Why You Need to Add User Generated Content to the Mix

Believe it or not, user-generated content doesn’t get the reputation it deserves. Though marketers know it can be a powerful force to add to your content marketing strategy, many still struggle to jump on board. Read on to learn how adding a touch of UGC can make a big impact.

The Power of User-Generated Content

What is user-generated content (UGC) you ask? To put it simply, UGC is organically created and shared by your brand advocates. Unlike influencer content, these posts and articles are not sponsored by your brand. The content is publicly available, can be shared, and exists in various formats such as videos, Tweets, posts, blog posts, you name it.

If you’re thinking that the best user-generated content campaigns required an endless cash flow - you’re wrong. In fact, some of the most viral campaigns actually cost very little but proved to be powerful crowdsourcing funnels, providing measurable sales growth and brand awareness for the brand.

User-generated content is such a hit with audiences because it’s authentic. Unfortunately, we are still making up the damage done by our early 90’s predecessors. Audiences, still have a hard time fully trusting branded content - and can we really blame them? This is exactly what makes UGC so successful. If you’re getting discouraged because you’re not getting any love from UGC - don’t. There are plenty of ways you can help ignite cross-channel UGC.

I fact, one of the best UGC campaigns ever to hit social media was the Starbucks “White Cup Contest”. The 2014 promotion encouraged customers to decorate their to-go coffee cups with an original design posted to social media with a branded hashtag. Just think about how easy this was on resources. Simply by using their product packaging, they were able to create an interactive experience for their customers which earned them engagement and visibility. Talk about cashing in on the ROI.

The result? Starbucks received over 4,000 entries to the contest in less than three weeks. Artfully decorated and doodled cups were shared across social channels which undoubtedly gave Starbucks the brand awareness they were after.

What made the campaign so engaging was the contest prize. The winner’s unique design was used on one of the most iconic coffee cups around the world. This goes to show you don’t need to have a huge cash-prize to get the attention of your fans. A little creativity will do the trick.

Best User-Generated Campaign Examples:

  • Lowe’s #FixInSix viral video competition - What could be better than creating and sharing your own tips? Lowe’s contest asked their audience to get creative with sharing their handyman tips with six-second videos uploaded to Vine. 
  • Dorito’s #BurnSelfie photo contest - This campaign was launched to celebrate the ‘extra spicy’ chip flavor launched by Doritos. Fans were asked to share a selfie of their reaction, after eating one or more of the hot chips.
  • Coca Cola’s “This Is Ahhh,” campaign - The first commercial ever to be entirely comprised of user-generated content submissions from the soft drink’s fan base.

Influencer Marketing

User-generated content isn’t the only way to produce authentic content. Influencer marketing is a social media trend that is taking the internet world by storm. When looking at the similarities between UGC and influencer marketing we can see so many similarities that it’s easy to see why.

Influencer marketing can be a budget-friendly option. You no longer need to cooperate with A-list celebrities to get your message out there. Finding the right influencer should do the trick.

When it comes to influencers the ‘go big or go home’ adage doesn’t apply. Micro influencers can be a brand’s secret weapon because they offer highly engaged content distribution, to very specific target markets, and can be light-years more affordable than your standard celebrity or Instagram superstar.

While celebrity campaigns can generate huge buzz, they don’t always feel as intimate. Micro Influencers’ community views them as a reliable information resource - sound familiar right? This is why UGC and influencer marketing are such an integral piece of your content marketing strategy. If done correctly you can not only reach new audiences but help instill more trust in your existing customers. 

While celebrity campaigns can generate buzz, they don’t always feel as intimate. Micro Influencers’ community views them as a reliable information resource - sound familiar right? This is why UGC and influencer marketing are such an integral piece of your content marketing strategy. If done correctly you can not only reach new audiences but help instill more trust in your existing customers.


Which Type of Content Style and Distribution Works Best: UGC or Influencer Marketing?

So, when it comes to jotting down ideas for your next campaign should you go with UGC or dive into influencer marketing? The answer is you should include both content strategies in your marketing plan. Both are great ways to distribute content to new audiences in an authentic creative way - so why limit yourself to one!?

Influencer marketing helps you spark online conversations about your brand naturally. It’s no secret that online personalities have the unmatchable ability to deliver content to the right people in a fun way that makes it seem less like marketing. On the other hand, leveraging user-generated content gets your most loyal fans talking about your brand which is priceless publicity (with minimum resources attached).

A Note of Content Caution

Putting too many restrictions in place just doesn't work and can have long-term consequences. This is something that marketing teams need to remember when they think about putting guidelines in place that will limit their audience or influencer’s creativity.

Keep your rules to a minimum to allow your customer curators and influencers to express opinions in their own style. The results will speak for themselves.

The Takeaway

There is no shortage of demand for stellar content - but there are limitations and only so many hours and employees that can feed the content machine. Leveraging a combination of user-generated and influencer campaigns allows you to scale your content across channels. And the best part is - it doesn’t always have to come with an insane price tag attached.

When it comes to content - quality isn’t the only thing you need to consider. You also need to think about the different methods you use to get branded content out in the open. You won't get anywhere if you’re solely relying on our own channels. This why user-generated and influencer content is so impactful. By cooperating with individuals and spokespeople in your industry you can spark huge engagement which helps contribute to the growth of a loyal following for your brand overall.


Pratik Dholakiya is the Founder of The 20 Media, a content marketing agency specializing in content & data-driven SEO. He regularly speaks at various conferences about SEO, Content Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Digital PR. Pratik has spoken at NextBigWhat’s UnPluggd, IIT-Bombay, SMX Israel, CMO Asia, SEMrush Meetup, MICA, IIT-Roorkee and other major events across Asia.

As a passionate SEO & content marketer, he shares his thoughts and knowledge in publications like Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, The Next Web, YourStory and Inc42 to name a few. Search Engine Watch & Search Engine Journal recommend him as one of the top ’SEO’ experts to follow, and Onalytica has named Pratik one of the top content marketing influencers three years in a row. Recently, Pratik has been awarded one of the 100 Smartest Digital Marketers of India by World Digital Marketing Congress. He is active on Twitter and can be reached @DholakiyaPratik.




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