The Design Train blogs are a series of articles researched and written by Andrew Knapp for submission to various publications and sites. The articles cover a wide range of topics and can be adapted and edited for use in various styles of media application.

  • Andrew Knapp

Stuck for content ideas? User Generated Content (UGC) to the rescue!!



I have mentioned the importance of content in a few of my previous blogs, and for good reason. Content is the single most crucial element in social media marketing and is second only to identifying your buyer persona. When you consider that 73% of social marketers agree that User Generated Content (UGC) is the most effective method of reaching clients, maybe you should consider UGC for your business

This week we’ll look at ways of using UGC in your social marketing strategy. Although normally used in B2C marketing (business to customer), B2B marketing can also benefit from this style of content.

But what is UGC? Social Sprout’s definition is that it is a source of content crafted by a consumer, social media follower, fan, or influencer, whether in a blog, social media post, Wiki, podcast, video or social image. So basically it is any content is created by a 3rd party user. As such, developing UGC can be considered as a form of crowdsourcing.

Why use UGC: User Generated Content is amongst the simplest and most effective ways of creating content. Most people want to be a part of something, they want their opinions to matter, and social media is the ideal way of achieving that. UGC gives them their opportunity of expressing themselves to your benefit while giving you a break from originating clever content ideas.

Other advantages include automatic engagement generation. Engagement on your social posts is crucial to your edgerank and affinity ratings. The more interaction you can create with a post, the more chance it has of being seen on more than just your timeline.

Social proof is becoming increasingly important. Having a high engagement rate on your posts gives you credibility in the eyes of your audience. After all, this is not just you promoting your business or services; it is actual people discussing their opinions and feelings regarding the question or topic you have posed. Although you have initiated the conversation, it isn’t seen as a direct promotion of your business. Remember, social media was designed for social interaction and therefore companies primarily find it perfect for brand awareness more than sales generation. UGC also has authenticity. Viewers who see others discussing your brand on line helps make your brand ‘real’ within their mind. Again, it is not seen as promoting businesses and as such is regarded as authentic.

The costs involved in UGC are minimal and unless your strategy is a complex drive such as the brilliant Cape Town Tourism “Send Your Facebook Profile to Cape Town” campaign, all it takes is time and effort to monitor and respond to the campaign.

The statistics I’ve cited in this article shows that the ROI (return on investment) is increased enormously by using UGC.

Some Numbers: To understand how important UGC is, consider the following statistics:

  • 93% of consumers find UGC helpful when making an online purchase decision

  • 87% of brands use UGC in their marketing campaigns of which 72% feel that it helps them engage their audiences. This is because it is regarded as authentic information.

  • 84% of consumers trust peer recommendations

  • 64% seek out peer reviews before purchasing online

  • UGC is 35% more memorable than other media

  • 41% percent of consumers check 1 – 4 reviews before buying

  • Word-of-mouth (UGC) generates 2x the amount of conversions than paid advertising

  • 74% rely on social media for purchasing decisions

These figures show not only that UGC is a far more trusted form of content than a straight forward promotional post.

How to start using UGC: So how can the small business owner take advantage of using UGC in their campaigns? Your first step is to decide how you want to start engagement. Once you have identified which market you are targeting and their buyer persona you can consider the following.


Social posts asking questions: “What are your top three considerations when buying a new car and why?” would work well for a car dealership. “What are your top five tips for first time parents?’ is guaranteed to engage response for a baby goods store, while “What are your top investment tips” can work for estate planners or insurance brokers. Choose a question that you know will elicit responses.

Re-posting customer reviews: Sharing customer reviews is an easy way of sharing user generated content. This works well in the hospitality industry and should be utilised regularly.

Asking a question or for an opinion on blog posts: If you have a blog, garner UGC by asking pertinent questions toward the end of it, inviting your readers to give their answers and opinions on the topic. This is used to great effect with political, news and social commentary blog sites. Be prepared for ‘ranters’ and those who may not agree with your position, but always take the time to thank them for their view point. Never enter into an online debate where you humiliate your opponents. It is akin to social suicide. You asked for your reader’s opinions. Don’t disagree with them when they comply!

Competitions: Offering a reward in exchange for liking and sharing your page is a sure-fire way of creating engagement. Always make sure that you make the terms and conditions clear (follow the link to our website to see the terms and conditions), and that you follow up on the promise of your prize. If it is a product, ask the winner to send you a selfie of themselves with your product. Guesthouses or hotels should take photos of their winners on site. These must then be posted on your page as proof to your viewers that the competition was valid and the winners are real people!

Guest Blogs: Bloggers often invite someone else in their field to submit an article on their blog site. This benefits both you and your guest and gives you both viewership on each other’s networks.

Images of customers using your brand or service: This is perfect for Instagram and is used effectively in various industries. Clothing brands can ask for selfies of viewers modelling something from their range. Any business involving animals can ask for favourite pet or wildlife pictures. Outdoor adventure businesses can ask their audience for favourite action photos. The possibilities are endless. You could take this further by linking it with a competition where public votes choose the top photo of the month which will increase engagement further. Again, if you do offer a prize for the best image, makes sure that you post the result and photos of the winner. If you choose Instagram make sure to develop a Hashtag to go with it. Hashtags campaigns have become very popular and are a quick and easy way for viewers to access all posts associated with it.

The basis of any UGC campaign must be added value for audience. They won’t give you the content you need if there is no value to them. Added value needn’t mean a prize. The value of most UGC campaigns is that it gives your audience a platform to express their views. They want someone to listen to their opinions, so don’t disappoint them. Answer each comment, even if it just to say thanks. Avoid copy and pasting the same response to everyone. The human element is vital. Address them by name. If they have left a lengthy comment take time to read it and respond to a few of their points. If they feel brushed off it is doubtful that they will bother to respond to any future UGC campaigns you decide to run. Keep it simple. There is not much that can go wrong with a ‘like, comment and share’ strategy, but if you decide to include a call to action (CTA) such as 'link to our website to enter our competition', make sure that the website link is clear and well defined and that the link leads right to the competition entry page. Don’t make your audience hunt for how or where to enter. They will lose interest and scroll on.

Analyse your results. Most social platforms have analytics features that allow you to chart the success of the campaign. Use these to tweak and retarget your marketing efforts.

Important tips to remember when using UGC: If your business has recently undergone bad press or a run of bad reviews DON’T encourage UGC until the problems have been addressed.

UGC is not for promoting your business directly. Using UGC shows your audience’s opinions and ideas, not yours. Never edit or skew UGC input to suit your needs. The beauty of UGC is that it is authentic – keep it that way!

Choose your social platforms wisely. You must have a presence on the platform that the majority of your audience uses. Don’t undertake a UGC campaign on Instagram if the majority of your followers are on Snapchat or Twitter. When using UGC for the first few times only use one social media platform until you get the hang of it.


If you decide on running a competition always check the social platform's policy on competition posts. You don't want to fall foul of their rules of engagement.

Prioritise criticism. If you do receive negative input, address the issue immediately on the appropriate platform. Ignoring criticism will only exasperate the situation. Never delete a negative post. How would you feel if you were asked for your opinion on a social platform and your input was deleted? The chances are that ignoring or deleting negative criticism will only encourage even more negativity around your brand. (See my blog on ORM).

In Conclusion: I do hope that this has given you some inspiration to undertake your own UGC campaign. If you would like to bounce some ideas around or have any questions please feel free to email me, or leave your questions and comments below.

The Design Train offers digital, social and traditional marketing services to the small business owners. Please contact us to find out how The Design Train can help keep your marketing on track!

Happy Marketing – The Train Driver.


Image - adweek.com

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