The numbers speak for themselves: 1% of Millennials trust a brand's advertising; 83% of consumers worldwide express complete or partial trust in the recommendations of friends and family above all forms of advertising; and 80% of online content nowadays is user-generated content (UGC).

Without a doubt, people's product preferences are influenced by media. People also have no qualms about using media to share stories about their personal experience with brands.

The point I'm trying to drive home here is that no marketer of sound mind would miss the chance to mobilize their target audience in an effort to drive business impact and influence those customers to tell stories in a natural way, spreading authentic brand truths.

Unlike advertising, UGC campaigns are about sincerity and authenticity, and the business benefits of such an approach are clear:

With all that in mind, chances are you already consider UGC part of your marketing campaign. But do you consider all of its elements when attempting to influence consumers?

Step 1: Set a clear marketing goal

To develop a strategy for your smart UGC campaign, answer two questions related to setting a clear marketing goal:

  1. Why do you need UGC?
  2. How will you use it?

Your motivation might be to...

  • Come up with business ideas (create a new motto or tagline, design a new logo, etc.)
  • Generate new content (a persistent problem for all content marketers)
  • Attract new clients (and increase sales as a result)
  • Get more followers on social media
  • Increase brand loyalty (customers' comments, testimonials, or reviews)
  • Improve goodwill

Once you have a clear goal, it's time to start planning.

Step 2: Find an idea your target audience will consider awesome

As a marketer, you know and understand your target audience like the back of your hand. What questions could you ask to get their attention?

Depending on your idea and the audience's interests, choose the most appropriate type of UGC for your campaign.

The most common types of UGC are comments, reviews, designs/drawings, photos, and videos and podcasts.


Comments are crucial for generating goodwill. If consumers leave comments, it signals their interest in what you do. Besides, people often share their experience via comments, which could influence the preferences of new visitors to your website.

Featured customer comment
Image source: PlagiarismCheck

2. Reviews

For conversion, reviews are the No. 1 type of UGC to influence the buying decisions of consumers. According to a study by Econsultancy, "61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision," and "63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews."

To get reviews from your consumers, just ask people to write them. Yes, some visitors will write reviews spontaneously, but you can increase the number of testimonials by simply asking for them. Use your website, social media accounts, or email newsletters to do just that.

3. Designs and Drawings

The perfect example here is Starbucks, which organized a drawing competition to find a new design for its "limited series" cups.

Starbucks design contest examples
Image source: Instagram

This type of UGC lets you kill several birds with one stone:

  • You attract a different target audience (designers, creative artists, painters) to your brand
  • You motivate loyal customers to express themselves
  • You save costs on designers
  • You get more exposure and new followers on social media
  • You increase conversion

4. Photos

With nearly 1.3 trillion photos taken every year, it can be pretty profitable for brands to use this type of content in UGC campaigns.

Asking customers to submit photos allows you to build trust and awareness of your brand, as well as attracting new customers and influencing their decisions.

"Sharing a Coke" from Coca-Cola was a great example of a UGC campaign: It went viral, brought great returns for the brand, and gave consumers tons of positive vibes.

Image source: Instagram

5. Video and Podcasts

Videos and vlogs are arguably among the top marketing trends of 2017. Consumers will be happy to generate content if you ask them to make a creative video with your product, perform some tricks on camera, film a video about your brand or product, etc.

Just look at GoPro's Instagram account of awesome action-videos, all made by consumers.

When planning a competition or contest, don't forget to inform participants about rules and prizes. The more details you provide, the fewer questions you get. (For example, when launching an essay-writing contest, Bid4Papers created a blog page to inform participants.)

The more difficult the task you give your consumers, the less UGC you'll get from them. So make it easy.

Step 3: Choose a platform

Social networks are the most popular place for publishing UGC because consumers already use them to express their opinions of brands.

Social media UGC provides exposure, potentially building brand loyalty and influencing customers.

To launch a UGC campaign on social media, ask consumers to generate content then share it with your chosen hashtag. Depending on what content type you choose for the campaign, the ideal platform for publication will differ. Photos and short videos are perfect for Instagram, mottos or taglines work well on Twitter, product reviews work on YouTube, and testimonials are a good fit for Facebook or your company blog.

You could also ask users to send UGC submissions via email, which is better suited to large competitions or ad campaigns with big-money rewards.

Step 4: Analyze customer influence

Results and numbers say all that needs to be said.

Gather statistics on new subscribers, leads, or customers you've attracted throughout the UGC campaign.

(To get a more detailed look at the role of UGC, download The Marketer's Guide to User-Generated Content from Crowdtap.)

Long live UGC!

Compelling content generation and promotion are time-, energy-, and funds-consuming. A smart UGC campaign will help you with all of those, at the same time giving you tons of original ideas.

More Resources on Customer Influence and Target Audiences

Five Steps to Winning Back Lost Customers by Using Targeted Content

Three Ways UGC Influences Sales: The Case of Real-Customer Photos

Target-Audience Segmentation: Why You Need It and How to Do It in Five Easy Steps

(Article updated on September 11, 2023.) 

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image of Lesley Vos

Lesley Vos is a writer and marketer specializing in content research, creation, and promotion.

Twitter: @Lesley Vos

LinkedIn: Lesley J. Vox