How to Take Your User-Generated Content from Good to Great


If you’re on the fence about purchasing a new product, whose word are you going to trust more: the brand that’s trying to sell you the product, or a regular person who’s already made that purchase and loves their item?

Yeah, we’d trust the regular person too.

That right there is why user-generated content, or UGC, can be so powerful. Used correctly, it can be the content marketer’s best friend – but only if you know how to make that content great.

Used correctly, user-generated content is a marketer’s best friend. Click To Tweet

So how do you inspire your followers to create content that grabs users’ attention? That turns those on-the-fencers into loyal customers?

Just follow these tips, and you’ll see your UGC go up in both quality and quantity.

Commit to building a strategy.

Tons of brands share what their followers post, but not nearly as many have a clear strategy that helps them decide when, where, and how to share that content.

Engagement, of course, is key to a successful social media strategy, but engagement by itself isn’t a strategy for encouraging user-generated content.

Instead, think of your UGC strategy like any other marketing campaign.

First, you need an objective: do you want your UGC to inform, or to entertain (or, optimally, both)? Do you want it to build awareness of your brand at large, or help promote a specific product or service?

Next, decide where you’ll be hosting the campaign. Where do your users congregate? Facebook? Instagram? Comb through your analytics to decide which platform is likely to give you the most successful results.

Finally, you’ve got to decide what it is that your customers will be creating. Will you be running a video contest? Requesting hashtagged selfies with your product? Asking users to share favorite moments with mom? The sky’s the limit.

Create a concise, specific ask for your users.

If you want to generate high-quality content, it’s essential to give users a clear, specific ask.

Starbucks’ Red Cup Contest is a perfect example. Every year when the holidays draw near and Starbucks’ red cups start popping up at the coffee shops, the company asks customers to share artful images of their red cups on social media, with the tag #redcupcontest.

“Fueled by Light”  So it snowed about 2 feet over night and all that’s keeping me warm and sane is coffee ☕ I’m entering this Starbucks contest and if I win, I’m gonna spend it buying coffees for some of you! #redcupcontest #Starbucks

A post shared by joel robison (@joelrobison) on


The instructions are easy to understand and to follow and to make it even better, there’s a reward – a $500 Starbucks gift card. This yearly contest regularly gets thousands of entries, generating some seriously stunning UGC for the company.

To inspire great user-generated content, include a clear, specific ask. #ugc #digitalmarketing Click To Tweet

Use hashtags wisely.

When you’re soliciting UGC, the right hashtag is very important. You’ve got to have a hashtag so that users – not to mention, you – can find all the other amazing content that their peers are posting.

How do you craft the right hashtag? For the long answer, check out “Winning the Hashtag Wars: How to Use Hashtags to Increase Your Reach and Strengthen Your Brand.”

The short answer, however, is:

This might mean that you can’t use a hashtag as simple as your brand name. If that’s the case, be creative, but not too creative. You still want people to immediately associate it with your brand. In the end, that’s much more important than being clever.

Review your UGC religiously.

While users can be some of your most effective brand ambassadors, there are those internet trolls out there who can wreak havoc on your brand with a single offensive comment.

You’ve got to review your comments, interactions, and posts that are tagged with your brand in a timely manner to make sure that you don’t accidentally allow something horribly distasteful to stay on your page.

With UGC, you need to be just as vigilant – and not only because of trolls. User-generated content contributes to your brand’s image, so if you’re getting a bunch of blurry selfies tagged with one of your hashtags, that’s not going to make your brand look so great.

Of course, the beauty of social media is that it’s a two-way street. You can’t control everything that users post about you, and you shouldn’t want to – that’s why social media can be such a powerful tool for brands.

But there are certain things you can do to improve the quality of your UGC. One is to offer rewards or giveaways for the best picture, or video, or comment, or whatever it is you’re requesting. People won’t post as haphazardly if there’s a chance of winning a prize.

You may also want to look at the guidelines you’ve given users. If they’re not specific or clear enough, you can find yourself with submissions that don’t make sense or that aren’t cohesive with your overall campaign.

Finally, when you’re looking for UGC to share on your own social media channels, keep your standards high.

You don’t need to share every post that mentions your brand positively. Be selective – choose the most beautiful photos, most meaningful stories, and the most interesting comments.

In fact, it’s important to note that you can share things that are simply in keeping with your brand persona. They don’t have to have something to do with your product.

Patagonia, for instance, is an outdoor clothing brand with a strong set of environmental values. On Instagram, they share beautiful images of nature and outdoor activities taken by their fans, like this one:

A burst of sun over the horizon affirms the correctness of the path well-chosen. Photo: @andrew_burr

A post shared by Patagonia (@patagonia) on

Focus on highlighting your customers’ stories and experiences, instead of just their interactions with your product.

For more on creating amazing content, read our post “10 Remarkable Strategies for Content Marketing.”


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