It’s rare to come across a content marketing proposal that doesn’t include a campaign for user-generated content. If you want to get in on the action but are a little hazy on the details of what user-generated content is, then you should know that it’s exactly what it sounds like. User-generated content is when brands get content from consumers who use their products or services by asking them to generate posts, photos, videos, ideas and comments about their experiences using them. It’s usually done on a fairly large scale and often through social media platforms, especially Instagram.
User-generated campaign ideas can be as simple as a country’s tourism board posting gorgeous photos of little-known local destinations that will generate content in the form of likes and comments from users. Or it can be as involved as the BBC inviting 50 guests to the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and asking them to chronicle their experiences at the wedding and share their videos of the event on social media.
What Is User-Generated Content?
User-generated content is different from other forms of content in that it doesn’t come directly from the brand or even an influencer. It comes from consumers or users of the brand’s product or service. Although brands typically ask for the content through their followers on different online platforms, guide its themes and specify certain hashtags, they don’t create it.
User-generated content is different from influencer-generated content. Although influencer-generated content gets results for brands, it also costs more. Influencers often charge fees for content partnerships, while users generate content for free out of their passion for the brand.
Benefits of User-Generated Content
There’s strength in numbers — that’s one reason why user-generated content comes with so many benefits. Here are some of the most important advantages user-generated content has over other forms of content:
- More Cost-effective: User-generated content is a lot cheaper than paying for models, stylists, location fees and all the other overhead that comes with brands doing their own shoots.
- More Authentic: User-generated content from real people doesn’t seem highly posed and styled. It seems natural and in the moment, creating a sense of trust with the audience due to its impression of authenticity.
- More Relatable: Info and advice from everyday people carries more weight with consumers than if it comes directly from brands or celebrities. User-generated content also creates a more emotional, human connection with consumers than brand content does.
- More Trustworthy: In addition to coming across as more authentic and relatable, users also seem more trustworthy because they — often — aren’t receiving compensation.
- Easier to Share and Track: User-generated content is easy to share on social media by reposting or regramming and easy for content marketers to track using campaign analytics.
- Higher Engagement: Another benefit of user-generated content is the high level of engagement it attracts in the form of likes and comments. That can lead to increased conversation about the brand and turn users into advocates.
- Boosts Reach: User-generated content boosts reach because it’s viewed as being more authentic, creating impressive word of mouth. When users become brand ambassadors, it further grows reach.
- Rich in Information: You can glean a lot of valuable information from user-generated content. Engaged followers might show you creative ways they use the product off label or give you new ideas for content or product collaborations.
User-Generated Campaign Ideas
Campaign ideas that include user-generated content are abundant and can deliver handsome returns on brand awareness and sales. Take your cues from the different ways these brands’ campaigns successfully attracted user-generated content that boosted the bottom line:
When Virgin Holidays wanted to make their content more relatable to their audience and to do it in a cost-effective way, they asked people to share their vacation photos and videos online and to use the Virgin Holidays hashtag #SeizeTheHoliday. They then repurposed the user-generated content into TV ads and digital billboards. Online bookings soared by 260 percent. Having real people share their experiences in a specific area like vacation travel makes content seem more authentic and experiences more reachable and relatable than a traditional celebrity ad campaign might.
Online home goods company Wayfair created an innovative campaign that attracted user-generated content. Wayfair asked customers to post photos on Instagram that showed off their interior design skills using Wayfair items they’d bought online and including the hashtag “WayfairAtHome.” Consumers could click on links where they could buy the showcased products. Wayfair avoided the costs of using professional photographers and furniture stylists to produce shoots and instead shone a spotlight on their followers’ creative talents, engendering a sense of pride, collaboration and community with them.
There’s nothing worse for many travelers than checking into a hotel that doesn’t live up to its online image. And there’s nothing worse for hotel brands than customers who check out because they feel they’ve been tricked by digitally altered photography of the hotel. Loews Hotels built trust with consumers by showcasing user-generated content from its #TravelForReal campaign. Using un-retouched photos that actual guests took of their Loews hotel stays, Loews Hotels’ campaign scored big for authenticity and for its respect and appreciation of guests’ real experiences, loyalty and content.
With the goal of increasing awareness of all the potential uses for cheese among foodies and cheese fans, Borden Cheese created a Culinary Creations Sweepstakes. The contest encouraged consumers to post photos of dishes and centerpieces they created using Borden Cheese on social media. Entrants could win high-end kitchen appliances and one grand-prize kitchen from Borden. Contestants took cheese, a basic food item, and transformed it into a key ingredient in an imaginative array of delicious dishes, using beautiful photography to present their mouthwatering creations.
Netflix repurposed and reposted fans’ posts and tweets about the entertainment company’s TV shows and movies along with custom hashtags to get the word out about new releases and build their audience. Netflix recognized the power of its shows’ fans and their enthusiasm and optimized it, creating excitement and anticipation and encouraging engagement with and within the community to promote its new releases.
Noting that pet-friendly travel was surging, Georgia Tourism developed a campaign for user-generated content with the goal of promoting Georgia as the most pet-friendly state in the nation. Explore Georgia, an arm of Georgia Tourism, targeted a desirable niche market with its #ExploreGeorgiaPup campaign.
Explore Georgia encouraged their target audience of millennial pet owners to share photos of their dogs romping around Georgia on social media and also asked them for tips on pet-friendly travel. Beyond exposure on social media, they also offered travelers who shared pup photos the added incentive of being entered into pet-centered contests. The contests offered chances to win pet accessories and products and a stay in a pet-friendly resort in Georgia. The campaign drove traffic to the Explore Georgia website and boosted Georgia Tourism’s followings on Instagram and Pinterest.