What is User Generated Content and How To Use It For Marketing

Featured Business

Jolly Good Media


Content is hard, ask your customers to help

Marketing content is difficult to produce, especially for small businesses. It takes time, talent, and dedication to consistently create things of value for your audience. So why not ask your audience to create it instead? After all, they already know what they like, and with a little encouragement and the right idea they will create it willingly. This is the world of user-generated content and this post will explain how it works and how your business can benefit from it.

User-Generated Content (UGC) is any content made by the public or the potential customers of a business, not just the business itself. Most content on the internet is user generated and it’s allowed platforms like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter to thrive. Can you imagine the time it would take for Facebook staff to make as much content as its users do?

User-generated content is also seen as more genuine than content from companies because, well, it is! Being genuine is incredibly important to marketers because customers are tuned off or made cynical by too much traditional marketing. It’s also loved by companies because its much cheaper to produce.

Some examples of User Generated Content

This month Oregon City launched it’s Taste of OC event to boost local restaurants in the downtown area. Every time someone spends a certain amount of money they’re entered into a raffle to win some big prizes. However (and here’s the kicker), you can get additional raffle tickets if you take a photo of yourself enjoying your meal and uploading it to Downtown Oregon City’s Instagram page. This benefits the Taste of OC organizers because the customers will be doing some of the promotion for them. Instead of Downtown Oregon City taking photographs they’re incentivizing the customers to do it. This is a good example of using user-generated content for marketing.

User reviews are a major source of user-generated content which I encourage collecting for every business. People are much more likely to believe a recommendation from members of the public that have used that business, over the business itself.

Blog comments, or social media comments are also a good source of user-generated content. Any time a customer is willing to comment on something you put out that is an indicator of ?engagement?, which is a good indicator that what you are doing is working. I generally encourage businesses to focus more on getting engagement from people online over simply spamming people with ads.

How about a much larger example of user-generated content? Coca-Cola managed to find a way to do it without having to offer any incentives at all. Remember when Coke bottles were being sold with names on them? A coke bottle might have Matt, or Jessica, or Fred on the bottle which encouraged people to buy and take photos with their bottle when they found their name on them. That seems almost insultingly simple but it was incredibly effective and many people still remember that personalization today.

This is much easier than making something “viral”.

When a piece of content goes viral it has connected with people on such a deep level that thousands feel inclined to share it with others. This lightning in a bottle, despite being at the forefront of many a business owner, is incredibly difficult to make. If more marketers had figured out what makes something truly viral there would be a lot more of it.

Making a piece of content go viral is also often the result of a very talented marketing team that would take many other considerations. For example the perfect time to post, the perfect platform to post to, the right way to respond to engagement etc.

Trust me, unless you have that one amazing idea, then it’s worth putting viral content out of your mind. Instead of figuring out what content would resonate perfectly with customers, ask the customers themselves to make the content.

Tips on creating UGC

1 – Offer incentives

Most user-generated campaigns offer incentives for the content. Incentives could be prizes chosen for people randomly, or consistent rewards. Make sure the incentive matches what is being asked for though as people will not make the effort for what they consider to be a small reward or low chance of getting it.

2 – Choose the right platform

Most businesses use social media or their own website. But the counter of your store or a wall is just as good for local businesses. There are two important considerations; where to ask for the content, and where to display the content.

3 – Don’t make it a big commitment for people. And for heavens sake don’t make them think.  

We’re a fickle folk and we don’t like to think or work hard towards something that doesn’t benefit us directly. Make your appeal to user-generated content as easy to understand as it is simple to make. The classic selfie is a great start.  

4 – Make it genuine

If your appeal for user-generated content feels too forced, or not genuine enough, it will fail. Customers are naturally cynical and can easily detect when something is not legitimate. Ensure that you’re asking for something the customer really doesn’t mind doing.  

5 – Keep everything, but ask for permission before using it

User-generated content can be used again and again for that genuine marketing effect, so keep everything. Just make sure to ask permission before using it for official marketing materials. You don’t need permission if they’re posting it to their own social media wall, but you may need permission to post it to yours. It’s always better to be more vigilant than you need to be surrounding permissions.

7 – Appeal to emotions or a cause

The best examples of UGC come from the heart. It’s content that the user truly wanted to make. Try appealing to a specific emotion that people can relate to or attach it to a cause like world hunger or climate change. If they believe in the message that you’re asking them to send then they will try harder and the result will be more genuine. 

A great example you may not have considered

Here’s a classic example of user-generated content that works superbly. Ever gone to a dentist, or a diner, or a doctor and there are kids colorings all over the wall. The office will print off a lot of coloring sheets and leave crayons for the children of paying customers. The kids color them in and fill in their name and it’s added to the wall with all the others. THIS is user generated content with a range of useful benefits:

  • Keeps kids occupied (which the parents are grateful for)
  • Shows customers that this is a kid-friendly, local establishment that cares about who walks in the door
  • Allows the staff to do their job with a lower risk of screaming children
  • Makes the customers feel involved / part of things. 

Ok, another marketer might not call that example UGC in the strictest sense. But this is my post dammit and I’m calling it user-generated content.


Heres a statistic that I probably should have opened with – 92% of customers believe friends & family over traditional marketing methods.


When you encourage customers to create content that they believe in, on their own channels, you’re easily creating content that converts much, much, much more effectively. Be sure to ask permission and tie it to their values (or ego, that works too) and you’ll be well on your way.

Posted in

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.