What if we told you that the best digital marketing strategy isn’t to make great content, but to encourage your followers to make it for you?

User-generated content (UGC) has quickly become one of the most powerful ways to build a brand’s visibility and engage audiences across social media platforms.

If you’re a little lost about why this is so or what UGC marketing even looks like, you’re in the right place.

We’re going to break down everything from real-world UGC examples to the benefits it provides.

We’ll also show you how best to leverage the potential of user-generated content for your own business.

What is User-Generated Content?

User-generated content (UGC) refers to anything that is created and shared by online users about a brand, without that brand directly producing it.

It can be as simple as sharing a picture of a latte and tagging the coffee shop.

User-generated content serves up original examples of a customer’s real-life experience with a business.

To help make things a little clearer, we’ll go through some of the main types of UGC and a few of our favorite examples that we’ve seen on social media channels…

The Types of User-Generated Content

User-generated content comes in many different forms, including:

  • Social media comments

  • Social media posts

  • Dedicated blog articles or even podcasts

  • Online video reviews

  • Written testimonials

  • Influencer partnerships

Some of The Best Examples of User-Generated Content

Even if you didn’t know it at the time, you’ve likely created your own or interacted with another brand’s UGC online.

A great way to understand what marketing user-generated content looks like is by seeing some of the best examples in action:

go pro instagram page
  • GoPro: A quick visit to the GoPro Instagram page and you’ll be met with almost exclusively user-generated content. From the start of the brand’s journey online, they’ve prioritized sharing videos made by customers using their cameras. They particularly feature those shot in unusual conditions that highlight the versatility and ruggedness of their products.

glossier instagram page
  • Glossier: This digitally native makeup brand owes much of its virility to the use of UGC.

    Since the early stages, they’ve regularly shared organic videos and images made by users showing themselves putting Glossier products to work.
    This user-made Glossier Instagram video shows how easily the brand’s products can be integrated into an everyday makeup routine.
  • Apple: A few years back, the technology giant ran a “#shotonmyiphone” campaign to highlight the quality cameras on their devices which allowed real-life users to demonstrate the brand’s messaging for them.

    The campaign gained significant traction and remains one of their most successful to date.

  • Pictory: As soon as you click on our website, you’ll see reviews from previous customers pop up.

    We’ve done this quite intentionally so that new site visitors can see firsthand how well Pictory AI has met other people’s video and editing needs.

The Benefits of Using User-Generated Content on Social Media Platforms and Beyond

Pictory best social media posting guide video

With the above examples in mind, here are some of the key benefits we’ve seen from businesses using and sharing UGC marketing on their social media platforms:

Check out our Best Social Media Posting Guide for a more comprehensive view of social media content creation.

Engages the Target Audience

four people standing around a target

For most brands, one of the main goals of being on social media is to simply engage their target audience and attract them to their products and services.

One of the approaches that marketing strategies have used for decades is to mirror the audience back to themselves.

Show someone who looks like your target audience or shares their values in context, using your business, and they’re likely going to place themselves in the scenario too.

User-generated content offers a unique and far more organic way to enact this than other strategies.

Part of what helps make it more engaging is the fact that it’s organic in the first place.

It comes across as more authentic – something we’ll dig into more in the next point.

An unexpected bonus of user-generated content is that it can even help brands go beyond their target market to a broader audience.

Sometimes user engagement comes from the most surprising places and provides valuable insights into new potential customers.

Boosts Trust

two people carrying someone with the words trust and another two helping them

Reportedly, most millennials only purchase something if recommended by a friend or family member.

And really, isn’t this how most of us behave?

We’re so much more likely to trust a business and be willing to spend our money with them if we’re given access to an authentic and unbiased perspective first.

Unlike paid ads or traditional advertising approaches, UGC demonstrates a genuineness that customers tend to find particularly compelling.

What they’re drawn in by is that demonstration of social proof, something that is particularly valuable on digital platforms.

Fake news stories and exploitative online businesses have made many shoppers wary of buying from places they’re unfamiliar with.

It takes authentic social proof to convince consumers to trust a business.

One of the best ways to encourage that is by sharing user-generated content on social media, especially when it’s from more diverse perspectives.

UGC allows your existing customers to prove the authenticity of your brand message to potential customers and reinforce a positive brand image.

In other words, it gives new users a reason to trust you.

UGC Increases Brand Loyalty and Community

a computer screen with brand on the screen with some small people working around it

Having a vibrant community around a brand is extremely lucrative, not least because of the way it contributes to brand loyalty.

Incorporating UGC benefits both factors greatly.

Sharing user-generated content doesn’t just support the needs of new customers.

It helps to foster meaningful connections with your existing brand advocates and enables users to participate in what you’re doing.

One of the hallmarks of a strong brand community is a two-way dialogue between a business and its customers.

Featuring UGC on social media directly engages your most loyal customers with the added benefit of inspiring continued brand loyalty from them.

Showcasing their reviews and content is a way to say “thank you” for their support while displaying a strong sense of community.

It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Influences Purchases

person in a phone screen with shopping bags and coins

Perhaps the greatest advantage of embracing user-generated content is the impact that it has on influencing purchases.

There’s a reason why so many of the world’s biggest marketing campaigns, be it Calvin Klein’s #mycalvins or Apple’s #shotonmyiphone, have put leveraging UGC at the center of their digital strategy.

It’s what sells.

User-generated content not only works to encourage customers to buy specific products, but to buy into a brand identity.

Part of this is to do with social proof and the way it builds brand trust.

However, it’s also got to do with the way in which UGC puts a brand’s community on show.

Seeing other people enjoying a product and being part of a vibrant community inevitably makes us want to join the fun too.

We’re social creatures and user-generated content makes purchases feel like a social activity, something particularly rare in our ever-evolving digital landscape.

The SEO Impact of User-Generated Content

Search engine optimization is yet another aspect of digital marketing that benefits from UGC.

Online reviews and blog articles regarding a brand serve as original content and often contain keywords related to products etc. that help organically boost a business’s SEO.

Reviews also tend to include links to a brand’s website which helps further improve rankings, as well as key phrases that position a business better for long-tail searches.

For example, instead of “video editing”, a long-tail key phrase that may end up in a review is “perfect video editing tool for podcasters”.

Phrases like this tend to have less competition and as such, are easier to rank for in search results.

It’s yet another reason why UGC is such a powerful tool in the digital world.

More Cost Effective Than Paid Content

Finally, the thing that makes leveraging user-generated content particularly beneficial for businesses is how much more cost-effective it is than traditional advertising.

That’s because it manages to cut one of the most significant digital marketing expenses: creating content.

For smaller brands, especially those who can’t afford big influencer marketing campaigns, leveraging UGC is an effective, low-cost marketing strategy.

It is guaranteed to demonstrate social proof and encourage further user participation without requiring huge resource investment.

How To Use Social Media Posts to Encourage User-Generated Content

While user participation and content sometimes happen without any input or guidance from a brand, a business’s marketing efforts can be shaped to encourage users to share their experiences more.

Here’s how: 

Be Strategic

laptop with strategy written and stickie notes all around

Consider what your business’s goals are for UGC.

Is it social proof on a new, innovative product that you’d like to highlight or is it general, increased engagement that remains the goal?

User-generated content serves so many different purposes.

However, it is most effective when it can help fulfill a brand’s specific marketing strategy and KPIs.

Like any advertising, UGC marketing campaigns work best when they have a clear message.

So make sure to identify what that is before trying to encourage users to create content around it.

That way you’ll get the best user-generated content not just in terms of the general digital landscape, but as it relates to your business and its goals.

Ask For Reviews and Feedback

Sometimes the best way to get what you need is to simply ask for it.

Make it a part of as much of your social media posts and marketing materials as possible to ask for feedback from customers.

This can look like many different things.

Maybe you share a link to a review website with each purchase confirmation or ask on your Instagram stories for users to share their experiences.

Make sure to further leverage UGC like this by using analytics tools on reviews etc.

This way you can spot trends amongst customers that could inspire future business launches or marketing strategies.

Provide Incentives

two people giving each other a gift

UGC encourages active participation, but it also requires that kind of participation to exist in the first place.

If you’re struggling with passive consumers who seem to buy frequently but do not share much about it, consider finding ways to incentivize them.

A way to motivate users to generate UGC is to have it be a part of a giveaway or competition.

Many small businesses run monthly giveaways on their social media channels in which their entry ticket is a piece of UGC.

GoPro has run various competitions that reward user creativity with the biggest prizes going to the most explosive video content made with their cameras.

This has been highly effective at encouraging users to get involved in UGC content creation.

It has also helped them connect with major brand advocates in the process.

The level of diverse content they’ve been able to share as a result points to the immense potential of user-generated content to take a business, and its best attributes, far beyond what a traditional strategy might have been able to cover.

With these kinds of competitions, however, just make sure to establish clear guidelines and employ content moderation.

This will ensure that nothing untoward is shared and circulated under your brand’s header.

That said, even if a piece of user-generated content isn’t shareable, it doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable content for other reasons.

Content created by customers can also offer insight and inspiration for future business activities.

Share More User-Generated Content

One of the cool tricks of sharing UGC is that it tends to encourage other users to create it too.

This ripple effect is something that any business can take advantage of just by sharing more content created by their audiences.

UGC Best Practices

Before you share any user-generated content, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

Ask Permission

two people shaking hands

Consent matters.

Always make sure to ask a user first before sharing the content they’ve created.

Credit the Creator

If they’re comfortable with you doing so, tag the creator of the user-generated content.

Crediting people helps build meaningful connections.

Prioritize Video

85% of marketers credit online videos as an effective marketing tool.

One of the best ways to maximize the power of user-generated content in the current social media landscape is to present it in video form.

At Pictory, our video creation and editing tools allow you to turn written reviews into videos in just minutes.

With our Visuals to Video feature, you can also edit UGC clips together as cohesive marketing videos.

Sign up for your FREE trial today and explore the features that will let you harness the full power of user-generated content.

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