High-Quality User Generated Content:How to Make It Happen for Your Brand

Word of mouth rules the marketing world, and that’s what makes user-generated content work so well for so many brands. But not all user-generated content is equal. So how do you go about getting the high-quality content that will make your campaign a success?

So, what’s UGC again?

User-generated content, often shortened to the acronym UGC, is any content created by the users of a website or service — so technically, every Facebook post you write is user-generated content and so are product reviews, photos and videos.

But the term has grown and is now most often used in context with content that fans of a specific brand create and put out there. It’s not tied to compensation, unlike influencer marketing, and fans do it simply because they love a brand. Usually, brands then get to use the content created by their fans in any way they like in their marketing and advertising materials.

Almost half of 16 to 24 year-olds consume more user-generated content than content from brands. Click to Tweet

Nowadays, brands specifically ask their fans for UGC in marketing campaigns on social media. As an incentive, certain rewards can be offered, from cash prizes to product prizes to experiences. However, fans are perfectly happy to submit content just to get recognition from a brand they love.

By sharing UGC on the brand’s social media presences, a brand can give their fans their so-called 15 minutes of fame. Nikon Austria runs an ongoing UGC contest on its Facebook page called “Fan of the Month”. Each month, users submit photos via the Facebook app and fans can vote for photos they like in the submission gallery. Ultimately, the Nikon jury picks the best photo which will be featured as Nikon Austria’s cover image for the next month including a little badge showing the winner’s profile photo.

NIKON Austria ongoing Facebook UGC campaign
NIKON Austria’s “Fan of the Month” winners are featured with their photo and profile pic on the brand’s Facebook page cover for the whole month.

Not only is the brand acknowledging their fans’ efforts by showcasing their work, it’s also keeping users engaged with an ongoing UGC campaign. The submissions ensure an ongoing influx of content that can be used by Nikon Austria — among other things the contest helps them keep their Facebook cover photo fresh and ever-changing.

Why User Generated Content is great

Okay, but should brands really bother asking for and then sifting through thousands of UGC entries? It seems like a lot of work, and it is. But it’s work that can really pay off.

For one, user-generated content creates trust. Consider what you do before buying something online — you check the user reviews. Your fans provide social proof for potential customers that your brand is worthy of their time and effort. Someone might not click on a regular ad for your brand, but they are more likely to click on a post their friends have shared about your brand.

Furthermore, social media users enjoy seeing user-generated content online — especially the younger generations. Unsurprisingly, almost half of all 16 to 24 year-olds consume user-generated content more often than content that comes directly from brands.

User Generated Content sells products

According to Nielsen, a recommendation from a peer is still one of the key driving factors prompting consumers to take action. This makes UGC a great way to reach new customers on social media.

LEGOxBelkin user-generated content campaign
User-generated content helped Belkin sell more of its LEGOxBelkin smartphone cases.

In 2013, Belkin created an iPhone case that can be customised with lego bricks. As part of its marketing, Belkin asked people to share their creations on Instagram and tag them with #LEGOxBelkin.

The campaign allowed Belkin to show off their new product to potential customers through already existing fans and create the desire for them to own one too.

Besides attracting new customers through exciting content, user-generated content can also generate direct leads — depending on the platform you use to run your campaign. By setting up submissions on your Facebook page with an email-gate, you can collect qualified leads of people who are already interested enough in your brand to submit their content to your campaign.

User-generated is basically free content that advertises your brand and shows fan trust. Click to Tweet

You can use UGC in your marketing

The great part about user-generated content is that you don’t have to throw it out after the campaign is over. You can use UGC for your brand even after your campaign. It’s basically free content that advertises your brand and shows fan trust. You can share it on social media or even use it in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram ads.

Furthermore, sharing UGC on your own channels rewards fans with a bit of attention. If their content is featured in your marketing they’re also more likely to share that with their own followers to show off their own contribution.

In 2014, IKEA Norway created a UGC-based catalogue by asking its Facebook followers to snap a photo of their favourite product in the IKEA catalogue and share it on Instagram with a hashtag. Every week, one lucky person won the product they had shared. At the end of the four-week campaign period, IKEA fans had recreated the catalogue in its entirety on social media. The campaign got people talking, allowed IKEA to piggyback on people’s personal product recommendations on social media, and vastly improved IKEA Norway’s follower count on Instagram.

But how do you get people to share?

According to the New York Times’ Psychology of Sharing study, one of the factors that influence whether people share content is connection — not just with your brand but with each other. When creating your campaign, consider how you can offer people the opportunity to interact through submissions, public voting, and other forms of contribution.

A good example is Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” campaign that started in 2012. Lay’s asked fans to create their own flavours for their crisps on Lay’s facebook page and even teamed up with Facebook to change the like button into an “I’d eat that” button, giving fans a fitting way to interact with the submissions. A team of judges narrowed the submissions down to the final three, then opened the vote to the public via hashtag voting. The winner got a cash prize.

Fans had multiple points of interaction:

  • Submitting a flavour
  • Liking flavours posted on the Lay’s Facebook page
  • Promoting and signal boosting the finalists on social media
  • Voting for the winner via hashtag on social media

The “Do Us a Flavor” campaign is now in its 4th year in the U.S., has been running in Canada as well, and for Walkers (Lay’s European brand name) in the UK.

When they're gone… they're gone! Try all 4 #DoUsAFlavourCanada finalists and vote before they're gone!

A photo posted by Lays Canada (@layscanada) on

Engagement comes from excitement. People find different things exciting and enjoy different levels of engagement and participation. So ask your fans for participation throughout the campaign and offer different types of participation as well, be it creating content, voting on content, or simply sharing and signal boosting.

How to get people to create quality content

In order to be able to use user-generated content in your marketing, you have to make sure that you get high-quality submissions. Of course, you cannot control every submission, but you can do a couple of things to make sure the content you get is above par.

Take the time to meticulously plan your campaign and tailor it to your target group. Submissions by hashtag are low-threshold, but Facebook submissions allow you to collect leads as well. Weigh what works best for you, your brand and your fans.

Based on your brand research, pick your platform, pick the right hashtag and come up with the type of content you want to ask for. Facilitate a homogenous influx of submissions by making it very clear in your campaign what you would like people to create. Be clear and concise and keep it simple to make participation easy. Straightforward content is also easier to share without distortion.

Just like with traditional and online ads, a lot in marketing hinges on emotions. Humour especially is a driving factor for European and North American customers. If your campaign is bland, it will have a much harder time attracting attention.

If you’re asking people to put a lot of effort into their submissions, offer adequate rewards. You don’t want people to take part in your campaign solely because they can win something great, but you also want to honour their submissions with a nice incentive.

Another, much simpler, way to reward fans for creating content for you is to show them some love. Share their submissions on your own channels, show them off, make the creators feel appreciated.

Meet your #DoUsAFlavourCanada finalist: Lay's Butter Chicken created by Darryl Francispillai. #VoteButterChicken

A photo posted by Lays Canada (@layscanada) on

Put UGC centre stage: Showcase UGC with Walls.io

A simple way to put user-generated content in the limelight is to set up a social media wall. You can add all kinds of sources, from Facebook pages and events to specific social media profiles, as well as hashtags from Twitter, Instagram, etc.

The Walls.io settings and moderation features allow you to tweak your wall so it displays the content you really want to show off. And you can integrate your social wall on your website or Facebook profile with a simple embed code.

Recipe for a high-quality User Generated Content campaign

To sum it up, consider the following points to get high-quality content from your fans:

  • Take the time to plan your campaign
  • Offer the right incentives
  • Keep it simple, but fun; easy to understand is easy to participate and easy to share
  • Encourage fans to be creative
  • Let people interact with your brand AND with each other
  • Interact with people and respond to their contributions
  • Share people’s content throughout your campaign — it’s another way to reward them

Speak your mind

Do you usually participate when brands run UGC campaigns? Or have you maybe even organised such a campaign yourself? We’d love to know more about your experiences on both sides of this — what do you like about user-generated content, what did you find difficult? Do you enjoy campaigns and brands that prominently feature content created by their users?