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As a brand, there’s nothing more authentic than a customer taking time out of their day to share a thought or feeling. That’s why user-generated content (UGC) is such an integral component of a marketer’s strategy: Customers are promoting your brand for you, and to top it off, it encourages brand trust and is an excellent way to build customer relationships organically. 

Let’s explore best practices on how to leverage user-generated content for maximum results. 

What is User-Generated Content (UGC)?

UGC is any content — such as blogs, images, social media posts, and videos — that’s been created and published by unpaid contributors. UGC lives across different marketing channels, including your webpage or social media networks. 

Best Practices

Before you incorporate UGC into your marketing strategy, it’s essential to build a framework to set yourself up for success. Here are some best practices to consider

Know your goal

So, what are your UGC goals? There are a variety of ways that user-generated content could help you — below are some examples to get you started: 

  • Boost brand awareness. If you’re just starting off as a business, it could be challenging to earn peoples’ loyalty right off the bat. This is where UGC comes in — creating social proof is critical because consumers trust their peers. 48% of customers say that UGC is a great way to discover new products.
  • Improve social engagement. It’s not easy to get customer engagement via social media, especially if you’re operating organically. However, UGC has a higher chance of garnering likes and comments from users because the content is about them — and everybody likes to feel as if they’re part of the community. Bonus: If their content reaches family and friends, there’s a potential for additional engagement. 
  • Find more leads. Nine out of ten consumers trust UGC more than they trust traditional advertising — meaning consumers would rather hear from each other than you. When you publish UGC and your target audience reposts, it would also attract the attention of their like-minded peers. 
  • Ramp up your content production. On average, it takes anywhere between one to three hours to create a piece of content. If your goal is to have a steady stream of content, that’s a lot of hours to put in. When you leverage UGC such as blogs and social media posts created by users, that saves a significant amount of time and labor. 

Come up with a plan

Figure out where your UGC will live — which social platforms would work best? For instance, for direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands, Instagram is the primary platform for UGC. Be prepared and do your research — only 27% of brands say they have a system in place for finding, managing, and using user-generated content.

Cover your bases

Let’s say you’ve found a great post through your branded hashtag. Your product is front and center, and the poster is happy with it — you can publish it on your feed, right? Wrong. You have to ask for permission, first. 

The rule of thumb is to always ask for permission when reposting (even if they’re using your hashtag). People may be using branded hashtags without explicitly knowing they’re tied to a UGC campaign. When you repost or reshare without permission, it could rub users the wrong way. 

Be specific with what you’re looking for 

When asking people to post with your hashtag or create videos, give specific directions. For instance, you can ask them to strike a certain pose with your product, or film a video of them actually using it. 

Be open to different types of UGC

While reposting images on social media channels is one of the most popular forms of user-generated content, don’t stop there. Think more broadly about the types of content you want to collect and come up with ways to incentivize users. For instance, you can offer prizes to users who contribute to your blog, or promise to repost videos if users include your company’s hashtag in the post. 

Look internally for content

You shouldn’t restrict user-generated content to your customers — a company’s existing staff is a rich source of internal content at no extra budget. Incentivize employees to contribute to the blog or to share their experiences with your product or service through social media. 

Note: Employee-generated content shouldn’t be too sales-y. The audience will prefer authenticity over content that seems staged and overly done. 

UGC Is Here to Stay

User-generated content isn’t a “nice to have” aspect of your content marketing strategy — it’s a necessary component. Not only is UGC more cost-effective and authentic compared to advertisements, but it also plays an unparalleled role in how consumers choose products. 

Social media marketing has evolved quite a bit over the past few years. Read our post on how to create an effective hybrid (organic and paid) social media strategy

Angie Tran
Author

Angie is the Content Marketing Manager at AdRoll. Prior to AdRoll, she was a Content Writer at various digital marketing agencies. A writer by day and a reader by night, Angie’s other hobbies include cooking and learning useless movie trivia.