How To Use User-Generated Content In Your Marketing

Everything you need to know about using user-generated content to take your marketing to the next level.

As the world becomes increasingly media savvy traditional marketing tactics are becoming less and less effective, with social referrals and user testimonials becoming increasingly powerful. This is where user-generated content (or UGC) comes in.

UGC is any content that is created by unpaid contributors (your fans) on your behalf. UGC is essentially marketing material that is coming from your users instead of from you, and it functions as a powerful and engaging source of customer testimonials and social referrals.

The type of user-generated content you should focus on depends entirely on the nature of your brand. Some common examples of effective UGC includes photos of real customers wearing your clothes, posts praising your products, authentic demonstrations of your product in action, or fun content based around a specific campaign or theme.

In this post we're going to take you through all the best ways you can use user-generated content to take your marketing efforts to the next level, but first we're going to take a quick look at what makes user-generated content so important and how you can collect it.

Incorporating user-generated content into your marketing is an outstanding way to put your customers front and centre and provide your audience with some all-important social proof.

When it comes to engaging audiences and driving conversions UGC can be a lot more effective than sticking entirely to traditional marketing materials. Here's why:

User-generated content has a level of engagement and relatability that your own marketing material will struggle to match.

Showcasing your products with user-generated content is a lot more authentic and trustworthy than just relying on your own branded content. People will inherently trust content coming from real users which makes UGC a powerful source of social referrals.

UGC will help you extend your reach as people will post their branded content for their own following to see. This is great for raising awareness, boosting visibility, and building positive associations.

Running a campaign to generate UGC is a fantastic way to get users involved with your brand and build a sense of loyalty, engagement and community.

Compared to producing traditional marketing material, collecting user-generated content is essentially free. The only cost you might incur is the price of a prize if you want to run a photo contest to help encourage the creation of UGC.

We've taken a look at what exactly makes user-generated content such a powerful marketing tool, but before we get into all the best ways you can use UGC in your marketing we're going show you the best ways to generate and collect your own highly valuable fan-made content.

One of the best ways you can go about collecting user-generated content from your audience is by running a hashtag campaign.

A hashtag campaign involves creating a unique hashtag and encouraging users to create and share content with that hashtag on social media. You can run hashtag campaigns across a wide array of online platforms, with Instagram and Twitter being the most effective.

Boohoo promote their hashtags in Instagram bio

When you run a hashtag campaign you can collect any type of content you want including highly valuable photos highlighting your offering or videos of your product in action.

When you run a hashtag campaign you can often encourage participation just by asking for it. You can build up excitement and maximise involvement by:

  • Posting regular reminders of your campaign
  • Showcasing users' submissions to provide inspiration and promote a sense of community
  • Using the prospect of being featured on your social channels to incentivise participation
Learn More About Running A Hashtag Campaign

Find out how to create your own hashtag and run powerful campaigns that will drive engagement, and generate awesome user content.

If you really want to get people excited and encourage the creation of tons of high-quality user-generated content then you should try running a photo contest and offering up an awesome prize to lucky participants.

Giving your audience extra incentive to create and share photos won't only help you drive more participation, but also the creation of more advanced content such as videos of your product in action or creative projects.

Photo contests are an incredibly effective strategy for engaging your users and driving the creation of loads of awesome content, but it's vital to make sure you're properly executing when it comes to promoting the campaign, collecting submissions, and drawing winners.

Learn More About Running Photo Contests

Find out everything you need to know about using photo contests to collect user-generated content and drive massive engagement.

Hashtag campaigns and photo contests are both exceptional ways to drive the creation of engaging user-generated content that you can use to enhance your own marketing efforts.

Plus, when users create and submit content they'll also be exposing it to their own social circles. This is an incredible way to expose your brand to a new audience in an authentic way which will help you foster positive associations and find new leads.

Before you start using all the awesome UGC you've collected in your marketing efforts it's important that you make sure you've gotten permission to do so.

If you want to showcase your UGC in a community gallery of social media posts then you're free to do so, but if you want to repost user content from your own social media accounts or emails then you'll need to get explicit permission to do so.

Ask for permission to use UGC

You can do this by directly reaching out to users and asking for their permission to use their content, or you can take the easier approach and run a photo contest where you clearly state in the terms and conditions that entrants are giving you permission to use their content.

If you want to learn more about getting the permission you need to use UGC then you should check out our helpful guide:

Getting Permission To Use User-Generated Content

Learn everything you need to know about getting permission to use UGC in your own marketing efforts.

Once you've gotten your hands on a bunch of high-quality user-generated content it's time to put it to work in your own promotional efforts and take your marketing to the next level.

A lot of UGC's power and effectiveness comes from users sharing it with their own following through their own social channels, but that doesn't mean that the UGC you generate can't play a major role in your own marketing communications.

One of the best ways you can use high-quality UGC is by sharing it across all of your social media channels.

User-generated content is highly personable and relatable which makes it perfect for blending into the social media landscape.

People browsing through social media are a lot more receptive to UGC because it has a level of authenticity that more traditional marketing material can't match. Instead of dismissing it as just another ad, people will see it as a real reflection of your product and its value.

This makes UGC perfect for building trust on social media and promoting your offering in a way which is likely to resonate with your market and help you drive product interest and conversions.

Similar to posting UGC on social media, incorporating UGC into your email newsletters is a solid way to make your emails connect with your audience.

If you're sending out emails promoting your products and deals then highlighting real customers will help you give credence to your message and drive higher click-throughs and conversions.

Pipcorn uses customer photos in their emails

Marketing emails can often come across as generic and impersonal, and adding UGC to the mix is a perfect way to liven them up and build engagement.

A particularly powerful type of user content you can add to emails are written testimonials that highlight just how good your offering is.

Helm Testimonial Email

One of the best ways you can utilise user-generated content is by collecting all of your high-value submissions and displaying them on your website.

Showcasing UGC on your website is a great way to highlight social proof and build a sense of authenticity and community around your brand. This will make website visitors more receptive to your offering and give them an elevated sense of confidence in your products. This goes a long way when it comes to building product desire and driving conversions.

Here are some of the best ways you can use user-generated content on your website:

One of the best ways you can utilise user-generated content on your website is by compiling an awesome gallery of all the best fan-made photos or videos you've collected.

This is a fantastic way to showcase your community to website visitors and highlight social proof that will build product trust and get potential customers excited about your offering. This will give users the confidence they need to finalise purchase decisions and convert.

With Gleam's Galleries app you can easily create and customise your own community and customer galleries that automatically import content from your designated hashtag (or a number of other sources).

And don't worry, you can moderate and curate your gallery to ensure that only the best fan content is going on display.

You can encourage website visitors to check out your gallery by adding it to your website navigation, and drive traffic to your website from social media by inviting users to take a look at your awesome community.

The best way you can collect content for a community or customer gallery is through the use of branded #hashtags and @mentions. All you need to do is get your fans to post content which @mentions you and uses your hashtag and Gleam will automatically import photos and videos into your gallery for you to curate and display.

Instagram Mention Import Action Setup

If you're importing media from Instagram it's advantageous to encourage the use of both #hashtags and @mentions, as hashtags are perfect for engaging users and gaining awareness, while mentions will give you clear ownership over the campaign and allow you to access @usernames and timestamps from media you import.

This is a great way to source content from hashtag campaigns and contests. As well as hashtags, there are plenty of other ways you can populate your UGC galleries. Gleam Galleries allow you to import content from Instagram mentions, your own social feeds and much more. You can even manually add any items from Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to your gallery so you can ensure that no great content gets left behind.

If you use Gleam to run your photo contest you'll even be able to directly import submissions into an engaging contest gallery, but we'll talk more about that soon.

Start Showcasing Your User-Generated Content

Check out our documentation on setting up your own awesome photo gallery or get started right away!

Devoting a page on your website to showcasing your community is a great way to engage visitors and build familiarity and trust, but sometimes you might want to display your UGC in a more subtle way that perfectly accompanies your other onsite content.

With Gleam's Carousel Galleries you can easily display your user-generated content in sleek galleries that are perfect for showing off your best UGC anywhere on your website.

Here are some of the best ways you can use a Carousel:

  1. You can use Carousels to showcase UGC on your homepage to start building trust and authenticity as soon as users reach your website.
Use Gleam Carousel Galleries on your website
  1. You can curate Carousels to show awesome customer photos on specific product pages and provide potential customers with the trustworthy social proof they may need to convert. This is a particularly good tactic for fashion retailers who can show off their clothes in a trustworthy way that will drive sales.

  2. If you have a page devoted to reviews or testimonials then adding some customer photos or videos into the mix is a great way to add some visual flair, boost engagement and add more weight to your social referrals.

  1. You can even use Carousels to show off your own social feed inside your website. You can use this tactic to display your Instagram feed on your website which will help you liven up your website and promote your social channels.
Find Out More About Carousels

Check out how you can use carousels to showcase your community, boost engagement and maximise conversions.

If you're running a photo contest then you should be collecting and displaying submissions in a special gallery devoted to your contest.

You can then showcase the gallery on your website and encourage your audience to visit the gallery and check out all the awesome content your customers and fans have produced.

This is a great way to not only engage users and share highly-valuable user-generated content with fans, but also promote your contest and encourage more participation which will help you grow your community and get your hands on even more UGC.

Another upside of creating photo contest galleries is that you can automatically get explicit permission to showcase submissions with your terms and conditions which saves you the hassle of individually reaching out to every user whose content you want to use.

A gallery of contest submissions is valuable in itself, but if you want to really ramp up the engagement and attract extra attention you should try running a photo contest where people can vote for their favourite submissions from within your gallery.

Running a photo contest like this is easy with Gleam, as you can automatically import submissions into your gallery and enable voting with a single click.

Offering people the opportunity to play an active role in your campaign via voting will help you drive more traffic to your contest gallery which gives you the chance to showcase your awesome UGC and connect with your audience.

Plus, by awarding prizes to the most popular entries you will encourage participants to share around their submission and your gallery in order to get more votes. This is a fantastic way to expose branded UGC to huge new audiences inspire elevated levels of participation.

Gleam even allows users to embed individual gallery items on their own webpage or blog post, so if you have some influential participants they can accrue more votes by sharing their submission on their own blog and draw a whole lot of attention to your campaign in the process.

You can even use our powerful Capture app to offer discounts to users who vote for a Gallery item.

Run Your Own Photo Contest With Gleam

Learn more about running a photo contest with Gleam or get started right away!


Ahron Burstin

Ahron is a Growth Marketer at Gleam. Shoot him a Tweet if you got something out of this post ☺