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User-Generated Content: Where Does It Fit in Your Content Marketing Strategy?


User-generated content is powerful because it taps into people’s inherent desire to be recognized and appreciated.

When your brand shares something a customer or fan created, that external recognition not only strengthens the customer or fan’s affinity with the brand, it encourages that person to share the content further with his or her friends (and your brand benefits vicariously).

I bet this customer of Badass Beard Care is now a brand advocate for life.


However, in a world where many marketers are obsessed with short-term tactics to acquire as many customers as they can as cheaply as possible, UGC is a long-term relationship tactic that won’t run out of style any time soon. Ninety-three percent of consumers find UGC helpful when making purchasing decisions and 86% of millennials consider UGC to be a key indicator in the quality of a brand.

User-generated #content is a long-term relationship tactic that won’t run out of style, says @IamAaronAgius. Click To Tweet

It’s more effective to have your customers promote your brand than just to have the brand do it to bring new customers in the door. With UGC, you can turn your best customers into your best advocates. After all, customer relationships are what help businesses transition from money-making enterprises to sustainable brands.

UGC doesn’t have to replace other forms of marketing, but it can become a powerful weapon in your arsenal.

Here are some of the ways you can improve your content marketing using UGC.

Video reviews

Every e-commerce marketer knows that the conversion rate can fluctuate dramatically depending on the elements featured on the landing page.

Social proof is a key element of a good landing page, especially for visitors who are unfamiliar with your brand. They need reassurance your product is what the brand claims it to be before making a purchase.

Video reviews are treated as a credible type of social proof because the visitor can hear the reviewer’s voice and assess how that person truly feels about a product. (Text reviews are easier to fake and often less organic than a video review.)

Video reviews are credible social proof because visitors can hear and see reviewer, says @IamAaronAgius. Click To Tweet

In psychology, the theory of implicit egotism suggests that people are hardwired to give greater weight to opinions given by those resembling themselves. By featuring an abundance of video reviews on a product page – each represented by a distinct aspect of your buyer persona – you can help prospective buyers feel a greater level of trust when deciding to purchase.

Boom by Cindy Joseph, a skin-care brand that markets to women over 40, features numerous video reviews on every product page that prospective buyers will relate to.


Video reviews don’t need to be professionally produced. iPhone footage is perfectly acceptable and makes the reviews more believable.

TIP: When soliciting video reviews, I recommend consulting your list of repeat buyers. Given their multiple purchases, they have a proven positive opinion of your brand so they’re often happy to help.


Given people’s inherent preference for stimulating images, coupled with the rise of mobile access, it’s no surprise image-oriented social media channels are surging.

Instagram is an excellent tool brands can use to boost awareness and establish niche authority. Posting high-quality UGC can skyrocket your Instagram following and help build a community around your brand.

.@Instagram is a tool brands can use to skyrocket following & help build community. @IamAaronAgius Click To Tweet

Buffer, a social media scheduling tool, makes excellent use of UGC on its Instagram page. By promoting the #buffercommunity, Buffer encourages its users around the world to frequently post (and Buffer reposts) amazing photographs of exotic locations.

A social media scheduling tool that uses its Instagram page for travel content may seem strange, but it makes perfect sense.

Buffer is a remote company with its employees scattered across the globe. As the company’s Instagram bio describes it: “A team of #digitalnomads around the world shaping the future of work.”

Buffer fits with my perspective. I got into internet marketing because I wanted to travel more and I was sick of the location constraints of my office job. Automation tools like Buffer give me more free time to enjoy the locations I visit, and, judging by the #buffercommunity activity, I’m not the only one.

By re-gramming beautiful visuals that emphasize the ethos of the company, you can create a powerful sense of belonging around your brand. People aren’t just scheduling social media posts when they use Buffer, they’re celebrating the freedom to explore the world and forging an evolved workplace culture for future generations.

Photo and video contests

Brands have been hosting contests to promote their businesses for centuries. Contests are effective because they leverage numerous psychological factors.

First, people love receiving something for free. Contests also leverage the age-old power of scarcity. People jump at the chance to enter a contest particularly if the prize is unattainable in normal circumstances. They can envisage the emotional benefits of winning (think about the lotteries in the United States).

You can improve your brand awareness by hosting contests that require entrants to submit UGC. In addition to the lure of the prize, people enjoy the community aspect of such contests and relish sharing their entries with their friends.

Host contests that require entrants to submit user-generated content to boost awareness, says @IamAaronAgius. Click To Tweet

Several years ago, National Geographic hosted a popular Instagram contest where photographers could submit inspirational travel photos using #WanderlustContest for a chance to win an incredible trip to Yosemite National Park.


The contest was a success for everyone. The travel photographers got their names associated with a premier brand, while National Geographic curated an incredible selection of photographs of the natural world to please its viewers.

If you can feature humor in your UGC contest, that’s even better.


Shoeboxed, a paper-to-digital data service company, offered a free iPad mini for the best photo of a messy desk – and there was no shortage of entries. The winner was decided by whichever photo received the most re-pins on Pinterest.

The company didn’t hope entrants would share, they made it almost a requirement – that was the way to win the contest – hustling to get re-pins from friends (and whomever else they knew). Every re-pin exposed the Shoeboxed brand to a potential customer – all through the work of the entrants’ UGC.


While user-recorded phone footage can work well for e-commerce stores, it’s not appropriate for every scenario. If you’re selling high-ticket items and have a premium brand website, the low-tech version with its poor lighting and other inadequacies won’t match your brand’s voice.

But you still can leverage user-generated content through video. To get high-quality footage where you can control the scenery and substance, invite your audience to a live event.

Hire a professional video crew, says John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing. Then let your attendees talk. They’ll give a relatable, third-party opinion and the footage will be an excellent quality so you can show it to your high-end prospects.

Additionally, promote a hashtag and encourage your audience to use it during the event. Give a goodie bag full of visually appealing gifts to encourage them to take and post photos on social media. (I base this idea on the law of reciprocity. A person given something of value will feel a subconscious urge to repay the favor.)


Before running any UGC campaign, carefully consider what would happen if things turned sour, and only begin if you’re equipped to deal with the consequences.

Before running any #UGC campaign, consider what would happen if things turned sour, says @IamAaronAgius. Click To Tweet

Several years ago, McDonald’s ran a campaign where users were encouraged to post their experiences with the brand using the hashtag #McDstories.

Instead of galvanizing people around the McDonald’s brand, the opposite occurred. People gathered together to discuss the inhumane treatment of farmed animals, health problems associated with fast food, and other terrible personal tales. Years later, the hashtag is still going strong.

Even for brands infinitely less polarizing than McDonald’s, the land of social media can be a ferocious place. Before you encourage UGC, think about the potential responses and develop a plan to address them.


As with all marketing tactics, you’re most likely to succeed with UGC when your aim is to provide as much value as possible to your audience.

People need a reason to submit their awesome UGC to you – an incentive for posting a video review host, an amazing prize through an Instagram competition, or a sense of community to be part of something larger than themselves.

Can you think of any other ways to leverage user-generated content? Please let me know in the comments.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute