Engaging, fresh content that puts your product or brand in positive light, boosts its credibility, and comes at no cost, with minimal effort to your content marketing team—sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

This year’s INBOUND conference covered some of today’s biggest digital marketing challenges, and creating opportunities for quality user-generated content (UGC) is among most marketer’s just-out-of-reach goals. Of course, the ease at which a company can do this depends much on the product itself. Tangible, attractive products that lend themselves to selfies may be inundated with no-effort social content, while products like software, for example, aren’t so easy.

Cara Meiselman is the director of content and community for Classpass, an app that allows users to utilize their local gyms to participate in different exercise classes. At INBOUND, her message was two-fold: utilize your customers in unique ways for user-generated content, and make sure that content differentiates your brand from your competitors. Here are some of the top takeaways digital marketers can use, regardless of industry, for finding new opportunities for user-generated content.

Keep the Buyer’s Journey in Mind

Balance is a key factor when creating your editorial calendar. You create different content to hit different stages of the buyers’ journey, and your time (or more likely, your team’s time) must also be split between content creation for top-, mid- and bottom-of-the-sales-funnel content.

Top of the funnel social content simply doesn’t last—consider how quickly an Instagram post, a tweet, or a snapchat disappears or gets buried in a feed. Meanwhile, your bottom-of-the-funnel lead generation content has staying power, and therefore should require a greater production effort. That’s what makes UGC such a great fit for the top-of-the-funnel, social media content. It’s okay that its shelf-life is small, as long as the resources used are minimal.

Examples By Channel

UGC comes in many forms. Here are just a few examples of how different brands use different channels to showcase their users’ content.

Webpage/ landing page: Yelp’s entire business model depends on its users. Users’ reviews and photos are what populates the website.

Instagram: Warby Parker is just one of many brands that boasts it’s own Instagram hashtag to encourage UGC. The eyeglass company, which offers free in-home trials, asks its customers to upload photos using #WarbyHomeTryOn. This has accrued over 23,000 photos.

YouTube is another channel digital marketers don’t immediately think of when considering UGC content, but given the success video content has on social media, it’s a great option. One of the more well-known examples of user-generated video content, as Meiselman pointed out, is the recurring video segment from the creators of the late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live, which encourages parents of small children to upload videos of them pranking their kids on Halloween.

Blogs may be the most common form of UGC. Micro-influencers, fashion bloggers, food bloggers, etc. can be incentivized to review a product to their own loyal followers in return for a simple trial of the product.

Is UGC Worth It?

Generating a strategy to accrue this content will take some effort, so before you dedicate time and manpower to the effort, you should be confident that UGC is right for your business, your product, and your audience.  Here are some stats that back the value of UGC.

  • 92% of consumers worldwide say they trust word of mouth over any form of advertising
  • 64% of customers actively seek out reviews before making purchases
  • Content Marketing - 86% of businesses use content because it costs less than paid search and has more longevity.
  • UGC-based ads get four times higher click-through rates and a 50 percent drop in cost-per-click than average.

4 Steps to Start Generating More UGC

1. Strategize

What method is going to be most valuable for your brand? It’s possible that none of the above examples are a fit for your brand. Some other types of content to consider include forums, user quotes, tweets, ratings, photos, videos, product reviews, videos, and parodies. Another thing to consider in the first stage of strategizing is where you plan to distribute the content. Is your audience on social media?  Do they engage with email? Paid ads? Your blog?

2. Be Persistent With Your UGC Requests

If you look at other brands that utilize UGC often, you’ll notice you’ll find calls-to-action everywhere. You must consistently remind your audience how and where to create content for you.

3. Involve Your Team

One of the fastest ways to get participation going is to encourage your internal team to share the content, and to look for opportunities to encourage users face-to-face. Your sales staff and customer success teams likely do the most interacting with your audience.  Are they aware of your UGC initiatives?

4. Get Creative

As Meiselman noted, you may already have plenty of opportunities right under your nose for content that you could repurpose. Classpass, for example, took an entertaining tweet from a user and turned it into an Instagram post. Simple, effective, and far more successful on Instagram:

The most important takeaway from the session was content that differentiates your brand. If your product is one that has lots of competitors, take some inspiration from brands with a similar problem, like Coca-Cola, whose “Share a Coke” campaign took UGC to new heights for the well-established brand.

Meiselman also suggested that simple tweaks like adding filters and text can turn a mundane photo into great content. If you have a physical store (or attend trade shows often to spread knowledge about your product) consider how you can make the space Instagram-worthy.


Better safe than sorry is the motto to live by when it comes to user generated content. When you find content related to your product that wasn’t submitted to your company for use, asked permission in writing, and be clear with the person how you intend to use the photo.

What many companies do is offer an opt-in hashtag that both parties understand gives you permission to use a photo, such as, “Use the hashtag #ShineOnWithMe for a chance to be featured on our Instagram page!”

There are lots of discussions around gray areas for reposting and sharing personal content. Always cover your bases when using UCG.

UGC is not effortless. It’ll take brainstorming, strategizing, creativity, consistent reminders, and potentially some design hacks to get a solid content plan in place. And it’s not in a place to become fully automated (and least not yet) but it is a valuable way to spread brand awareness and gain the trust of new audiences.

Do you have a creative UGC strategy you want to share with us? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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