7 Ways Brands Can Leverage User-Generated Content

7 Ways Brands Can Leverage User-Generated Content

We are watching a real-time shift in the social media sphere. Virtually gone are the days of a super curated feed, with gorgeous pictures and templatized graphics.

While some brands still thrive in this “aesthetic,” how we consume content is changing. More and more people are creating content and less-produced, “day in the life” content is thriving.

This is good news for brands, even if you’ve historically created content more on the more polished, planned side. Why?

This gives you a chance to lean into UGC — user-generated content — in a way that builds community, showcases your offers, and even limits the drain on your internal resources.

Why UGC matters in today’s social media landscape

Hold your pants for the stats:

  • According to Salesforce, social campaigns that incorporate UGC see a 50% lift in engagement.
  • According to Stackla, 79% of people say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions.
  • According to ComScore, brands see a 28% increase in engagement when they share a mixture of professional marketing content and user-generated content.

Another important stat? Only 16% of brands have a UGC strategy. That leaves a whole gaping window of opportunity for your brand to stand out, build community, and see traction.

What is UGC… and how can you share it?

Creating user-generated content isn’t the same as creating content in-house. At least, not in the sense you might imagine.

You can absolutely create UGC yourself, leveraging your in-house social media team or employees. But the focus is different.

Rather than creating super-polished content that looks directly from your marketing department, user-generated content:

  • Usually involves photo or video shot with a smartphone
  • Focuses on a product or service and how the end user interacts with it
  • Is, by nature, optimized for social 

UGC is also not super time-intensive; most content can be shot and shared in just a few minutes.

Think about the last time you bought a piece of clothing from an online store. Did you get a card or insert in the package that said “Snap a pic and share on Instagram. Tag us @____”? This is a low lift — whether it’s for a customer or your internal team.

Ask social media managers to take pictures of your product or share behind-the-scenes of what it’s like to work in your office. They can tag your brand’s account and you can share it. Boom, done.

Of course, that’s just one use case. Hopefully, you have willing buyers or clients who want to contribute UGC into your social media strategy. If you do, here are a few ideas.

Ideas for creating and sharing UGC

There are virtually limitless ways to create and share UGC. Depending on how familiar you are with UGC and how much is required to get the ball rolling on this strategy, you can pick and choose from the list below.

Product demonstrations

If you don’t have consumers willing to create or share UGC for your brand, product demonstrations are going to be your UGC BFF. Demonstrate how your team uses your products — or how you work on a project, if your brand is service-oriented. This could be in the form of tutorial videos, unboxing experiences, or “snapshots” of your day.

Just make sure that you’re creating content in a “UGC way,” eliminating a ton of scripting, professional lighting, etc. You want these videos or posts to look organic.

Note: If you’re posting these product demonstrations on YouTube or planning to put ad spend behind them, a little extra polish is OK.

Tag & share

Arguably one of the lowest-hanging fruit when it comes to UGC: The Tag & Share Story Strategy. Simply ask your audience to tag you when they visit your store, try on their new outfit, use your product, or work with your team on a service-based project.

You can put this on a printed card they’ll see with their product delivery, in a post-purchase email, or as a follow-up to services rendered. Customers and clients can share their experience with your brand — and all you have to do is share the post to your feed or Story.

One of our favorite examples? Burton did this for their “Day for Jake” campaign. They asked followers to tag them and use @burton & @burtonsnowboards and shared posts to their Story.

Note: If you use Instagram, you can even create a UGC highlight (just make sure to name it something sexier than “UGC”)

Polls & questions

Virtually every social platform has a polls feature. Polls and surveys are a fantastic way to engage your audience and to capture some really organic UGC. Encourage followers to participate and share their thoughts or opinions on your offers, or on a topic related to them.

For example, a skincare product could poll its audience to ask who has used its newest product. This creates FOMO and serves as UGC to promote the new product drop.

You can also use question stickers or boxes on Instagram to ask questions like, “What’s one [insert your brand name] product you never leave home without?” This generates UGC in the form of comments and responses, and it also shows that you value your audience's input.

Hashtag campaigns

Create a branded hashtag and encourage your followers to use it when posting content related to your brand. This can help you collect UGC and make it easier to discover and share. Promote the hashtag across your social media channels and feature the best UGC on your brand's story, in a carousel post, etc.

Hashtag campaigns work for photos, graphics, and video shared on social, so let your audience be creative! If you do share their work, make sure to tag the original poster to increase reach and build that sense of community.

This is a great strategy for TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter, if you have a loyal fanbase (or a growing one) on those platforms.

Note: If you create a hashtag, try to make it specific to your brand. KFC, for example, promoted the #NationalFriedChickenDay hashtag, and many other chains and mom-n-pop fried chicken restaurants hopped on the trend.

UGC contests

Social media contests are still a really great way to grow your reach. It’s also a great way to build up a bank of reviews and UGC. This strategy might need a bit more planning — and some guidance from legal.

Once you’re sure you’re following the rules of the platform you’re posting on, ask customers or clients to create and share UGC to enter a giveaway. They might submit photos or videos of how they use your product, or how it’s influenced their life in some way. You can even request screenshots of their Google reviews; just make sure you explicitly request that you can share their reviews on other platforms. (Technically, Google owns those reviews under copyright law. Fun fact.)

Once you have a list of everyone who contributed, you can randomize the winner and let everyone know who won. You can give away prizes, exclusive discounts, or the opportunity to be featured on your brand's social media platforms.

Note: This also works really well in connection with another brand or an influencer, if you want to grow your reach even more.

Reviews & testimonials

Yup, reviews and testimonials also count as UGC. Make sure you’re requesting reviews and testimonials from your customers and clients — in a variety of forms. Maybe you host a feedback call and use snippets of those videos to market your services. (Just make sure you have permission to share the video, audio, or transcript.)

You can also incentivize clients or customers to leave a video testimonial; everyone loves a free Amazon gift card for their efforts, right? This is a great example of how one contract template shop got more video testimonials by giving away gift cards.

Written testimonials also count as UGC! Again, just make sure you ask for permission to share them on social (and you’re not screenshotting from other review tools).

Client or customer features

People love to be recognized, which is why client/customer features are a great UGC option Regularly feature individual clients or customers in your social campaigns (and email). Share how they’ve used your product or the results they’ve seen from your services. Make sure to credit the client/customer and tag them if possible, to increase shares.

Nova Color, an acrylic paint brand, does this well. They feature marginalized artists who use their products — and showcase their art (as well as how they use Nova Color paints).

UGC vs. influencer content

Don’t influencers create UGC? Yes and no.

An influencer is paid or receives some sort of exchange for their services — aka promoting your brand. A user is simply generating content to share with their followers or to take part in a giveaway or incentive. 

While you could argue that giveaways and testimonial incentives turn users into influencers, the difference lies in the relationship. An influencer is recruited and signed on because of their following and alignment with a brand. An everyday user likely doesn’t have thousands of engaged followers and may not have ever posted about anything relevant to your brand before.

Now, influencers can absolutely create UGC-like content. We see it all the time. But they will have to mark their post as “Sponsored” to avoid legal snafus. While you want your influencers to create convincing, organic-looking content, it’s important to understand that those relationships are not the same as UGC creation.

A final note: UGC isn’t going to fix a bad social strategy

Have you ever tagged a brand or business in your Stories or feed and gotten a response? Or maybe even a share? 

There’s nothing better. Your audience wants to feel connected to your brand — and when they feel connected, they buy.

While UGC can be a superb addition to your social media content, it all boils down to two things: strategy and community.

If you don’t know what kind of content you need to be sharing, UGC is going to feel “all over the place” to your audience. And if you aren’t focused on building a community (by liking, sharing, responding, engaging, etc.), your efforts to create UGC are just going to fall flat.

Like all the other strategies you’ve tried.

Success with UGC — and arguably any social media content strategy — starts and ends with knowing your audience and what you need to post to drive action. If you don’t have that, don’t start down the rabbit hole of UGC just yet.

You need to get your shit together first, and we can help, inside our F*** the Algorithm Workshop.

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