3 Tips for Creating a Social Strategy Fueled by User-Generated Content

Not only is UGC much cheaper to implement, but it is also much more effective

Many businesses do not have documented social media strategies, and a good portion of the ones that do—nearly 60 percent—are unsure about the effectiveness of theirs.

In the pay-to-play world that is today’s social media marketing, the shortcomings often come down to financial issues. With many of the world’s top businesses spending millions of dollars on social media every month, do you even stand a chance?

The good news is that you do, thanks to user-generated content.

Not only is UGC much cheaper to implement (practically free in certain instances), but it is also much more effective.

There are plenty of stats and case studies that show the effectiveness of social UGC. As you can see in the examples below, UGC can be highly effective for boosting sales and engagement. It can also be remarkably effective for generating traffic and virality for your brand.

In yoga clothier Lululemon’s #TheSweatLife campaign, the brand asked people to share images of them “getting their sweat on.” This resulted in 250,000 uses of the hashtag, more than 7,000 photo submissions through Twitter and Instagram, over 40,000 unique visitors to the microsite created for the campaign and a massive boost in conversions.

SalesForce’s IdeaExchange program was created to let users suggest and upvote new features Reddit-style, letting users influence the direction of the product and resulting in increased sales, engagement and brand loyalty.

Coffee for Less rolled out multimedia UGC posting capabilities to boost site engagement, resulting in more than 6,000 comments in a three year period. These efforts reportedly grew its conversions by up to 125 percent.

There are many more examples of effective social UGC, but the point remains that if done right, UGC is easily the cheapest and most effective way to increase reach, trust and sales for your brand.

Here are three tips to help you create a social strategy fueled by UGC.

Leverage user-generated brand images

With Instagram and Snapchat becoming increasingly prominent in today’s social world, visual marketing assets are all the rage, earning a pivotal role in your social media strategy. One study found that infographics shared on Twitter get 832 percent more retweets compared to articles. Studies have also found that engagement on image-intensive social media sites like Instagram is much higher than on other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Similarly, a recent study by Olapic found that user-generated brand images are more likely than other visuals to increase engagement and generate trust in a brand.

Over-pristine studio photography is great for magazine advertising, but if you want people to visualize themselves enjoying your products in real life, it is essential that you incorporate customer-submitted images into your social media strategy. Tools like Yotpo even support automated social image curation and integrate with visual social platforms like Pinterest and Instagram.

Creatively reward people for their submissions

Unless you already have an active audience, you might not see your social UGC campaign take off on its own, but with the right rewards and incentives, a lot can happen.

Rewarding users does not necessarily mean giving them $1 million like Lay’s did for its 2012 campaign. Instead, it could be something as simple as Rent the Runway reposting photos of people looking good in their products, Belkin giving users customizable iPhone cases or anything else that makes audience members look cool among their social circles.

At the end of the day, people should feel that they are gaining something that not only makes the effort worth the time they put into posting, but that also gives them something they want—be it recognition, swag or coupon codes. This will encourage them to create and also generate the best interest for your social UGC campaign.

Acquire the rights to use UGC as marketing assets

While the virality effect that comes from social UGC can be very rewarding, you will get even better results if you secure the rights to make use of content users create as you see fit for as long as you want to.

Social media posts generally have extremely short lifespans, so it makes good sense to keep the impact coming by using UGC in your marketing and promotional materials. On Instagram, for example, three-quarters of the comments on posts by top brands go up within the first 48 hours.

That said, it is important to remember that before you repurpose content posted by your fans, you need to obtain the legal rights to do so. Make sure you spell out these conditions so that your audience realizes that their content can be used for whatever promotional purposes you see fit, in the fine print of your opt-in forms and terms of use. While this is unlikely to seriously impact participation in a truly creative campaign that calls for submissions, it will most certainly save you from legal issues that may arise in the future.


UGC is perhaps the most cost-effective way to both promote your brand and increase fan engagement and loyalty, and nothing cultivates UGC better than social media. By referencing these tips, you should be able to create a best-in-class social media strategy that makes the most of UGC.

Harald Merckel is a freelance writer whose primary focuses are business, e-gaming and marketing.