User-Generated Content for Brands: A Beginner’s Guide

Everything you need to know about user-generated content and how to incorporate it into your next marketing campaign.

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We’ve all been there, sitting down at a restaurant or shopping at a store, and someone takes out their phone to photograph every detail of their lives. After all, the phone eats first, right?

As marketers, how can we begin to take advantage of the endless reviews, endorsements, social media posts, and other material posted online? There’s a straightforward answer – user-generated content.

What Is User-Generated Content?

You’ve likely seen hundreds of examples of user-generated content (UGC) in your nightly Instagram scroll – but what exactly is user-generated content?

User-generated content refers to any content produced by a consumer instead of a company or brand. If you have ever seen a brand, politician, or company executive re-posting photos, comments, or videos from an individual user, then you have witnessed user-generated content in action.

Why You Should Use User-Generated Content

By not taking advantage of UGC content, you could be losing out on an increased volume of organic content tailored to your consumers.

User-generated content also far surpasses consumer trust levels when compared to brand-generated content. Seventy-Nine percent of people today say UGC “highly impacts” their buying decisions, while only thirteen percent say the same about brand-generated content.

Take, for example, Andy Grammer’s 2014 music video, “Honey, I’m Good.” Grammer received over 100 million views. His video was a compilation of user-submitted clips with their loved ones. The comments flooded with viewers sharing stories of their loved ones and discussing the genuineness of the song, proving the impact of user-generated content.

Types of User-Generated Content

Whether you’re trying to generate awareness, engagement, or trust – user-generated content can be a potent tool.

User-Generated Content for Branding

Building a successful brand online involves crafting an image and story that communicates your identity to consumers. Your branding is the direct liaison between your company and your users, which is why UGC is a powerful tool for marketing efforts.

Patagonia may just take the cake when it comes to the strategic use of user-generated content. Through stunning user-submitted photos taken in nature and their company blog, “The Cleanest Line,” Patagonia creates a clear identity of grand adventure. Because of the significant presence of UGC throughout their posts, their social feeds don’t feel like a brand’s page; it feels like a community.

See more big companies who are crushing their social media here.

User-Generated Content for Product Advertisement

If your next marketing goal is to promote a specific product or service, user-generated content should be one piece of your marketing plan. You want consumers to know that your product exists and that it works and is worth their money.

According to a recent study, only 8% of the public trusts corporate advertising. With trust in marketing decreasing every year, presenting customers with the information they can trust is crucial. If consumers do not trust traditional brand advertising, then brands should include real customers in their advertisements.

One company proving this theory is GoPro. Nearly all of GoPro’s social content is user-generated. Every post has a caption outlining the specific product used to make the photo or video and a slew of company-themed hashtags others can use to share similar content. These posts accomplish two major goals: product advertisement and generating engagement. Each post from GoPro serves as an example of product capability and a consumer review.

User-Generated Content for Audience Engagement
Engaged audiences are more likely to interact, share and interact with any of your digital content. It enhances the ability of your audience to learn and connect on a deeper level, creating higher customer satisfaction and general word-of-mouth for your brand.

The key to using UGC to drive engagement lies behind inclusion. Your audience wants to actively participate in the conversation with brands they love. They want to win a contest, be retweeted, and have their picture shared on your website – they want to be involved in this brand they trust.

Lay’s does a great job of capitalizing on the use of UGC for audience engagement. Through their “Do Us a Flavor” contest, the potato chip company asks customers to submit flavors they would like to see on their next bag of chips. The company first launched this campaign back in 2012, receiving over 3.8 million submissions in the first year of the contest alone. Since then, the contest has been run several times, resulting in over 30 new flavors, all from user-generated ideas.

User-Generated Content for Political Campaigns

User-generated content plays a vital role in political campaigns. Campaigns need to build an audience of supporters that trust them and will get out and vote and donate their time or money. User-generated content in politics establishes this trust by showing real people involved in the campaign – sharing tagged event posts, soliciting endorsements, and quoting supporters. UGC bridges the divide between voters and candidates.

There are hundreds of different ways to incorporate UGC into your political campaign, but here are just a few of our favorites:

  • Retweeting words of support or endorsements from voters
  • Replying to comments on your posts
  • Sharing quotes and stories from your voters
  • Retweeting photos from campaign and community events
  • Incorporating positive voter feedback into campaign ads and materials
  • Retweeting photos and declarations of people going to vote or mailing in their ballot

As always, test different methods, measure the results, and iterate on what’s working best for your campaign.

How to Moderate User-Generated Content

Not every piece of content posted with your hashtag, tagged to your account, or submitted to your contest will be viable. There may be content presented that does not represent your brand in any fashion. This is why moderating the UGC you share is crucial. Here are four simple steps to ensure you’re only getting UGC that’s right for you:

  1. Is it appropriate? – Step one! Immediately toss out submissions with crude language or content that is unbecoming to your brand.
  2. Is it on message? – Does the content reinforce the message you are trying to convey? Even some compliments can be off-message – a luxury brand doesn’t want to be labeled “a great value,” for example.
  3. Is it quality? – When using brand-generated content, the quality of content tends to be high thanks to professional equipment and resources. UGC, however, provides you with a vast array of material, quality varying. So, is the quality good enough to not distract from the message? Consider typos in text, photo-editing skills, video quality, and photo background before you reshare.
  4. Do you have permission? – Don’t forget this critical step. Before deciding to use or change UGC, you first need to get permission from the original creator of the content.

If the content passes all four steps, add it to your final pile and get ready to post!

Want more advice for your next digital campaign? Let us help you! Check out our content marketing services or get in touch with us today!

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