How to Use User-Generated Content: Tips, Tricks, & Best Practices

Melanie Balke
November 2, 2022

I’ve already discussed the {benefits of user-generated content}, but my last blog post couldn’t fit all the information necessary to paint a clear picture of this invaluable marketing strategy.

A successful UGC campaign will require more than a high follower count and some influencer marketing; you’ll also need a firm grasp of your social channels and a deep understanding of your brand ethos. It’s not easy, but business rarely is!

While I won’t be able to solve all your problems, I can hand out five of the best tips for using user-generated posts and maximizing the impact of content created by your loyal customers.

If you’re wondering what the best practices for using user-generated content are, this is the place to be!

These tips are crafted to improve your brand interaction capabilities while establishing a solid base for brand loyalty. Armed with these tips, you’ll be able to encourage more users to post pictures, videos, and content to hone your competitive edge.

So, if you’re ready, it’s time to get started!

1. Give Your User-Generated Content Marketing Strategy Clear Goals

A photo of a neon dart board features overlaid header text: “Tip #1: Set Clear Goals for Your Marketing.”

One of the biggest mistakes a social media manager can make is sharing irrelevant content. As lovely as it may be to encourage users to share more content, marketers must have clear goals for each post.

This applies to both general user-generated posts and deliberately cultivated marketing efforts.

Guiding Your User-Generated Content Strategy

If this sounds like another one of those vague and unactionable tips, give me a moment! Let me demonstrate what I mean with an example. Check out how Wacom, the self-proclaimed “leader in digital pen tablet technology,” highlighted some of its customer content:

A screenshot of a retweet from Wacom. An attached video shows an in-progress animation produced by Hayk Manukyan (@Hayk_Animation).

Aside from the fantastic artistry in this screenshot, Wacom is using its social network as marketing content. It knows that people view user-generated content more than traditional advertising, using its UGC creators as brand partners.

Wacom had a few clear goals in mind when it shared this user-generated content, namely:

  • Engaging with real customers
  • Highlighting its products’ abilities
  • Influencing purchasing decisions
  • Moving potential customers down the {sales funnel}
  • Rewarding the user — in this case, Mr. Manukyan — for posting content

Obviously, your brand won’t need to follow this precise formula. Every brand has its own strategy for posting user-generated content, and yours will depend on your unique marketing needs.

Knowing your goals will also help you find the right channel for collecting your user-generated content, as each of the major social media platforms has its strengths. For example, you wouldn’t seek written responses on a YouTube channel; you’ll collect those from forums, Twitter, and your branded Facebook page.

Goals Help Produce Authentic User-Generated Content

In addition to knowing your general goals, you’ll also want clear guidelines for paid and promoted social media marketing efforts. Both contest participants and paid UGC creators will need clear guidelines to produce the most relevant user-generated content.

In addition to clearly outlining these rules and ideas in contractors or contest entry pages, you can reward users for creating UGC that aligns with your goals. Take this adorable Instagram post from Patagonia as an example:

A screenshot of an Instagram video post from Patagonia, which showcases one of its products. The content is credited to @somirasao.

As an outdoor clothing company, Patagonia’s target audience is outdoor enthusiasts. Upon spotting this customer content, the brand seized the opportunity and utilized the heartwarming video to reach more potential customers.

Ideally, your marketing team will pull content related to your brand values.

Don’t Forget Attribution!

And before I move to the next tip, I want to draw particular attention to another feature of good UGC campaign practice: All of these posts give proper credit to the original creator!

Regardless of what a website’s policy may be, a user’s content is generally considered to be their own. To build brand awareness while nurturing relationships, you must start practicing your manners! Be sure to ask permission before using any user-generated content, including Instagram posts, YouTube content, and social media posts. Otherwise, you may be looking at a visit from your legal team.

2. Be Specific About Your User-Generated Content

A header image features a microscope with overlaid text, “Tip #2: Be Specific About Your Needs.”

It pays to be picky with your UGC strategy. Even new brands with a small follower count should be wary of who they align with and what they share. Many large corporations have moderators overseeing their brand hashtag for this very reason.

Aside from the obvious reasons for social media marketers to avoid sharing anything from anyone, — such as aligning with bad-faith commenters, damaging brand reputation, and appearing inauthentic — critical examination of content created by your customers can have a few benefits.

Build a Community

Plenty of brands have built their success upon a solid fanbase, and this outcome hinged upon a cultural foundation. Consumers trust content created by their peers, and focusing your content strategy on a particular audience segment ensures that your social proof appeals to the appropriate viewers.

More importantly, this level of precision promotes consumer-generated content that fits your individual needs. By curating user-generated content, brands can craft and nurture a unique community of enthusiastic customers.

Reduce Overall Expenses

Moderators and automated social media crawlers are a distant dream for most small businesses. To compensate for this, most brands turn to cultivating positive feedback and establishing a solid content strategy. In doing so, brands reduce the amount of clutter in their social media channels.

Specific requests can also work on websites! If you’ve ever browsed Amazon, you’ve probably seen plenty of user-generated content, the most prevalent of which is product photos.

A screenshot of the upper portion of an Amazon reviews section. The uppermost section of the right column reads, “Reviews with images,” followed by four user-submitted photos of Nintendo’s Fire Emblem: Three Houses game.

After a purchase, Amazon’s reviews section will encourage users to submit photos of their products. While this will help a product rise in popularity, it also gives potential buyers a tangible example of how an item may look or feel.

3. Reward Users for Their Engagement

A photo of leaves with overlaid text, “Tip #3: Engage With Your Content Creators.”

One of the best ways to promote the right user-generated content is to reward customers for posting the ideal content. In other words, you want to repost content that fits your brand values.

Remember: A user-generated content campaign is cheap because you don’t need to invest in creating your own material. Instead, you cultivate UGC images and videos to increase brand awareness.

Highlight Brand-Specific Content Created for You

Many brands will find that they have a core of dedicated fans. Your loyal customers can become fantastic brand ambassadors, and they may even create content just for you! Take this fanart highlight section from Toby Toad’s Instagram as an example:

A screenshot of Toby Toad’s fanart section on Instagram.

This user-generated content is the mark of a great brand, and the creator clearly took time to make it. As such, they should be rewarded!

Regardless of how you share the content, always give the original poster proper credit.

Ask Questions to Encourage Engagement

If you’re running low on engagement, consider asking your community a question. As with any winning strategy, you’ll want to tailor your inquiry to meet your marketing needs. Coca-Cola is constantly asking its Twitter followers questions, and the results can be delightful!

A screenshot of a Tweet from Coca-Cola. The tweet reads, “What do you imagine #CocaColaDreamworld tastes like?”

Some of these comments can be highlighted on other social media channels. For example, an Instagram story can feature a particularly humorous Twitter answer.

As you gather your UGC, remember that customer value user-generated content because so few trust traditional advertising. As you amass a stockpile of user-generated videos and content, seek content that balances quality and authenticity; this will deliver the best social proof for your investment.

4. Reuse Content for Maximum Efficiency

A photo of many recycleable materials features overlaid text: “Tip #4: Make Use of Multiple Channels.”

Successful UGC campaigns will usually spawn a lot of material. With so many people generating content, you’ll have plenty of material to choose from. However, if you’re a small business, it takes time to reach that point. To improve your ability to create UGC, don’t be afraid to reuse content.

Consumer-Generated Content Is Useful Anywhere!

One of the biggest drawbacks of traditional marketing is a lack of flexibility. When you craft a conventional campaign, it tends to be for a singular medium. However, user-generated content can work in multiple places!

A thread of Tweets can become a goldmine for amusing content, which can be added to your brand’s Instagram story. Particularly creative marketing professionals may even come up with ways to utilize written content on a YouTube channel — perhaps through humorous readings.

As an example, I’d like to draw attention to some of the testimonials highlighted on The Email Marketers’ website:

A screenshot of a testimonial on The Email Marketers’ home page.

Quotes are amazing ways to promote your brand, and encouraging a relationship between yourself and your customers can boost brand loyalty. However, from a marketing perspective, these interactions also provide social proof for a brand’s content strategy, and excerpts can be reposted on various social media marketing channels or incorporated into information YouTube content.

5. Follow Your Rules

A photo of a broken wall features header text: “Tip #5: Always Follow Your Rules.”

Now, this final tip may seem obvious, but I’m including it for a reason!

At the beginning of many brand’s user-generated content strategy, most of its content will be from contests and hopeful fans. While it may be tempting to highlight everyone — or, in some cases, to be incredibly picky — this tactic will only hurt you later.

Once you’ve defined the rules of your user-generated content curation, stick with them!

A Cautionary Tale of the Wrong Way to Handle User-Generated Content

A photo of leaves features overlaid text: “A Cautionary Tale: The Importance of Following Rules When Using User-Generated Content.”

I’ve filled today’s blog post with plenty of examples of good user-generated content, so it’s only reasonable for me to wrap up the lesson with a cautionary tale of bad user-generated content.

Allow me to introduce the Artesian Builds debacle, which resulted in the bankruptcy of a fairly promising company. Before its ill-fated social media marketing campaign, Artesian Builds created custom-made computers and promoted itself through a collection of popular gaming personalities. These sponsors were allowed to produce user-generated content in the form of links, verbal plugs for the brand, and Tweets to enter regularly held giveaways.

This is all well and good, but the brand ultimately bungled its own content strategy by committing the cardinal sin of user-generated marketing: Artesian Builds failed to follow its own rules. When a “smaller” streamer won their free gaming PC, they declared the results invalid and refused to hand over the prize.

Aside from being a blatantly bad PR move, this decision snowballed into a torrent of backlash against the brand, and Artesian Builds filed for bankruptcy afterward.

Don’t Fear Your User-Generated Material!

That’s not to say that you should avoid user-generated content, though!

A solid UGC strategy can rocket your business into stardom, but you (or your marketing team) must abide by the rules. Otherwise, your user-generated content plan may become your downfall.

It’s a lot to juggle, and trying to figure it out on your own is complicated.

Amplify Your Marketing Strategy

At the end of the day, user-generated content helps brands build a reputation. When brands share user-generated content, they signal to fans that they care about their devoted customers.

You can spend years browsing all of the user-generated content examples online, but you’ll never find something that will match yours. More importantly, you’ll never find a user-generated content that resonates with your audience by browsing generalized guides.

If you’re struggling with your marketing, consider calling me! We can discuss your business needs and create a stunning plan that utilizes your user-generated content in stunning marketing emails.

You can also browse the rest of my blog to see more tips and tricks about marketing!