Marketing Strategy

UGC 101: Guide to User-Generated Content Marketing

By Megan Marrs April 28, 2014 Posted In: Marketing Strategy Comments: 8

What is the fabulous and extraordinary thing that is UGC? No, it’s not the latest clog variation of UGG boots - it’s none other than user-generated content!

Today we’re looking at different kinds of user generated content, examples of user-generated content, where to find it, how to use it, and more!

What is User Generated Content?

A user generated content definition: UGC is anything on the web that users have a hand in making. Most of the photos, videos, and posts you see on the web are pieces of user generated content. Basically, UGC is anything not made by a brand, though brands do leverage user-generated content for ranking.

Different Kinds of User Generated Content

The variations of UGC are endless. Some major kinds include:

  • Blog comments
  • Facebook comments or posts
  • Reviews
  • User generated videos
  • User generated blog posts
  • Forums
  • Podcasts

Some popular streams of UGC involve collaboration between a brand and a user. Take for example, the Christmas Jib Jab “Elf Yourself” videos that tend to re-emerge every holiday season. Jib Jab let users upload photos of friends and family member’s faces, which are then pasted onto Jib Jab’s animated dancing elves. In the example video below, one users uploaded Harry Potter characters for an special Hogwarts-ian Elf Yourself video.

These videos have been hugely successful - Jib Jab provides the tech and tools while users bring their unique creative flair to the table, creating custom UGC that people LOVE to share.

User Generated Content Examples: How Brands Can Repurpose UGC

In a previous Facebook advertising post, we showed how several brands are doing a great job of repurposing user generated content for their own benefit, sharing brand-inspired fan art and customer testimonials across various social networks. Here we’re highlighting a few of our favorite user generated content examples once again.

This eloquent endorsement posted by a Twitter fan was taken by Dominoes and then pasted over an image, creating a new visual piece of UGC that could then be shared on Facebook (and other networks).

facebook user gen content

M&Ms likes to do a Fan Pic Friday, in which a UGC piece is shared on various social networks. This is another great example of a user generated content marketing strategy that capitalizes on users’ creativity.

user generated content by fans

Starbucks also posts fan generated content every so often - people love their coffee, and Starbucks isn’t afraid to share user generated content that shows off how beloved they are.

fan created content

GoPro is another brand that has done a fantastic job of utilizing fan generated content. GoPro will often share and promote impressive customer-created videos on their YouTube channel.

 

All this user generated content marketing has meant tremendous things for GoPro. As GoPro videos become increasingly more popular, more users get excited at the idea of making their own mini-films for their own five minutes of fame. Those users naturally go out and buy a GoPro before creating even more unique UGC videos, which in turn promote the GoPro brand and increase sales. It’s a marketers dream cycle!

Reviews are another form of user-generated content that can easily be re-formatted for different mediums. A stellar Amazon review might do a lot of good repositioned on your website.

UGC reviews

Big Barker Dog Beds make smart use of Amazon reviews on their website.

Make the most of your user generated genius - you’re letting your fans do the work for you. When you have a popular brand that generates fan attention, the user generated content that rolls in is immensely valuable. Why? Well for one, there are some pretty creative people out there who find fun and innovative news ways to talk about your product or brand. Ways you may never dream of. The creative culture of user generated content is quite impressive - even the big buck marketing teams would be hard pressed to compete with the creativity of fans.

user generated content marketing examples

The work of a mad man

There are dozens of ways user generated content can be repurposed across various web identities - an Instagram post tagging your business can be shared on Pinterest! A shout out on Twitter can become a Facebook testimonial. The possibilities are endless. Don’t let your UGC go to waste - make the most of it!

Where to Find User Generated Content

Maybe you’re getting excited now about all that high class, super UGC ripe for the taking. But where to find it?  There’s all sorts of user generated content sites across the web, but it helps to know where to look. (Also, be sure to check out our list of free content marketing tools.)

Some UGC powerhouses included…

Devianart

Devianart is the #1 spot for blossoming artists of the world to show off their wares. Every kind of art imaginable can be found on this online haven for the artistically inclined (from fabric design and computer generated art, to 3D modeling, drawing, and more).

user generated content sites

Flickr

As one of the few (if not the only) photo-hosting sites giving away a whole terabyte of space for free, Flickr has a lot of users posting their photography work. If you see something you love and want to use, reach out to a user and ask.

user generated content on flickr

Don’t feel like panhandling for photos? Alternatively, search Flickr via Creative Commons for photos that can be used for free in exchange for attribution. These photos can also be found by conducting an Advanced Search in Flickr, and checking of the Creative Commons-licensed only option at the bottom.

creative commons UGC

Reddit

Reddit presents a heap of UGC in the form of images, forum discussions, and comments. If you’re looking for authentic user generated content, you’ll likely find all sorts of stuff on “the front page of the internet.”

user generated content reddit

Facebook

Where there are users, there is user generated content. And boy howdy, there are tons of folks on Facebook! The semi-recently updated Facebook search tool can help you find discussions revolving around your brand.

user gen content facebook

It becomes pretty easy to find user generated photos and posts about your brand with a quick Facebook search. Try it out and reap the rewards.

where to find user generated content

Twitter

Twitter is a hot spot for discovering conversation surrounding your brand. Just hashify your business and see what’s the buzz! The Advanced Search feature is also useful for finding what people are saying about a topic during a given time frame. You can even embed relevant tweets right into your content.

twitter user generated content

using twitter for user generated content

YouTube

YouTube is home to the crown jewel of user generated content - video of course! The King Kong of content, video can captivate and hold the attention of viewers much longer than text or photos.

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu (oh man, the 1st world in which we live), and sure enough, when I search “taco bell,” on YouTube, quite a few user generated video reviews pop up.

user generated video content

Assuming they have good things to say about you, user generated video reviews can be prime UGC to show off and repurpose for your business. Video user endorsements can carry tremendous word-of-mouth power, all the more mighty because you’re seeing the real people who recommend your product, making their opinion exponentially more trustworthy. Text reviews on the other hand, while still very valuable forms of UGC, can be mistrusted by skeptical users who see the reviews as potentially artificial. The Internet’s trust factor when it comes to quoting individuals has been seriously damaged.

UGC

In case the hilarity of this image sails over your head - it’s a quote from Yoda (Star Wars), attributed to Dumbledore (Harry Potter), with an image of Gandalf (Lord of the Rings). For optimal misquotation, the link to this image should say “My favorite Star Trek quote.”

Pinterest

Pinterest is another great source for user generated content. People just love posting pics on Pinterest - especially food pics. Again, search your brand and wander through pins to see if anything juicy shows up.

user generated content marketing

Instagram

Instagram has become the #1 spot for mobile photo-sharing fans. There’s a ton of great UGC on here, and it’s a great spot to host a contest or giveaway in order to obtain user generated content (more on that strategy later).

I recommend using GramFeed to search through Instagram photos - it’s a handy little site that lets you search through instagram posts by topic or hashtag.

where to find UGC

Amazon Reviews (& Other Reviews Sites)

As discussed with regards to YouTube videos, reviews are great for swaying the opinions of hesitant buyers. Scour popular review sites for shining endorsements of your biz - try searching through Amazon customer reviews or Yelp reviews for starters, as that’s where the majority of online evals take place.

UGC review content

People take online reviews quite seriously (although there are tons of hilarious funny Amazon reviews out there as well) and put a lot of thought and consideration into their evaluations. Use the good ones to your advantage!

No Brand UGC? No Problem - Go a Bit Broader

The best user generated content is content that relates directly to your brand. That tailored fan content works for you on so many levels - it serves as a word-of-mouth endorsement, helps with brand development, and engages with audiences on their level. Basically, personalized user generated content is just the best - it’s the bee’s knees!

UGC bees

Adorable bee from cartoonist Gemma Correll

But sometimes the “best” just isn’t attainable, in which case, the next best will do just fine. If you have a tough time getting your hands on specific brand-related UGC, fear not! Instead, seek out user generated content that is related to your industry. For example, if you sell mountain hiking gear, you might be interested in user generated content from outdoor junkies. Look for photos, blog posts, gear reviews, or videos from campers.

user gen content

Goal Zero sells portable solar panels for charging goods on the go, but they’ll often share UGC that will interest their audiences, such as a guest post about fly fishing.

Of course, whenever sharing user-generated content, it’s important to give credit where it is due; be sure to call out those awesome content creators for sharing their experiences.

Want Custom User Gen Content? Just Ask For It!

Sometimes, getting what you’re after is a simple as saying, “please.” You’ll be rolling in UGC in no time if you organize a contest that require a piece of user-generated content as a submission.

Take for example, a current Pillsbury contest asking fans to submit by posting a photo to Instagram of their brightest and boldest baked goods.

getting content by users

It’s a simple concept, but bakers from all over are more than happy to oblige, and the user generated content has been steadily coming in.

creative culture of user gen content

Contests are often used to build brand awareness and reach, but involving user-generated content adds a huge bonus element, as the brand earns a collection of great fan crafted content that can be implemented for different purposes and on different mediums for years to come.

Winning photos can be curated into a blog post (which fans will doubtlessly share for self-promotion sake), posted on Pinterest, tweeted on Facebook, and so much more. What’s not to love?

Communal Blogs

Another way to get user-generated content is to host a communal blog or forum.

For example, YouMoz is a communal posting space where community members can share their own blog posts and content on Moz. Members vote on the posts with a thumbs up or down – if the article gets enough positive votes, the post is promoted to the main blog. Online community-oriented sites like this are great for building community and serve as a smart source of high-quality user-generated content.

user generated content websites

User Generate Content Blues? Fake it ‘Till You Make it

Still having a hard time getting your hands on UGC? Try creating your own! OK, it won’t really be user-generated content if you’re making it yourself, but you can replicate the user-generated style that will likely appeal to users over more blatant branded advertising.

User generated content statistics from Crowdtap show that Millennials consider UGC 20% more influential and 35% more memorable that branded messages. They also are 50% more likely to find UGC trustworthy as opposed to branded advertising. So even if your marketing content isn’t authentically user-generated, that style of marketing will appeal much more to younger audiences than classic branded marketing. 

It’s unclear if this photo posted on Starbuck’s Facebook page is fan-crafted or the company’s creation, but regardless it has the style and concept (pop-culture oriented) of a UGC piece. Naturally this got a TON of likes and shares online. Nothing hits quite as hard as nostalgia.

faking user generated content

We’ve made a pretty strong case for user generated content. If you’re not foaming at the mouth for that home grown UGC by now, you’d best re-read this post! Your quest for fantastic user generated content may take you to some strange places, but as long as you come up with some UGC spoils, it’ll surely be worth the ride.

Do you have a piece of user generated content that did a ton of good for your business? Share your experience in the comment section below!

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Comments

Monday April 28, 2014

Ryan Law (not verified) Said:

I've always been a big fan of UGC for social proof purposes - but I hadn't even entertained half of the suggestions on offer here!

Photographs and instagram competitions are a personal favorite of mine - requiring relatively little time comittment from your audience (just a few minutes to upload a photo!), and offering your brand honest, visual and eye-catching social proof. A picture really is worth a thousand words, and UGC is a fantastic way of getting those pictures!

Fantastic post, so thank you for putting the time into writing it!

Thursday May 01, 2014

Megan Marrs Said:

You're welcome Ryan! I agree, photo contests are huge, and those images can be re-purposed and re-used many, many times. Definitely the way to go. 

Monday April 28, 2014

Darius (not verified) Said:

Great post! Pinterest is great for User Generated Content and getting traffic to your blog. 

Thursday May 01, 2014

Megan Marrs Said:

Yup, Pinterest is a real power house!

Tuesday April 29, 2014

Sunday (not verified) Said:

User generated content could really be an awesome strategy to increase brand awareness. A lot of people are doing it well and it is helpful that marketers really gets hangs up on it. This guide is expository in the sense that it has explained the concept of UGC better. I guess its now time to leverage on its power for real!

Wednesday April 30, 2014

Justin Belmont (not verified) Said:

This is a really great post! Your points are well thought out, and you really give an in-depth guide to UGC, filled with types of UGC, examples, and sites to use. One of the easiest ways to incorporate UGC into your content marketing is with discussion comments and forums; that's definitely a type that Prose Media uses. This is a really great article - thanks for sharing!

Thursday May 01, 2014

Megan Marrs Said:

Thank you Justin, I'm really glad you enjoyed the post!

Monday May 05, 2014

Edward (not verified) Said:

Thanks for sharing such an innovative post. I Hope it really helps me for my blog.
 

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