The Ultimate Guide to User-Generated Content

Sarah Donawerth
Sarah Donawerth
The Ultimate Guide to User-Generated Content

User-Generated Content, or UGC, is quickly becoming the most authentic and vital way to market your brand. Real users sharing their stories and images can help you sell your products. This can instill your potential customers with confidence.

“As the banner ad fades and staged, contrived photography loses its punch, user-generated content is being asked to fill in as a powerful brand image source,” says Jeff Bullas.

So why should you use user-generated content? Millennials in particular spend more than 5 hours per day consuming user-generated content. UGC is 20% more influential on their purchasing decisions than any other type of media. 59% of Millennials trust UGC, making it indispensable to your brand’s digital marketing strategy.

User-generated content should be a part of your ecommerce strategy so that visitors get a real-life look at your brand. User-generated content feeds our need for authentic content, honest reviews, and trustworthy information. The importance of user-generated content is clear.

Sharing is Caring: UGC Re-Posting

Before you can hope to receive user-generated content, you have to make UGC a priority for your ecommerce brand. In order to encourage UGC, your brand will need to share and repost social content across all of their platforms.

Share UGC to your social accounts, print it on your marketing materials, or embed it on your website. Using UGC will help with a site visitor’s trust and present the product in a new way.

You’ll motivate users to share their own experiences in the hopes of being featured!

Sharing UGC with an Instagram Feed Embedded on Your Website

There are several ways to share UGC from Instagram. One of them is the embedded widgets. Growave has an amazing Instagram feed that you can embed on your website. It also allows you to tag your products in the images, so that you have even more opportunities for sales!

Display your Instagram or primary social profile prominently on your website. Consider adding UGC to your website, or to the product pages for even more bang for your buck!

From the experts:

One of my top strategies for encouraging more user-generated content is to repost as much content as possible from your customers! Reposting content is smart because it encourages other customers to also tag you in their posts. Customers want their profiles shared with larger audiences and so when they see a brand featuring customer content, they get excited about the possibility of also having their posts be featured!~Liz Jeneault, VP of Marketing at Faveable

Build a Hashtag for UGC

Your brand should have a hashtag that you can share with your posts, and on your other marketing materials. Hashtags should be clear. You may want to include your brand name or an abbreviated version in the hashtag.

Whenever you ask for UGC, you should also ask them to use this hashtag so that you can track all of the content coming in!

If you are planning on having a hashtag for a specific campaign, you will also want a more generic brand hashtag for everyday use.

From the experts:

Another popular way to encourage UGC is creating powerful, themed hashtags that allow you to categorize your content and reach a wider audience. You should create a catchy and easy-to-remember hashtag that includes a powerful call to action encouraging people to share images, experiences, or a sentiment that is related to your marketing campaign.~Illia Termeno, Director of Extrabrains marketing agency

Start Your User-Generated Content with Influencer Marketing

Content creators can help you get the ball rolling with UGC. Influencers and creators help to build brand awareness so that you get new visitors to your site. Ask influencers to share your branded hashtag or encourage their followers to share their images as part of your overall UGC strategy. Influencers may be able to get customers to share better than other channels because they are also sharing a type of UGC with their own content.

With a team of influencers, you can start UGC campaigns by having them share first using the hashtags or other requirements of the campaigns.

Create a Facebook Group

If you’re looking to build your brand loyalty and your UGC, you can create a Facebook Group that unites your set of customers and allows them to share with each other.

In order to keep the conversation going and the group engaged with your content, you’ll want to provide topics to discuss, questions, and other entertaining content. Not only does this continue a conversation, but you can also prompt group members to share specific UGC for use with your marketing.

From the experts:

I’ve had great success in obtaining UGC through Facebook. We have a dedicated Facebook group for dog owners called Dog Lovers Unite. In the group, we’ll often ask members to comment with photos of their dogs sleeping or their cutest begging face. In the prompt, we’ll note that we may use the photos on our website, and most members don’t take issue with that (in fact, I think they enjoy the idea that their dog may be featured). I’m also always able to reach out to specific members who posted photos that I like and ask for their permission to use the photo.~Meg Marrs, Founder of K9 of Mine

Start a Conversation

Whether you’re asking for comments at the end of a blog post or being attentive to social conversations, attending to your audience’s comments is vital to your UGC strategy. Customer service should be answering all queries promptly and social managers should also be engaging customers in conversation.

Through these conversations, you’ll be able to see who would be interested in sharing their experiences. From there, you can ask for images, videos, or reviews because you’re already familiar with their unique situation.

From the experts:

When blogging, one simple approach I advise my clients to do is to ask your readers what they think and for their opinions in the comments at the end of your article. You can ask in the very last sentence of your article. Also, apply bold and italics to the font to get the reader’s attention. Make sure you respond to all comments, it will encourage even more people to participate.~Scott Bates, Content Marketing Professional at
One of the reasons our users keep coming back is because we implemented user-generated reviews in the app. Now users can comment and debate on company politics, products, working conditions, and business practices.~Amy Jo Miller, COO & Co-Founder of Goods Unite Us
We ask 2-3 questions in the blog, in particular, one at the end to entice people to leave comments. We make sure we engage with every comment, as this solidifies future comments from these people as they know they will get a response and that their comment was seen and not ignored. ~Brett Downes, Head of SEO at Studio 54

Recruit Reviews

Reviews are one of the most popular types of UGC. They quickly add trust to any product, so that visitors can be confident in their buying decisions.

You can automate most of the review process by using a review service, like, Yotpo, or similar programs. Having a series of followup emails after a purchase can also help you get reviews for your brand.

Identifying Customer Needs from User-Generated Content

One of the biggest advantages to reviews are being able to find out what works (and doesn’t work) about your brand. Customers that are supplying UGC can help to reveal problems or quality issues that your brand has, so that you can find a solution to these problems.

UGC isn’t always positive, but it is always useful. If you see a particular sentiment frequently, it could mean that you need to shift your marketing strategy, or even fundamental components of your business.

From the experts:

We have a series of emails, push notifications and SMS campaigns that encourage user reviews. Product review requests are sent two weeks after their order. This is done through emails, desktop push notifications and sms. Because we come at all angles, the success of getting a product review is much, much higher. We also use a 3rd party to request a company review. If the first email is unsuccessful, a 2nd is sent out a week later. This is then placed on 3rd party platforms, which helps increase trust. This is all automated, so very little time is spent on this process, and it has been very successful for a couple years now.~Jeff Moriarty, Marketing Manager at Moriarty’s Gem Art
We have seen big increases in traffic to our product pages due to all the additional unique content created by our customers. The most successful technique we use is an automated review request strategy. When a customer places an order, a series of emails is sent out asking them to review their product. There is a series of three emails, which is done that way in case the 1st or 2nd email is not successful in getting them to review the product. We are constantly testing different send times and delays to find the best of both for increasing the likelihood of the customer writing a review. It’s a constant process, but we are continuing to be more and more successful at it.~Celeste Huffman, Rogers and Hollands Marketing Team
The best way to encourage user-generated content is to ask for it. In our case, we generate a lot of customer reviews which we can use as social proof on our website and it helps other customers find our site as well. So after we have fulfilled our service, we always ask customers to leave us a review and provide them with a very easy way of doing so.~Rodney Yo, Owner of Best Online Traffic School

Guest Posting

Guest posting is another great way to get UGC that you can use for your marketing. Influencers, other brands, or customers can provide you with the content you need for your blog, your Instagram, or social media.

Allow the guest to share authentically about their experiences without too many hurdles. After they’ve shared with your audience, you can also ask them to share on their own social profiles to extend your guest content’s reach.

From the experts:

We love publishing expert roundups. This kind of roundup is an excellent way to establish new partnerships with bloggers and influencers who are more than willing to share this type of content on their social media channels. Not only do these roundups help your website acquire new visitors, they also give your website more authority because of their very helpful content.~Gregory Golinski, Head of Digital Marketing at

Incentivizing User-Generated Content

If you’re looking to grow your UGC, offering an incentive can provide the needed boost. Review programs can send automated emails requesting reviews, so adding a coupon code for their next purchase could help the conversion rate on these emails.

You can also try loyalty programs, rewards points, and other incentives to motivate your users to share. If you are using a branded hashtag, you can also pick a monthly or weekly winner from those who posted. They can receive a gift card or other prize.

These little shifts in your approach can help you garner additional responses to your UGC campaigns.

From the experts:

Gamification is a great way to encourage users to contribute to a website.

One of our projects gives users reward points, which vary depending on the type of contribution they make. With shares and likes generating smaller rewards than more time-consuming efforts, like adding reviews or additional content.

We also added different user levels and a leaderboard to encourage competition.

The final touch was awarding real prizes for users when they achieved a certain points threshold. Nothing expensive, but free branded gifts that are useful for the audience and have actual value to them.

As a result, user engagement skyrocketed.

Within 6 months of implementing the gamification system, the site was getting 10 times the level of user-generated content — at a really small cost to the business.

~Sam Orchard, Creative Director at Edge of the Web
In every case, it comes down to incentivizing users. Users need to feel like they are going to get SOMETHING in return for letting you use their pics, even if it isn’t something big…Come up with a branded hashtag that you can follow and encourage users to include it when they post about your brand to be featured across your social media or on your website…You can even up the ante if you pick one random post a month to win some form of monetary or gift certificate prize.~Kimberley Ring, Founder of Ring Communications
One of the best ways to generate user content is through social media contests. Contests help increase the volume of user-generated content and its quality. The keys to running a successful contest are to offer an enticing award to encourage participation and make your contest mobile-friendly. It’s better to emphasize that the prizes are limited. In this way, you’ll add the urgency factor and push your fans to be more creative with their entries.~Illia Termeno, Director of Extrabrains marketing agency

Challenges of User-Generated Content

While the pros clearly outweigh the cons of user-generated content, the biggest challenge of user-generated content is negative feedback. Users asked to share may have negative things to say about your brand and products. However, you can’t prevent them from speaking out.

The best approach to address these criticisms is to respond and provide a good customer service experience for that customer. You can’t win them all, but you can turn around negative feedback by providing superior service.

If you are sharing UGC, you should also have someone manually approve each piece. This ensures that you are only sharing the best of your user-generated content. This person can also help you spot potential problems so that they can be addressed quickly.

Conclusion: Start Building Your UGC Campaigns Today

You can’t afford not to recruit user generated content for your ecommerce business. Users are already talking about your brand and asking for recommendations online. Therefore, powering your user-generated content will allow you to get the most out of these content pieces.

Creating campaigns that produce UGC can also help you produce marketing materials that appeal to your target customers.

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