This article explores user-generated content campaigns, drawing insights from marketers, PR and communications experts, CEOs, and co-founders. These industry leaders share their thoughts on UGC campaigns they’ve overseen or their all-time favorites, explaining what sets them apart. Get ready to discover the most noteworthy UGC campaigns and understand why they’ve left a lasting impression.
UN Decade on Restoration
Climate awareness and user-generated content campaign
This campaign is an ambitious 10-year project (2021–2030) led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Its main goals are to halt the climate crisis by creating awareness, educating the public, and generally getting everyone to take action.
The UN uses the hashtag #GenerationRestoration to collect both campaign and user-generated content together in one place. They display the content on a social wall embedded on the UN Decade on Restoration website.
Communications Manager, UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration at UN Environment Programme
Some of the most successful social media posts, for example, are those that demonstrate what you can achieve by showing a before and after of restoration. Posts like that are popular because they counter the climate anxiety we’re seeing right now. It gives people positive inspiration and positive ways of engaging with the environment. Social media, for us, is also important to connect the different groups with each other. It’s a low-barrier way of sharing information, and Walls.io is really helpful for us as a tool because it lets us immediately show the actions people are taking. You get a sense of a movement growing.
Collect hashtag content on a social wall in realtime!
#KidsInTheKitchen user-generated content campaign
#KidsInTheKitchen is just one of those fantastic showcases demonstrating what a great campaign can look like. The campaign has paid detailed attention to many important factors, and you can tell that it’s caused the campaign to be tremendously successful.
Every aspect of the campaign, from its initial setup to the methods used for promotion, along with the clever solutions employed by NatureFresh™ Farms and Northern Commerce to address potential issues (like posts not appearing on the wall due to a lack of hashtags), played a significant role in ensuring the campaign’s success.
Marketing Coordinator at NatureFresh™ Farms
To encourage children across Canada and the United States to eat more vegetables, we launched the #KidsInTheKitchen challenge to get them involved in the kitchen. We used this hashtag to bring awareness that many children aren’t getting enough vital nutrients from vegetables and how easy it is to get them involved. We concluded this campaign by creating a helpful guide for parents — “The Ultimate Guide To Getting Your Kids In The Kitchen”. The guide features user-generated content from #KidsInTheKitchen with tips and helpful advice from influencers and experts who participated in our campaign.
Collect instagram profile and hashtag content on a social wall!
Life is Good
#SomethingGood user-generated content campaign
Life is Good ran a hashtag campaign for donations. For every post using the hashtag #SomethingGood, the company donated $1 to the Life is Good Kids Foundation. $1 million was raised over the course of the campaign.
Front End Engineer, Life is Good
To celebrate Life is Good’s 25th anniversary, we’re spreading the power of optimism and helping kids heal from trauma. For every #SomethingGood shared, $1 is donated to the Life is Good Kids Foundation. Our goal was to inspire 1 million people to share #SomethingGood and donate a million dollars.
Senior Brand Manager, Life is Good
With this campaign, we help shift online conversations toward the good that’s going on in the world. We know that life is not easy, life is not perfect, but life is good. We believe that focusing on opportunities vs. focusing on what’s wrong can lead to more progress and growth. Additionally, we increased Life is Good’s brand awareness during the campaign by highlighting positivity and showcasing the brand on new channels.
Community success stories user-generated content campaign
Kineon works with UGC quite significantly, particularly in video form. Our UGC content has contributed to them receiving over 70,000 views on YouTube. They use UGC repeatedly as part of their marketing efforts in social media, content, email, and more.
CEO and co-founder at Kineon
Our UGC content often includes a member of our community, either an industry expert or a customer, sharing authentic success stories using our product. Instead of self-promotion, UGC helps us build a strong brand image. But perhaps more importantly, it’s an opportunity to connect with and nurture our post-sale customer relationships, turning them into passionate advocates. Take a look at our YouTube shorts, that are shared across marketing channels like social media and advertising. This Insta post featuring CrossFit athlete Sara Sigmundsdottir is among our most liked posts.
The University of Michigan
Signing day user-generated content campaign
The communications team at Rackham went all out for their Signing Day campaign. They created a special hashtag campaign, designed a GIF to promote a map theme, and launched a dedicated microsite that serves as a central platform to welcome new students stylishly. The microsite featured a map-themed social hub that showcased posts from UMich graduate students worldwide. This helped the university collect a great deal of UGC from their students, but it also helped spread the word about their study programs.
Communications Manager at Rackham
Because we wanted to display the wide range of hometowns (37% of Rackham students are international, representing over 100 countries) and fields of study (111 doctoral and 100 master’s programs at UMich), our thoughts naturally drifted to creating a map of the world with locations marked by posts and tweets. We work in partnership with the other 18 schools at the University of Michigan, and social media lends itself to tagging these other accounts as students and alumni are shouting out their programs of study. Since we used the Walls.io wall last spring for our graduation campaign #RackhamGrad, we contacted them to see if they had a map product. They had a prototype they could finish to suit our needs.
Ongoing user-generated content campaign
Glossier’s entire approach to marketing is unique. From its inception, Glossier built a brand focused on the real-life experiences of its customers. The company encourages its customers to share their skincare routines, makeup looks, and product reviews on social media, tagging the company in the posts. The brand then shares these posts on its platforms, and some of the content even informs product development.
For instance, Glossier’s popular product, the Milky Jelly Cleanser, was developed based on customer input. Customers were asked what their dream face wash would be like, and their responses were used to create the product.
PR and SEO Manager at Natu.Care
This marketing approach has been hugely successful. It generates a constant stream of user-generated content and builds a deep connection with customers, as they feel genuinely included and valued by the brand.
The #RedCupContest user-generated content campaign
Starbucks’ annual unveiling of its holiday red cup design is highly anticipated by brand devotees and followed closely by popular culture. There’s even a website to count down the event.
Starbucks first introduced its holiday cup in 1997. In 2014, Starbucks introduced the holiday #RedCupContest on Instagram. Users had to share and tag photos of their red cups using the #RedCupContest hashtag for a chance to win one of five prizes. A photo was shared every 14 seconds on Instagram in the first two days, gathering 40,000 entries over the course of the contest.
VP Marketing at Liquid Rubber
One of the best user-generated content campaigns I’ve seen was Starbucks’ #RedCupContest. This campaign asked users to submit their own photos of Starbucks’ signature holiday red cup for a chance to win a gift card. The brilliance of this campaign was its simplicity. It harnessed user-generated content’s power while promoting its holiday product offering. The campaign generated thousands of unique photos, each acting as a personal endorsement for Starbucks. Unfortunately, I cannot provide links to specific posts, but a quick search for #RedCupContest on Instagram will provide visual evidence of this successful campaign.
#AerieReal user-generated campaign
Aerie made a groundbreaking commitment by discontinuing the practice of retouching their photos. This was a significant step, especially for a fashion brand renowned for its swimwear, intimates, and activewear collections. In an industry saturated with excessive airbrushing and unrealistic beauty standards, their decision conveyed a clear and important message that authenticity is beautiful.
Co-Founder and CMO at NuggMD
I admired the altruism behind Aerie’s zero-retouching photo campaign. Besides encouraging raw beauty and self-confidence, the company also contributed $1 to the National Eating Disorders Association for every user who posted their candid photo with the hashtag #AerieReal. The campaign generated buzz for the company by encouraging people to be more authentic. However, it also rallied immense awareness around the mental health effects of today’s obsession with editing reality.
#AirbnbExperiences user-generated content campaign
Airbnb’s Experiences campaign was a successful UGC takeover on social media. Their #AirbnbExperiences hashtag garnered over 1 million posts on Instagram alone. Everything about the campaign was on-brand for Airbnb. It provided a platform for travelers and bloggers to share their travel experiences, effectively enticing the audience to travel. When they do, they’ll have Airbnb at the top of their minds, which means more business for the brand. Airbnb wisely chose to highlight content created by their own travelers and hosts to capture the adventurous spirit.
CEO at Refermate
James McClure, GM of Northern Europe at Airbnb, emphasizes the value of the community and customers as the most potent marketing assets, a principle echoed in Airbnb’s Instagram Experiences strategy. Notably, 77% of Instagram posts shared by Airbnb in Q4 2016 were user-generated, a trend that remains strong today. This UGC continues to dominate their feed, fueling engagement. Airbnb’s effective use of earned content has allowed them to successfully compete with and even surpass larger rivals, securing their position as the third-largest online accommodation seller.
“Stray” Pet Reactions user-generated content campaign
A PlayStation charity initiative used animal reactions to help real-life animals. Part of the game’s appeal stems from its realistic cat protagonist and the silly cat behaviors fans can do in-game. The authenticity has led to many pets becoming invested in the game as much as their owners.
As soon as Stray was released, fan videos of pets intrigued by the game flooded the internet. The game seemingly made just as big of an impression on the animals as it did on their owners. Clearly, Stray has also made a big impression on PlayStation, inspiring a large donation to a good cause. The Stray Reactions campaign is a great way to get fans of the game involved with charity and will likely inspire many donations from players alongside the adorable footage.
Founder at Steambase
The best user-generated content campaign I’ve recently seen revolves around the PlayStation video game, “Stray.” Users captured and posted videos of their pets, particularly cats, reacting to the game using the hashtag #StrayReactions. This interaction between the video game and real-life pets transformed into a powerful awareness campaign for the ASPCA. The game portrays the journey of a lost cat trying to find its family, drawing parallels with the real-world issue of stray animals. The campaign successfully blended entertainment with a vital cause. Recognizing the campaign’s impact, Sony Interactive Entertainment donated $25,000 to the ASPCA. The authentic community engagement paired with philanthropy makes this campaign stand out.
#ShotoniPhone user-generated content campaign
Apple invited iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max users to capture the little things in a big way with a macro photography Shot on iPhone Challenge.
To celebrate macro photography, Apple welcomed customers to share their favorite macro photos taken on iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtags #ShotoniPhone and #iPhoneMacroChallenge to participate in the challenge.
Marketing Assistant at Teranga Digital Marketing
Apple’s #ShotoniPhone campaign stands out as a remarkable user-generated content initiative. Apple brilliantly showcased the camera’s quality by encouraging iPhone users to share photos taken with their devices. Select photos were featured on billboards and commercials, celebrating amateur photographers and demonstrating the product’s capabilities. This campaign underscored the power of community engagement and genuine product promotion. Check out the hashtag #ShotoniPhone on social platforms to see its impact.
“For All Things Worth Saving” user-generated content campaign
For all things worth saving, Dropbox” highlights the content their customers store in Dropbox. They’re using real customers to help tell the brand story from a personal and work perspective. This approach helped highlight their core functionalities by showing the valuable things people save and share on Dropbox.
Marketing Assistant at TechNews180
Dropbox’s “For All Things Worth Saving” focuses on the way Dropbox supports people’s creative endeavors, work tasks, and big life moments. Anecdotes serve as the basis of the campaign’s concept. The goal was to highlight the human aspects of Dropbox’s products to emphasize its value and show users what Dropbox can do for them. Life’s everyday but important events become even more relatable and poignant through these stories. This platform shows how important technology is in our lives by connecting it to real and timeless human experiences, such as starting a family.
Over to you
This article has comprehensively examined some of the best user-generated content (UGC) campaigns and why they have succeeded. From NatureFresh™ Farms’ #KidsInTheKitchen campaign promoting healthy eating for children to Life is Good’s #SomethingGood campaign that raised $1 million for charity, each campaign showcased the power of UGC in different ways.
All the user-generated campaigns in this blog post have driven engagement and brand awareness. They are excellent examples of how harnessing the creativity and authenticity of users can lead to remarkable results, both in terms of marketing impact and social good.