reels to promote a brand. User-generated video content prevails on YouTube. In fact, some YouTuber dedicate their entire channels to uploading video product reviews.
In the video below, a YouTube vlogger receives a subscription box from FabFitFun. As she goes through each item one-by-one, she explains to viewers how FabFitFun’s subscription works and offers a discount code to encourage sign-ups.
Social media account takeovers
Takeovers can effectively integrate new voices into your brand’s social media pages while promoting user-generated content. In a page takeover, users will log on to your social pages to share their own posts, stories or live feed. Users will get creative freedom and a new audience to connect with, and you’ll get new and engaging content for your followers.
Weight Watchers hosted a series of Instagram takeovers featuring program members who spent a day talking about their experience with the weight-loss program. They shared stories, recipes and tips with the entire Weight Watchers community on Instagram, offering support and establishing brand trust.
When working with influencer marketing, creators will generally ask for payment beyond a sponsored item. But if they have a high (100,000+) number of engaged followers, the cost is worth the price. However, many people view this type of UGC content as less authentic, since they know the brand paid the influencer to post.
The watch brand Daniel Wellington frequently works with Instagram influencers to promote its products and expose the brand to new audiences. Since they frequently work with influencers, the brand has a near-endless source of photos to choose from.