Constantly coming up with new content ideas and putting the time and effort into creating them can be one of the toughest parts of building a website and marketing your business.
What if we told you there was a way to generate tons of unique content for your brand, without having to create it yourself? User-generated content (UGC) does exactly that.
UGC allows you to hand over the content creation to your customers, giving your brand new voices and perspectives that you can utilize within your marketing campaigns.
It’s a tactic used by some of the world’s biggest brand names, such as Coca-Cola and Apple. In this article, we’ll explore what user-generated content is and take a look at some of the most successful user-generated content campaigns on the internet.
Sometimes a brand can provide guidelines and parameters for the content they want customers to create but, at the end of the day, it’s the customer who has creative control.
User-generated content can be anything from a customer review or testimonial to a photo of your product that a customer shares with you on social media.
Brands can then take this content and share it on their own platforms as part of their marketing strategy.
There are various benefits to integrating user-generated content into your wider content marketing plans. For example:
- It builds trust in your website and brand because your audience can see real-life customers supporting and recommending the business and products
- It provides you with unique content that your competitors won’t have
- It requires next to no budget
- It adds social proof to your brand, showcasing that real people are shopping with you
- It helps you to build relationships with your customers – if you feature their content, they’ll be more likely to shop with you again because they feel valued
Take a look at these user-generated content examples to see what makes a successful UGC campaign and how you can implement your own.
To boost brand awareness, prompt sales, and create user-generated content, Coca-Cola launched its “Share a Coke” campaign.
We all remember this one when Coke bottles around the world featured people’s names in place of the drink name.
The bottles were adorned with the names of customers and distributed to cities worldwide, popping up in Australia, the UK, and America.
The concept of the campaign was simple. Encourage customers to hunt down their names and then share a picture of the bottle on social media using the hashtag #ShareACoke.
The campaign quickly went viral with everyone desperate to find their name on a bottle and social media was awash with photos of personalized Coke bottles – photos that the brand was able to share across its own platforms too.
One of the best ways to utilize user-generated content is to follow in the footsteps of Apple’s Shot on iPhone campaign and encourage customers to vouch for your products.
The Shot on iPhone campaign was launched after users began complaining about the poor quality of photos taken on an iPhone in low lighting.
Apple asked users to share the best photos they had taken in low light using their iPhone on the hashtag #ShotOniPhone. The idea behind the campaign was to regain the trust of users who were beginning to doubt the quality of the iPhone camera.
Rather than listen to Apple convince them how good it was, customers could instead see the results from fellow Apple users.
Apple then shared many of these images on its own channels and in special YouTube videos, helping to showcase the quality of images the iPhone could produce.
The campaign helped regain user trust in the product Apple was selling. It also allowed Apple to build a sense of community with people sharing their photos using the campaign hashtag and engaging with the campaign.
Doritos Legion of the Bold is one of the most creative, and successful, user-generated content examples we’ve come across to date.
The ongoing campaign encourages Doritos fans and customers to create their own unique and often hilarious Doritos-themed content.
The brand set up a dedicated website for the campaign where users can go for the chance to create an array of Doritos-themed content from Doritos recipes, Doritos memes, and even fake Doritos products (Tangy Cheese candles, anyone?!).
The website also includes challenges that users can enter, such as Doritos-inspired Thanksgiving recipes or Doritos-themed social media wallpapers.
Not only does the winner of the challenges usually win a cash prize, but Doritos also shares the user-generated content across its social media, with some of the best posts gaining thousands of likes and comments.
This is a great way of encouraging users to create unique content. And, by creating a specific website, the brand also has access to key stats such as traffic numbers and downloads.
Bedding and bath brand Parachute is a great example of a brand that utilizes user-generated content outside of traditional social media sharing.
The brand encourages customers to take photos of their products in their homes and share them on social media using the hashtag #MyParachuteHome.
While the brand will often share these images on its own social media accounts, it also repurposes the UGC for various marketing materials, including online ads, product listings, and even sales brochures.
One of the best ways the brand uses user-generated content is in its order cards. Each order contains an order card, thanking the customer for their order and featuring customer images of Parachute products in their homes.
This provides the customer with styling inspiration while also acting as encouragement for them to take and share their own pictures.
The My Parachute Home campaign is a great reminder that you can utilize your user-generated content across everything, from email marketing to your product listings, not just as a way to boost your social media strategy.
The Starbucks white cup contest is another great user-generated content example that can inspire your own campaign.
We’re all familiar with the iconic Starbucks white cup, but the brand decided to put a new spin on them in 2014 with the help of its customers.
Starbucks launched the White Cup Contest, a competition where customers needed to decorate and draw on their white cups in any way they wanted. The winning design would then feature as a limited edition cup in Starbucks locations.
The campaign encouraged sales – you couldn’t get your hands on a white cup to draw on unless you purchased a drink.
This was such a successful campaign thanks to its simplicity. Once a customer had bought their favorite drink, all they had to do was get creative and draw on their cup. In the first three weeks alone Starbucks received over 4,000 submissions on the #WhiteCupContest hashtag.
Netflix may have had some major budget to play with when it came to the marketing of its hit show Stranger Things, but that didn’t stop the company from utilizing some good old user-generated content.
In the run-up to the launch of Stranger Things Season 2, Netflix encouraged its audience to share their own Stranger Things-themed content on the hashtag #StrangerThings2 and #StrangerThingsHalloween. As the series launched around Halloween, the hashtag was full of users in Stranger Things-themed costumes.
What makes this such a good user-generated content example is the unique tone of the content – many of the images and videos that people shared were wacky, out of the ordinary, and eye-catching. Users wanted to discover what was happening and how they could get involved, so they’d find themselves navigating to Netflix’s accounts for more information.
Outdoor brand REI has built up a dedicated and loyal customer base over the years and the brand utilizes this to encourage user-generated content.
The REI Instagram challenges see the brand post a weekly challenge on its account. The challenge is always outdoor-focused and mirrors the lifestyle that REI products help customers achieve, such as favorite camping spots or hiking with pets.
The brand asks users to share a photo of themselves completing that week’s challenge with the hashtag #REIChallenge. The brand then shares a selection of the posts on its own Instagram page throughout the week.
This is a great way of building a community online with many users taking part in the challenge week after week.
To learn more about planning your brand’s Instagram content and making sure there’s room for UGC, check out our guide to creating an Instagram content calendar.
Bowflex is one of the leading fitness equipment brands but it isn’t too big to benefit from the power of a good user-generated content campaign.
The brand encourages customers to share pictures and videos of them using Bowflex equipment at home on the hashtag #BowflexAtHome. The brand will then share some of the content on its own channels.
By sharing the content on its popular social media pages, it encourages more customers to get involved for the chance of a shoutout.
But what makes this such a clever user-generated content campaign is the specific requirement the brand requests: customers using the products at home. This allows potential customers to see the products being used by people like them – a clever tactic for a brand selling fitness equipment that may seem scary or overwhelming to some users.
The Calvin Klein #MyCalvins campaign is a great example of using user-generated content to make a celebrity ad campaign seem more approachable and relatable for everyday customers.
While the celebrity side of the campaign saw stars such as Justin Beiber and Kendall Jenner describe the role the iconic jeans play in their lives, the UGC aspect focused on normal people.
Calvin Klein shoppers were invited to get involved too, sharing images of them wearing their own Calvin Klein jeans on the hashtag #MyCalvins, just like the celebrity endorsers.
The customer images were then featured on the Calvin Klein website, with links to product pages to allow other customers to shop the look.
The LEGO Ideas campaign took user-generated content to the next level, using UGC to help create new LEGO products.
Starting back in 2015, LEGO invited fans to build their own unique LEGO creation. Once complete, they could upload it to the LEGO website and campaign to get public support and votes for their creation.
If they can achieve 10,000 supporters, the LEGO board will review the creation and decide whether to turn it into a LEGO product to be sold around the world.
This is clever on so many different levels. Firstly, it encourages customers to get creative with LEGO products, and the requirement to share the creations online provides an excellent boost for brand awareness.
Not only this, but the voting element of the campaign gives LEGO the chance to discover what products customers want to see in stores.
From encouraging customers to share photos on social media using a hashtag to repurposing customer reviews for content, there’s a whole host of ways you can integrate user-generated content into your existing marketing strategy.
The UGC content examples featured in this article all find their own way to utilize customer content for their individual needs. We’ve looked at Apple using UGC as a way of rebuilding customer trust to LEGO using UGC to create new products.
But what’s your favorite user-generated content campaign? Be sure to let us know in the comments and if you enjoyed this article, why not check out how to create an influencer marketing strategy next?
It’s always best to ask permission before you share user content on your own platforms. Even if a user has shared their image using your hashtag or tagged your account, a quick comment to check they’re happy for you to share it will ensure you don’t run into issues further down the line.
User-generated content can refer to all different types of content including photos, videos, guest blog posts, and customer reviews and testimonials. If a user has created content to showcase your brand, it can be classed as UGC.
In theory, yes! User-generated content is usually totally free and you don’t need to pay users to share content they’ve already created and shared publicly online. Some brands do decide to offer incentives, such as offering a discount for customers who submit a review (that you can then use as content on your social media).