User-Generated Content: What It Is and How to Leverage It

User-generated content, or UGC, is an effective — and inexpensive — marketing tool. As the name suggests, UGC is content created by a brand’s users, who are unpaid consumers, rather than by the brand itself. Want to know how your business can leverage UGC to boost your brand and connect with customers? We’ll tell you.

What Is User-Generated Content?

UGC can come in lots of different forms. Basically, anywhere your users are talking about your brand is potential UGC. For instance, one of your customers might photograph your product and post it on Instagram with a complimentary comment — that’s UGC. Maybe a customer wrote a review of your product on your website, that’s UGC too. Other methods can be videos, blog posts, testimonials, social posts, letters to the editor, live streams and even podcasts.

80% of consumers report that UGC impacts their buying decisions more than other kinds of marketing content

These ordinary people — not professional marketers — often tag the brand they’re discussing, but not always. So marketers need to keep a lookout for quality UGC, whether or not users tag them.

Examples of User-Generated Content Campaigns

In 2014, Starbucks launched the White Cup Contest. The competition asked users to put on their artist hats, decorate a white Starbucks cup and then submit a photo of their design using the hashtag #WhiteCupContest. In three weeks, Starbucks received over 4,000 entries. The winner’s design was then available for purchase as a limited-edition reusable plastic cup.

Another example of great UGC comes from the beloved brand Lego. Its Lego Ideas marketing campaign asked users to submit their own ideas for a brand-new Lego set. However, the user with the big idea has to independently gain the support of 10,000 other people in order for Lego to even consider the design.

Parachute, known for their plush towels and bedding, uses UGC in its traditional ad campaigns, reducing ad spend significantly. Using the #MyParachuteHome hashtag, the brand asks users to submit photos of their living spaces decorated with Parachute products. The brand features real people and their homes on insert cards packed in customer orders, digital ad campaigns and more.

Why User-Generated Content is Good for Your Brand

Leveraging your UGC gives customers the opportunity to participate with your brand rather than being a spectator. This increases their engagement, brand loyalty and allows them to be part of the community.

Additionally, this modern form of word-of-mouth marketing is more influential than traditional efforts: 80% of consumers report that UGC impacts their buying decisions more than other kinds of marketing content, according to Stackla.

UGC provides a human approach to your marketing and helps to build trust between you and your customers. Not only can it provide you with free marketing content, UGC can also offer brands diverse and creative content and a look into what their customers truly want.

5 Ways to Leverage User-Generated Content

First things first, before you can actually use any of your UGC, you need to ask for the user’s permission. Send a simple direct message or an email to the creator to get their approval to repost their content.

1. Ask customers for reviews

On your website and social posts, invite users to review your products. You can then use the comments as featured quotes on your website or on a testimonial page.

2. Encourage your staff to participate

According to Weber Shandwick, 33% of employees will post messages, pictures, or videos about their employer without any encouragement from their company, but with direct company encouragement, that increased to 50%.

3. Publish a guest column or blog

A great idea, especially for member organizations, this gives subject matter experts within your membership an opportunity to support your content program and increase their own visibility and recognition.

4. Create a hashtag contest

Similar to the #WhiteCupContest, you can create a hashtag then ask users to submit photos with your products using the hashtag. Encourage participation by offering a prize to the winner.

5. Use UGC in email campaigns

Include images of users’ social posts or quote reviews and testimonials in an email campaign to customers asking them to subscribe and share their own photos.

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