It’s no surprise that an increasing number of brands are taking advantage of user-generated content (UGC); it’s one of the most effective ways to build brand loyalty, grow organic traffic, and boost ecommerce sales. It’s also free.


The Importance of User-Generated Content

In the world of content marketing, UGC is pure gold– it’s cost-effective and often gets better results than content generated by a brand. In fact, research shows that 85 percent of consumers find user-generated content more influential than branded content. Beyond just being a cost-effective and convincing advertising channel, user-generated content can help turn your customers into a community by making it ease for people to see and connect with like-minded individuals.

If that’s not enough, there are some convincing stats to back-up the hype:

With the rise of smartphone usage, it’s much easier for consumers to create content in a variety of formats to share online. How do you encourage this? Here, we’ll explore various ways to encourage consumers to post content linked to your brand.


1. Customer Reviews

Reviews on product pages give consumers reassurance before buying. According to Smart Insights, 59 percent of consumers say user-generated product reviews have a significant impact on their buying behavior.

Video reviews are even more credible because people can hear and see the reviewer. Ask your existing customers to submit video reviews with the reward of being featured on your website. Skin-care brand Boom by Cindy Joseph uses video reviews on every product page.


2. Visual Testimonials

According to Netsphere Strategies, 63 percent of US shoppers trust customer photos more than brand or retailer photos1. Try to incorporate customer photos into the ecommerce experience.

  • Email customers encouraging them to share photos of their purchases on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
  • Showcase customer photos on product pages or create a photo gallery on your website.
  • Create a unique hashtag to encourage photo sharing on social media.

Outdoor clothing retailer Poler asked customers to submit photos of their camping adventures using the hashtag #CampVibes. The best images were featured in the brand’s retail stores and on its website.


3. Gamification

Gamification in marketing is a way of giving users a sense of achievement for engaging with your brand. It doesn’t have to lead to buying a product, but it usually involves rewards such as discount codes, loyalty points, or free gifts.

To encourage UGC, Samsung Nation rewards customers for writing reviews, watching videos, and taking part in forums. Users can earn badges, receive exclusive perks, and enter competitions to win great prizes.


4. Contests

People love prizes, especially if they’re exclusive. They also enjoy the social aspect of entering contests and sharing the details with friends.

A few years ago, National Geographic created an Instagram contest where photographers could submit inspirational travel photos using the hashtag #WanderlustContest. The top prize was a trip to Yosemite National Park. What prize could you offer to encourage UGC?


5. Build a Community

Buffer uses the hashtag #buffercommunity to encourage users around the world to share location photos. The photo theme may seem unrelated to the brand, but it makes sense. The user-generated photos show that people can use Buffer’s marketing automation tools from anywhere in the world, and these shared photos help to create a community around the brand.


6. Support a Cause

Customers like to buy from companies that share their passion for a cause. Women’s clothing company Aerie created the hashtag #AerieReal to protest against the excessive retouching of images of models, and pledged to stop retouching images of models in their swimwear. They encouraged customers to share their unedited photos and donated $1 to the National Eating Disorders Association for every picture posted.

Are there any causes you feel strongly about, or charities you’d like to support? Tell your customers and find a way to get them involved.


7. Hashtag Campaigns

When a Red Bull employee found a photo of a Red Bull can being held in front of a Mini Cooper, making it look like the car was carrying the can, they spotted an opportunity and added the #PutACanOnIt hashtag to it. Within weeks, thousands of images were shared across social media using the hashtag. Think creatively. A clever hashtag campaign can inspire lots of UGC.


8. Offer Small Rewards

You don’t have to give away expensive prizes in return for UGC. Just acknowledging your followers, or sharing their content can be enough. Here are some other ways to reward your fans:

  • Include UGC in emails.
  • Respond to comments on blog posts.
  • Use UGC within your blog.
  • Ask influential followers to write for your blog.


9. Ask Questions

Asking questions on social media is a great way to boost brand engagement and build trust. Questions you could ask:

  • How do your products make your customers’ lives easier?
  • What kinds of content would customers like to see more of?
  • Which products do your customers like best?


10. Try a Photo Booth

Beverage maker Fanta took a creative approach to encouraging UGC by installing a photo printer into one of their billboards.

The billboard ad itself asked passersby to take a selfie and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #FantaTastesLike. If they did so, they received a printed copy of the photo.

The combination of the novel user experience and the physical reward for posting inspired users to participate, earning Fanta a lot more mentions on social media than they had gotten in the past. You don’t to advertise on billboards to test out this strategy–try setting up a photo booth at a retail location or a company-branded event.


11. Let Customers Model Your Products

When you showcase customers who live your brand values, it makes other people want to live that way too.

Activewear company Lululemon knew this when they launched their #TheSweatLife campaign, which asked followers to send their best photos of themselves “getting their sweat on”. The campaign was a hit, resulting in 250,000 uses of the hashtag, over 700 photo submissions, and more than 40,000 unique visitors to the microsite created for this campaign.

A big part of the campaigns success and be attributed to the fact that these photos represent the same image and values as the Lululemon brand itself–inspirational, yet aspirational.


Taking It Further

UGC is now one of the most effective ways to build trust in your brand. As well as providing social proof for your products and services, it will also boost your SEO.

Don’t forget that you can reach new audiences by showing UGC at live events, on screens in your store, and even in printed material.

Are you giving people a good reason to submit UGC?