As marketers, we’re starting to truly understand the value of authentic content. A scroll past your friend’s vacation photo posted to Instagram can do a lot more to inspire travel than a glossy ad or billboard masterminded by a glitzy ad agency. This is because, when content is generated by us, the “user,” it’s easier to relate to. After all, if that friend we follow on Instagram can ride an intertube through a cave in Belize, why can’t we?
Based on this philosophy, more and more businesses are adopting a strategy to utilize authentic content, i.e., user-generated content (UGC). And it’s paying off. UGC is helping brands see big results when it comes to customer conversion. In fact, 90% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support (up from 86% in 2017).
And, although the 21st century has given rise to the online influencer, UGC still reigns supreme when it comes to conversions. Consumers find UGC 9.8x more impactful than influencer content when making a purchasing decision.
So, how does your brand get on the UGC bandwagon? It’s easier than you think. In this article, let’s look at how to collect UGC, as well as some inspiring examples to get the creative gears turning. More importantly, we’ll look at what to do with the content once you’ve collected it.
How to Collect UGC
When it comes to asking your audience to pitch in and help create content for your brand, there are so many fun and creative paths to take. Whether it be via a TikTok challenge, a photo contest, a ‘share your story’ campaign, or some other form of content, the collected UGC can serve as impactful marketing material for your business. In these real-world examples from top brands, we not only see how the pros collect UGC, but also just a few of the many forms it can take on.
Chipotle’s TikTok Takeover
Chipotle’s presence on TikTok outshines other national brands. In fact, the Mexican food chain is one of the most-followed brands on the app with 1.7M followers. Their TikTok success could largely be attributed to the many creative challenges they use to collect clever UGC.
A recent challenge was the #chipotlelidflipchallenge in which Chipotle patrons flipped their entree’s foil lid on camera.
@daviddobrik #ChipotleLidFlip @chipotle #ad ♬ Flip – Future
Videos hashtagged with #chipotlelidflip and #chipotlelidflipchalllnge have over 1.6M views, which spotlights another benefit of collecting UGC – campaigns like these employ customers to do the bulk of the work, meaning the ROI of this campaign is just as impressive as the level of exposure it garnered.
Wayfair’s Clever Use of Instagram
If you’re anything like me, buying furniture online feels a little risky. When you can’t sit on it, touch it, or even see it in person, it’s really tough to know if the few hundred (or even few thousand) dollars you’re paying for furniture is going to be money well spent.
Wayfair’s clever way of boosting purchasing confidence is their #WayfairAtHome Instagram campaign. Customers are encouraged to post pictures of their purchases, unveiling the glossy “staged” look as they appear online, and reveal how a product authentically looks and fits in their home.
ShortStack’s National Pancake Day Photo Contest
Collected UGC isn’t limited to social media. In fact, when you limit your campaign to collecting hashtagged posts, or content collected on a specific app, you may be excluding a large portion of your audience.
When hosting a photo contest, offering multiple ways to submit an entry can help you cast a wider net when attracting participants. For example, by including a photo upload field in an entry form, you can allow users to submit a photo from their mobile device or computer.
Check out this clever photo contest hosted by my team here at ShortStack. As our company name implies, we’re pretty serious about pancakes so we put together this photo contest celebrating National Pancake Day. We used our new branded frames feature that allows participants to submit an entry with a photo frame added to their image.
As you can see, the results were pretty great.
Not only did this contest help us collect 3,000 branded images, but we were also able to use the whimsical content to further promote our branded frames feature.
Twenty One Pilots x Spark Challenge Art Contest
When it comes to digital design, Adobe leads the industry in content-creating software. So, it makes sense that they would host regular art contests allowing their users to explore the capabilities Adobe applications have to offer. This not only helps to create an army of brand loyalists but also builds eye-catching galleries that show off what users can do.
When Adobe hosted their Adobe Spark Twenty-One Pilots Art Contest, they did just that. Participants were asked to use the platform as well as some stock elements to create an engaging piece with photography, animations, and a Twenty One Pilots song.
This example of UGC not only showcases what Adobe Spark can do, but also helped create awareness for the band.
The winning art piece has over 2,600 views on Instagram alone. So, imagine the reach of the collective body of entries.
‘Super Heroes Wear Scrubs’ Call for Nominations
Any business can adopt a cause or even partner with a non-profit to run a giveaway for the sake of doing a little good for those who do good for others. During the global pandemic, many businesses took the time to thank frontline workers who put their health on the line in order to help others.
This ‘Super Heroes Wear Scrubs’ campaign is just one heartwarming example of how one business decided to do just that. This TV station’s giveaway celebrated nurses’ week and asked for nominations of favorite nurse teams. Although the TV station isn’t directly affiliated with the healthcare industry, and their primary intention was to honor these essential workers, this type of UGC holds value for the business that collected it. It’s a tangible example of the good this business does for its community, fostering support and loyalty among viewers.
T-Mobile’s Break Up Letter Campaign
As you’ve seen by now, UGC can come in all kinds of forms – creative writing is no exception. Whether it be a non-fiction heart-felt ‘Share Your Story’ campaign or a kid’s fiction short-story contest somehow tied into your brand, writing can be a great medium for the basis of a UGC campaign. One extremely clever example was T-Mobile’s Break Up Letter contest.
For this campaign, T-Mobile created an app that made it easy for participants to write a break-up letter to their current provider. Each participant who submitted a break-up letter and made the switch to T-Mobile received coverage for any fees incurred from breaking their current contract. T-Mobile collected 80,000 break-up letters. If each one of those letters translated to a new T-Mobile customer, that’s a whole lot of added revenue for the company.
How to Leverage the UGC You’ve Collected
Collecting UGC is only half the fun. To fully leverage the power of this clever, authentic content and associate it with your brand, it’s important to utilize it beyond simply displaying it in a contest gallery or leaving it to get buried by more recent posts on social media. Here are some great examples of brands utilizing collected UGC in their marketing.
A popular way to repurpose UGC is in ads. Utilizing photos, videos, and reviews to market to your audience takes the guesswork out of creating a marketing strategy that will really resonate with your audience.
Take, for example, this perfectly executed ad BarkBox made from the “unboxing” videos of their best customers.
BarkBox doesn’t have to do any research to know that its target audience is made of dog lovers and owners, so what better way to market its subscription box than to show the real reactions of the dogs who open it.
When showing off clever UGC, there’s no need for fancy video editors or ad strategists – leveraging your UGC can be as simple as reposting it.
For the marketing team at Buffer, reposts are helping to strengthen their Instagram presence. According to the social media app, “we’ve made reposting a key part of our Instagram strategy and this tactic has helped us to significantly grow our account.”
Here’s an example of a repost on Buffer’s Instagram profile:
As you can see, they’ve @mentioned the original creator, which is an important rule of reposting.
In a Talent Search
Another popular way to leverage UGC is to scour the collected content to search for your next “face.” Clothing brands such as Torrid, Aerie, and Chubbies have used the power of UGC to turn customers into their best representatives.
Take a look at this Chubbies Man Model Search from 2018. The participants may not look like a model you’d see sprawled across a billboard in Times Square, but Chubbies knows their audience and their audience isn’t receptive to chiseled abs and lasered, hairless skin. Instead, the clothing retailer turned to a UGC photo contest and found “real guys” to use as the next face for their brand.
In Other Imaginative Ways
If you’ve ever zig-zagged your way through an IKEA and made it to the kid’s section, you’ve certainly noticed the bins of colorful plush toys. They’re whimsical, colorful, and a little irregular. The secret behind their irregularity is in the conception of their design – IKEA’s plush toys are largely created from kid’s drawings! The drawings were chosen in IKEA’s Family Soft Toy Drawing Competition.
The U.S. Winner of the 2021 competition is ‘Dodo Bird.’ IKEA has already revealed the toy this drawing inspired, and it’s a must-have.
If we’ve learned one thing about UGC, it’s that collecting and using UGC allows customers and brands to get creative. This drawing competition is exemplary for such creativity. Not only from the kids who submitted drawings but in how this international furniture retailer decided to utilize the winning art.
Ready to get started? For more UGC inspiration as well as best practices, check out our free guide: User-generated Content and Content Rights Management