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How to source and use UGC

How to get the most from user-generated content and inject it into your marketing strategy.

Sophie Thompson
30th June 2021

Millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than original content from brands. It adds authenticity, and real, human opinion to the product being sold. From a brand perspective, user-generated content is generally a lot cheaper to use than the time, resources, and budget that goes into a larger campaign, which is why we’re seeing it pop up a lot more, and why it’s forming a bigger part of content marketing strategies.

Audiences love user-generated content because as a brand, it’s so easy to stage, Photoshop and position yourself in the perfect light to the point where it becomes unbelievable. Real posts from real users give a sense of security and trust.

What counts as user-generated?

User-generated content is such a broad term that it's hard to provide a set definition, but simply put, if it mentions your brand or products - and your employees didn’t create it - it’s user-generated!

Some examples of user-generated content include:

  • Photos - images taken by users/customers that are tagged and shared on social channels
  • Videos - usually filmed on a phone and then tagged and shared on social
  • Reviews - these can be published on set review sites and social channels
  • Podcasts - getting your brand mentioned in a third part podcast can work wonders
  • Social media updates - any type of post that promotes your message

How to source user-generated content

While you can collect and benefit from user-generated content on an ad-hoc basis, it’s worth putting a process in place to keep track of your available content and iron out any legalities. Something like the Content Hub in ContentCal is a great place to store UGC as you can drag and drop it into your social channels when you need it.

It is crucial that you don’t forget to ask for written permission to use the content from the original creator, as it’s not owned by your brand.

Some ideas to encourage user-generated content

Dedicated hashtags

When posting user-generated content to your channels, using an easily identifiable hashtag that encourages people to share their own content is a great way to find it and store it all in one place. If they’re using the hashtag, you can also make the assumption that when you reach out, they will be happy for you to use it.


ContentCal’s Contributions feature helps you gather information from both in and outside your business. For example, if you want people to share photos of their dogs, you could set up a form specifying what you’re looking for, and add the link to that form on your social media platforms.

Any content that gets submitted via your bespoke form will automatically go into your Content Hub. As there’s an option to make emails mandatory, it also means you can reach out to the original creator with questions or for further permissions. If you aren't a ContentCal user, you can still create a Google Form as a basic alternative to the Contributions feature within our content calendar app.

Incentives or competitions

If you want people to give you their content, reward them for it! It's a great way to say thanks and encourage more submissions, and will still definitely be cheaper than putting your own campaign shoot together. It also means you can be as picky or selective about the type of content you want too, all while raising brand awareness as it gets shared across both the user's feed and the brand's.

Influencer marketing

The influencer marketing industry is set to hit $15billion by 2022, and is arguably one of the most effective ways to get your brand seen on social media.

Use a platform such as Tribe, to find the perfect person to promote your brand and get you the best ROI possible. This is particularly great if you have an event or pop-up that feels a little more authentic where content can be captured naturally, rather than a sponsored post.

Engage with people talking about you on social

People buy from people! Forming good relationships with frequent interactors on social media means they’re more likely to do you a favor, or in this case, give you their content for free.

Be sure to reply to comments, add personalized touches to the interactions - like using their name, and don’t use it as an opportunity to sell. This is purely for loyalty purposes.

Create photo-worthy opportunities

Instagram feeds everywhere are packed with photo-opp shots. Whether it’s a new monument in a local city, or an art installation with bright colors, giving people a reason to pull out their phone and post, even if they don’t necessarily realize it’s your work, is a great way to secure user-generated content.

An example of this was ProperCorn’s all-pink themed pop-up to celebrate a new flavor they were bringing out. The installation provided beautiful photo opportunities for passers-by, as well as free manicures and popcorn if they shared the photos they took on their social media.

Screenshot 2021-06-30 at 17.01.51

Brands doing UGC well


Untitled design (20)

Instagram’s tap to shop function is the perfect pairing for user-generated content. Not only does it help with authenticity, but you still get to push a soft sell too. 80% of Monsoon’s Instagram feed is made up of shoppable images. They collect the images by asking users to use the hashtag #MyMonsoon when they post.

It’s not heavily branded so users feel more compelled to post (especially if they bought the clothes because they love them). It's been working so well that the brand has even started using user-generated content in its email campaigns. BazaarVoice reported that this gave Monsoon a 3% increase in revenue and a click-through rate increase of 14%.


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Doritos have launched Legion of Creators - essentially an opportunity for fans of the brand to create content for them, with the chance to get paid for it and be featured on their social media channels.

Each month, they post briefs of the content they’re looking for, and fans vote for the best pieces, for which the top prize is around $3000. This campaign is so left-field from regular user-generated content that it brings the brand closer to their fans and enhances their online brand personality - it's instantly recognizable to anyone looking at their feed.

Citizens of Humanity

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In this charitable approach to user-generated content, Citizens of Humanity used the psychology of influence to tap into people’s good consciences, and encourage them to post branded photos on their social channels in exchange for a charitable donation from the brand.

By putting a selfie into their website generator, the user is given a branded ‘humanity’ image which they then reshare. For every image shared on social, with the dedicated hashtag #WeAreAllHumanity, the brand makes a generous $10 contribution. They also made it clear that they set out to get 10,000 photos, making people feel more compelled to do their part.

How to use user-generated content

Build a strategy

Setting your intentions for your campaign is crucial for it to be successful. User-generated content is such an integral part of forming your overall strategy now, that it makes sense to set objectives for it.

Do you want to build awareness? Drive conversions? Both? Setting an end goal makes it easier to form decisions on how to get there. For example, if you’re trying to drive conversions, you’re more likely to choose a Monsoon-style approach rather than the Doritos approach.

Remember it's more than just pretty pictures!

Pretty pictures can be a big part of achieving success through UGC, but the overall goal of user-generated content is to tap into content that customers use to inform buying decisions. If it stops at them liking a photo and moving on with their day, it’s probably not doing its job!

Be clear about what you're offering

Proving a clear brief about what you’re looking for, and what incentive you’re giving people in return for submitting content is crucial. Set up a dedicated hashtag, add a section on your website, or create a competition that encourages content in exchange for a discount code or other reward.

If you’re a bigger, more prestigious brand, people are usually happy with exposure, but if you’re a small business, in a world where influence pays, you need to offer people something!

As you don’t own the rights to the content you’re using this is really important, or you could end up with a hefty fine to pay. Make sure you have written permission from anyone whose content you’re looking to use, and keep a log of that permission in a central document, like a spreadsheet that you can refer to quickly.

It’s worth setting up a mini template contract of a couple of paragraphs explaining how you’ll use the content, and asking the person to respond ‘yes’ if they agree to everything you’ve outlined.

It’ll save you hassle down the line later, and is an easy process to set you on your way to content success.

To keep your content in order, make sure you’ve downloaded our free marketing campaign template, which is totally customizable to the project you’re working on.

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