What Is User Generated Content and How Can it Boost Your Marketing?

user generated content

Customers across industries love user generated content (UGC) — both consuming it and creating it. The popularity of classic user-generated content platforms like Trustpilot, TripAdvisor, and Rotten Tomatoes tells the story.

But user generated content can also help other businesses. Not only does user content perform well with customers, it can take the pressure off marketing teams to continually create original content.

What is user generated content? And how do you strategically use it in your marketing strategy?

Keep reading to find out.

What Is User Generated Content?

User generated content, or consumer generated content, is any content created by readers, users, or customers rather than a company or marketing team.

What Are the Different Types of User Generated Content?

The phrase “user content” can conjure images of customers creating lengthy videos about your brand or writing long-form blog posts. However, user generated content can also be as simple as a comment on a social media post. Here are the main types of customer generated content.

  • Testimonials and reviews left on your website or on a third-party website like Trustpilot
  • Social media posts by customers that mention your brand
  • Case studies written about a customer’s experience with your brand
  • Blog posts written by customers about your brand or products
  • Social media engagements, like comments or shares on your posts
  • Long-form product reviews on a customer’s website or YouTube channel

dedicated customer reviews on liquid web

Are Reviews User Generated Content?

Yes, customer reviews are one of the simplest forms of user generated content. You can make the most of glowing customer reviews by showcasing them on your site’s homepage or sharing them on your social media channels.

Yelp customer reviews are a great piece of user generated content.

What Is User Generated Content on Instagram?

For many brands, Instagram is the most common place to find user generated content. On Instagram, user generated content includes:

  • Images and videos by customers using your products/services.
  • Images and videos where customers talk about your products/services.
  • Uses of your branded hashtag on customer images and videos.

What are the Benefits of User Generated Content?

The benefits of incorporating consumer generated content into your marketing strategy are powerful.

It Saves You Money on Marketing

If you break up your company content (often time intensive and possibly high budget) with user generated content, you’ll find that you get good results with less money spent. That’s because you won’t incur production costs.

User content is free — because your customers make it for you!”

It Increases Your Reach on Social Media

UGC is very likely to be shared with friends and family by the person who created it. And because it was made by someone they know and trust rather than a brand, they will be more likely to share the content with their friends and family. In this way, user generated content helps expose your brand to more people on social media.

It Increases Your Engagement on Social Media

Requesting or celebrating user generated content like comments and tags, increases your engagement rate on social media which is the key to growing your following. High engagement with your social media posts signals to everyone that your brand has a thriving community behind it, rather than just a flow of one-time site visitors.

It Provides Ready-Made Insights to Your Customers

When your brand’s fans are putting out user generated content — whether they’re commenting on your social media posts, leaving reviews, or writing about your products on their own — you suddenly have access to more specific information than you’d get any other way. You hear directly from people what they think about your products.

Are the reviews complaining about something that you hadn’t considered? Or do your customers love a new product feature?”

Not only is this useful information for potential customers, but it’s also free (and extremely valuable) product feedback for potential future improvements or upgrades.

It Bolsters Your Brand’s Social Proof

Customers trust a brand more when they can see that others love it, too. When your customers are creating content for your brand, they’re sharing how much they appreciate your products with their community.

Consumer generated content is one of the most compelling forms of social proof.

How Do I Get User Generated Content?

A huge advantage of user generated content marketing is that it doesn’t require a complicated strategy, financial investment, or even much time or effort.

Create a Branded Hashtag

Simply creating a branded hashtag, like Forever 21’s #F21xMe on Instagram, is a great start for getting customer generated content. If your customers love your brand, they’ll likely want to share (and already have shared) images about it. Giving customers a hashtag to use means that you’ll be able to find and repost those images quickly.

Have a User Generated Content Competition or Contest

You can level up your branded hashtag strategy by creating a hashtag for an image competition. The person who gets the most likes on their image using your hashtag wins! You could offer freebies as a prize, or get creative with it.

Ask for Reviews or Video Reviews

Sometimes, the best way to get user generated content from your customers is to just ask. Contact your most loyal fans, and ask them to leave a long-form or video review about their experience with your brand.

Make sure to position the offer as an opportunity for them by offering to place their review or video prominently on your website or social media platforms (and tagging or linking to their own).”

4 Examples of Brands Leveraging User Generated Content Marketing

Calvin Klein’s #MyCalvins Campaign

In 2014, Calvin Klein asked followers on Instagram to tag themselves in a photo wearing a Calvin Klein product using the hashtag #MyCalvins. Today, the hashtag is still very active and has so far collected 744,000 pieces of user generated content.

While this campaign got a huge boost because of the prominence of the brand itself, it’s a strategy that can easily be copied by smaller brands. It costs nothing to ask your Instagram followers to tag themselves using your products with a branded hashtag.

#mycalvins campaign has provided the brand with invaluable user generated content.

Chubbies “Man Model” Competition

Menswear brand Chubbies does an annual “Man Model” contest in which the brand finds their next model from their pool of customers. Chubbies has skillfully used this contest not only as a way to build goodwill within their existing fanbase, but also to encourage tons of user generated content. To enter the contest, customers have to follow Chubbies on Instagram, submit a photo of themselves, and then ask their family and friends to vote for them. The person with the most votes wins.

In 2019, the brand received over 12,000 applicants, and all of those applicants created dozens of posts on social media to get everyone they knew to go to Chubbies and vote for them. Plus, the body-positivity angle of the contest (they specifically sought applicants that did not have a perfect body) and the serious prize (a paid modeling contract with the brand) generated lots of third party press with magazines from Maxim to Cosmopolitan.

chubbies man model competition

Juliette Has a Gun Tag-a-Friend Sweepstakes

Fragrance brand Juliette Has a Gun uses Instagram giveaways to drive user generated content. To enter the sweepstakes, followers on Instagram must comment on the brand’s post and tag a friend. One of their recent tag-a-friend sweepstakes has received 357 comments (compared to just three and six comments on the regular posts before and after).

Tag-a-friend sweepstakes are a common strategy for getting users to create content for you. While this brand just asked for a comment, you could also ask users to share an image on their own feed using your product to enter the sweepstakes.

Instagram Giveaway

West Elm’s Sharing of UGC

West Elm routinely asks users on Instagram to tag photos using their products. But West Elm goes further than most brands by reposting many customer images on the brand’s Instagram feed and tagging the original poster.

This is a great way to encourage customers to tag your brand and create content about you. If customers know there’s a good chance your brand will share their photos and tag them (therefore increasing their reach), they’ll be more likely to create content for you.

Plus, if you can incorporate customer images into your social media feeds or marketing, it means fewer images you have to source yourself.

westelm user generated content

Start Experimenting With User Generated Content Today

Incorporating user generated content into your brand’s marketing strategy is something you can start doing immediately — no matter how big or small your brand.

It’s a smart move, especially for online-only operations that don’t have the benefit of face-to-face interactions with customers. By incorporating UGC into your marketing, you create an immediate way to humanize your brand and help people feel like they are part of a community.

With a low cost and little time required, there’s no reason not to start experimenting with user generated content marketing today.

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