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How to Inspire User Generated Content (on Any Network)

The top UGC methods that fuel positive participation in social campaigns

Getting lots of popular and positive user-generated content is a pretty common goal for marketers, but it is easier said than done—not every brand is adept at encouraging users to create it. Then there’s the type, tone, and specific platform to consider.

Cheerios is making headlines with the #CheerioChallenge, an impressive UGC campaign that’s timely, targeted, and fun.

For the purposes of this post, let’s define user generated content or UGC as any mentions of a brand, company, or a specific campaign posted by someone who isn’t affiliated with the brand. So comments, hashtags being used, reviews, and images/videos posted by users featuring products (or services) offered by your business all can be considered UGC.

There usually has to be something in it for them! Therefore, you need to direct their behavior by encouraging them to create content centered around your company. Give them ideas and provide rewards for a job well done.



Everyone wants to be a winner, and therefore offering a prize on social media might be the easiest way to get people to create content that contains positive mentions of your brand.

Contests or sweepstakes can be judged based on the merit of the entry (as judged by you and your marketing team), user votes or participation, or whoever submits the most entries.

It’s likely you’ll get the most value out of a contest on a visually-focused network like Instagram, Pinterest, or YouTube (just ask Marc Jacobs or Nissan).

Ask your audience to submit pictures or videos of them using/wearing your products with captions that include a specific phrase or hashtag, and have the ones that get the most Likes, Shares, or re-Pins win the prize.



Offering a coupon or discount for people who submit content is easy enough, and offers a very direct reward for users who participate in your UGC campaigns. After all, nothing motivates people to perform any given action like a freebie, and chances are they will not only create some content for you, they’ll tell others they think might be interested in your products or services about it. People are generally altruistic and love to share tips and coupons with their friends and family, so take advantage of it!

Facebook can be an excellent platform for coupon distribution since most people use it to communicate with their personal networks already and it is easy to promote a discount code or deal through Facebook’s ad platform and boosted posts on your brand’s own page.



Combine the allure of a contest with that of a free item, and you’ll get a giveaway. There’s no competitive aspect like that of a contest, but there is the prospect of getting something for free. Plus it can and should be easier for the average user to participate since everyone who creates content is on equal footing (as opposed to a contest, where the prizes can be based on the quality and quantity of entries).

Giveaways work on almost any platform, but Pinterest and its relatively product-centric focus and the audience might be the best choice. Inspire your users to “pin it to get it”!



Coming up with a catchy or memorable hashtag is perhaps the easiest way to track mentions of your brand and develop a broad base of awareness, and it is relatively simple for users to participate—they just need to Tweet or post something on their or your platform of choice using the hashtag.

Users can be encouraged to participate in return for various rewards—coupons, discounts, extra contest or sweepstakes entries, and the opportunity to be featured on the brand’s social media, website, or other advertising platforms.

Twitter is obvious and perhaps the easiest choice for a hashtag-focused campaign, but Instagram also works well, particularly if your campaign is the sort that requires visual imagery. In fact, Chanel did a remarkable project working with top fashion Instagrammers to launch its new fragrance, inspiring a massive influx of high-quality UGC hashtagged with #NewChanel15.


Writing Prompts

Sometimes people might be interested in your brand but they simply have no idea what to write about—they just need a little inspiration in the form of a creative prompt. Ask them questions, give them examples by sharing existing UGC, or provide them with a format via key influencers that they can then make their own on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or the social network of their choice.

This can also be a good way to get feedback and new product concepts for your company—if you ask users what they want from your brand, chances are they will tell you, and they might have great ideas.

Using a company blog or working with key influencers who have their own distinctive audiences to build a collection of comments and responses also work, especially if your prompt is more text-centric, such as Estee Lauder’s “Stronger Together” breast cancer awareness campaign.



While not every brand will be able to use this as an option, if you have any products that can be customized or personalized by the end user, encourage them to share their creations (reward them with a discount or freebie, perhaps). In addition, take a page from industry leaders like Lego and Belkin or Vans, and give them the tools to design their own products and subsequently share them on social media.


Instagram might be the ideal platform for UGC centered around product customization since it is quick and easy to snap or capture a pic and post it with associated brand names or hashtags. Moreover, combining Instagram with Twitter, Facebook, and perhaps Pinterest can work well to create a larger footprint and gain more cross-platform followers.



While the prospect of opening yourself up to criticism via reviews and customer feedback can be nerve-wracking, it can also be rewarding. Not only can you learn what you might be doing wrong and reinforce what you are doing right, you can also build up an increasingly positive reputation via good reviews in addition to collecting more UGC. It’s an all-around win!

Of course, review-based UGC typically appears on Yelp, Google Reviews, TripAdvisor and other vertical or industry-specific platforms, and on your own site (if you engage in e-commerce).

But don’t neglect bloggers or influencers who may write about your products as well. You can reach out to them with a request to cover your product, which can help out tons with SEO (and in exposing your brand to a new customer base).

<love a good bow ?> the perfect jumpsuit from @shopalexiamaria #red #jumpsuit #bows

A photo posted by Blair Eadie / Atlantic Pacific (@blaireadiebee) on


Make it a game for users to create as much content as possible focused around your brand, leading to “prizes” like being part of a VIP club, membership program, unlocking badges and discounts, or special early access to sales and promotions.

Gamification works for a cross-platform or multi-channel campaign that touches various social media networks since users will likely need to interact with your brand on more than one site or place.

Whichever tactics you use to get it, it’s essential to remember that user-generated content can be a wonderful marketing tactic or technique that not only gets the word out about your business or brand but helps to develop a stronger connection and affinity in the hearts and minds of users since they have to actively take ownership and participate in a marketing endeavor.

However, getting people to create worthwhile content can be tricky. So before you put all your eggs in the proverbial UGC basket, be sure you have a plan to get the audience participation going—and hopefully, these ideas will help develop plenty of positive content that improves your brand’s overall digital presence (while showing how much your customers love you).

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