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Ultimate Guide to User-Generated Content

By Nikki Canning

Updated on March 9, 2021

20 minute read

User-generated content (UGC) is a killer asset for businesses looking to grow online and we're sharing everything you need to know to get started with UGC.

Published March 9, 2021

Stay on top of the biggest social media marketing trends!

User-generated content (UGC) is a killer asset for brands and businesses looking to grow online.

UGC is an affordable way to share high-quality content that generates sales for your brand — it’s the social media equivalent of a word-of-mouth recommendation.

In fact, 55% of consumers trust user-generated content over any other form of marketing, making it a surefire way to boost your sales and improve brand loyalty.

Start leveraging the power of UGC and growing your business with our Ultimate Guide!

Table of Contents:

  1. What is user-generated content?

  2. Why should UGC be part of your marketing strategy?

  3. How to find user-generated content

  4. User-generated content best practices

  5. 4 ways to get started with user-generated content

  6. UGC tips for Instagram

  7. UGC tips for Facebook

  8. UGC tips for Pinterest

  9. How to measure the success of your user-generated content

What is User-Generated Content?

In a nutshell, user-generated content is any type of content that’s created by a brand’s followers, product users or consumers.

In its most organic form, UGC isn’t paid for by a brand, so it’s a genuine and honest recommendation being shared by followers and fans.

It can be as simple as someone tagging a product in an Instagram feed, stories, Reels, or IGTV post, or a YouTube beauty tutorial featuring a brand’s new collection.

Why Should User-Generated Content be Part of Your Marketing Strategy?

Regardless of its form, user-generated content has a big pay off for brands and business, with some seriously impressive benefits:

  • Easy gathering and sharing of genuine reviews

  • Building a loyal fan base and community around your brand

  • Driving visitors to your site with a strong intent to purchase

  • Generating an affordable marketing stream

In a recent report, AdWeek found that 85% of users say visual UGC is more influential in their decisions than brand-generated photos or videos.

Why? Because a personal recommendation is the gold-star of product marketing.

If you’re looking to make a big splurge-worthy purchase, what’s going to sway your decision? Another sales pitch from the brand, or a recommendation from a genuine person who has used the product before?

We’d guess you’re going to heed the advice of a real, impartial person.

In the fast-paced world of social media marketing, UGC provides a highly-visual, engaging, and varied range of content  — from videos, Instagram Stories, Lives, takeovers, as well as traditional reviews — transforming your social strategy even if your team is small and your resources are stretched.

So if you’re looking to grow your business (especially within younger demographics) user-generated content can seriously help skyrocket your sales and build true brand loyalty.

How to Find Great User-Generated for Your Content Strategy

As we’ve covered, user-generated content is full of advantages for brand marketing.

However, finding high quality, on-brand user-generated content can be a time consuming and difficult task.

Fortunately, Later has created several features to help you easily find, organize and schedule user-generated content, including:

  1. Search by Profile

  2. Collect from Mentions

  3. Collect from Tags

  4. Collect from Contributors

  5. Search by Hashtag

  6. Add from Unsplash (Stock imagery)

With Later’s new Search by Profile feature, you can enter an Instagram username or profile URL, select a post from their feed, and tap “Add to Library.” It’s that simple!

And the best part? Later will maintain the high-quality resolution of the original post (no screenshots needed here) and will automatically add the handle of the user who originally posted it to your caption, so it’s easy to credit the creator.

Later has a whole suite of tools designed to make finding great user-generated content for your social strategy as easy as possible!

7 Best Practices for Marketing with User-Generated Content

These tips will not only help you strategically think about UGC, but also to make sure you’re always serving your audience in the best possible way.

#1: Make Your UGC Have a Purpose & Be of Value to Your Customers

There’s no point in sharing UGC for UGC’s sake — you need to be both strategic and considerate with it in your feed.

Your UGC should serve a purpose — whether that’s being inspirational, showcasing how to use a product, sharing in-real-life reviews, or helping your followers make a decision on their product choices.

Take for example the fold swimwear. They collect UGC images and videos from their customers and save them to Instagram Stories Highlights to showcase each size of their range being represented and worn by women.

Not only does this help a prospective customer find the right fit for their body, but it celebrates women of all shapes, which is a firm mission for the brand.

UGC isn’t a sales pitch — you need to think of it as a stand-alone piece of content that can really be of benefit to your audience.

#2: Be Original with Your UGC

Using UGC as part of your marketing strategy isn’t a new concept — so you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd.

And nothing stands out more on social media than being original.

Start by analyzing your competition — how are they using UGC to serve their audience? What can you do differently while still honoring your business mission and sales goals?

Glossier got very creative with their takeover theme and invited the founder of West Bourne cafe to create product-inspired recipes on an Instagram Stories takeover!

#3: Strive for Authenticity

Social authenticity is a growing trend online, and sharing honest user reviews through UGC will keep your brand ahead of the curve.

Consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic compared to content created by a brand, so it’s a good idea to strike a balance between your product shots and UGC content.

Plus, 86% of consumers say authenticity plays an important role when it comes to making decisions about future purchases (especially for Millennials and GenZers).

Want some more inspo on how to use UGC in your marketing campaigns? Check out our blog post on the top 5 Creative UGC Marketing Campaigns to Grow Your Business!

#4: Share Content Created by a Variety of Users

Not only is this best practice for inclusivity and celebrating diversity online, but it also allows you to reach a wider variety of potential customers through UGC.

Encouraging a diverse range of voices in your user-generated content will ultimately make your brand and products more relatable to a wider audience, while also making your brand feel more accessible.

Fenty Beauty — a brand celebrated for its representation of all women in its marketing, has created a YouTube playlist dedicated to Arabic UGC content for their users and fan base.

Showcasing diversity in UGC cannot be a token gesture, it needs to be embedded in your strategy — so make sure you pay attention when the time comes to collect your UGC.

#5: Encourage UGC That Builds Community

UGC is also about building a community, so if you’re looking to harness its power, you need to make your audience feel they’re part of something bigger than a simple repost.

One UCG-focused campaign that never fails to capture the world’s attention is the annual Apple “Shot on iPhone” campaign.

Over the course of three weeks, a panel of judges reviewed photo submissions from around the world and selected 10 winning photos that were then featured on billboards in select cities, Apple retail stores and online. Check out this year’s winner, @bri.elle’s photo submitted from her feed:

Apple’s Instagram audience is encouraged to post and tag their iPhone-shot photography with a chance to be featured on their account, to an audience of over 25 million people!

Other brands like GoPro create IRL events for their community. The GoPro Creator Summit each year is a place for videographers, adventure photographers, and GoPro’s action-loving filmmakers to come together and celebrate their passions.

And the only way to get an invite was to share a #GoProCreatorSummit selfie!

Inviting UGC that reflects an audience’s passions can strengthen the sense of community — and reinforce your brand values on your social channels!

#6: Make it Memorable, Entertaining, & Shareable

It goes without saying that UGC should be entertaining for your followers — and not all UGC has to be product-related either.

In fact, one of the biggest UGC trends we’ve spotted this year is reposting Tweets from your followers onto your Instagram feed!

At Later, we like to share images and videos that match our bright and playful aesthetic from our community.

While Later doesn’t have a physical product to sell, we aim to share our community’s creations to promote and encourage creativity online — something we’re always striving to be!

#7: Always Credit the Original Source

While sharing UGC on social platforms has become commonplace, there are still some gray areas on what the best protocol is for reposting content from another source.

Thankfully, we have a whole blog post dedicated to reposting UGC that covers both best practice and legal requirements.

Before you share your next piece of UGC, make sure you’re ticking all the required boxes before you hit share.

In a nutshell, here are 2 things you should always do before reposting an image or video:

#1: Ask Permission

This step is often missed out, especially if you’re sourcing content from a branded hashtag on Instagram.

But sending the creator a friendly DM or message to ask if you can reshare it will go a long way in building long-lasting relationships and a stronger community on social.

#2: Credit the Original Source

Whether you’re posting on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or YouTube, make sure you credit where you found this content. It’s also best practice to tag the creator, so anyone who’s looking at your feed can easily visit the original creators’ profile too.

TIP: With Later’s UGC tools and features, you can search for posts that your community has created and add them to your Media Library, so you can share them to your feed whenever you’re ready. Plus, Later automatically adds the handle of the user who originally posted it to your caption, so it’s easy to credit the creator.

4 Types of User-Generated Content You Can Start Integrating into Your Marketing Strategy Today

The opportunities with UGC are endless, and there are tons of brands already creatively using it to grow their online following and drive sales.

To help you get started, we’re outlining 4 super simple ways to get started with UGC.

UGC Strategy #1: Post & Share User Product Reviews

This one might seem simple, but if you’re not regularly sharing genuine user reviews of your products, you’re missing out on sharing valuable (and persuasive!) content with your audience.

And they don’t always have to be 5-star reviews.

Luggage brand Away includes product reviews on their Facebook page — even feedback that isn’t all positive:

By sharing consistent, and genuine reviews (and openly discussing issues with their customers on the public forum), Away is helping build a community that really trusts their brand and products.

It’s also a good idea to think about using product reviews as part of your sponsored post on Instagram and Facebook (more on this later in this post!)

Research has found that 41% of consumers will be tempted to purchase a product with as few as 1 to 4 reviews. So if you can successfully target your audience with social ads, a product review as part of an ad may help a viewer make a purchasing decision faster!

UGC Strategy #2: Host a UGC-focused Contest

One of the best ways to inspire users to share content on your behalf is to incentivize them — but it doesn’t always need to be with $$$!

A survey found that only 32% of people created and shared UGC because they wanted to win a prize.

Instead, 60% preferred to share UGC because it allowed them to get more likes or to have their content featured by a popular brand.

And this opens up a perfect opportunity to host a UGC-led competition with your community.

Design app Over hosts a monthly challenge that encourages their followers on Instagram and Facebook to use all the nifty tools and features in the app to help them meet the competition brief.

Their followers can then submit their designs by tagging Over using the #OverDesignChallenge branded hashtag!

Canon also hosts a similarly styled competition on their Instagram and Facebook, each week has a different theme or skill to help their audience level-up their photography skills:

The UGC competition’s branded hashtag, #CanonFanPhoto has over 450,000 submissions, meaning the Canon audience is highly engaged — and onboard with creating awesome content for the brand!

One of the best ways to collect UGC for your brand on social media is to create a branded hashtag, especially if you plan to focus your efforts on Instagram.

With a branded hashtag, you can ask your users to include the hashtag in their posts, and then you’ll easily be able to search and find content that you’d like to share.

Later makes this process even easier — you can search for your branded hashtag, select the UGC posts you’d like to use, and then schedule them to your feed!

Skincare brand and Later customer, Lush, uses UGC to elevate their customer’s voices in their content marketing strategy:

“We’re fortunate that our volume of tagged images is incredibly high, but it can be difficult to effectively manage. Using Later has helped us to navigate our tagged photos and videos, collect and organize them, and leverage across our channels”

Ready to create your own UGC competition and branded hashtag? Upgrade to Later’s paid plans to get access to Later’s UGC tools and features!

UGC Strategy #3: Organize a Social Channel Takeover

A social channel takeover usually involves a person temporarily “taking over” your account to give followers a look inside your company or products from a new perspective.

As a business owner, you can partner up with an influencer or customer to have them run your Instagram Stories posts, host a Facebook Live session, or respond to Tweets in real-time —  giving your audience insights into not just your products and services, but your takeover partner’s recommendations and opinions.

And while some can be arranged as sponsored content with influencers, other types of takeovers can be from your wider network, like your suppliers or manufacturers — making it an easy strategy to implement!

Check out how Benefit teams up with leading beauty and skincare influencers regularly to host Facebook Live sessions for their audience:

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Across Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, takeovers are a powerful tool when you want to showcase your products and services, using the voices of the people who love your brand most.

Want to learn more about Instagram Stories takeovers? Check out our step-by-step guide to running your first takeover and download our free checklist!

UGC Strategy #4: Set up Influencer Partnerships

Influencer marketing is on pace to become an $8 billion dollar industry by 2020.

And when it comes to Instagram, influencer marketing delivers some great results — with an average 3.21% engagement rate compared to 1.5% across all other social networks, Instagram users are more likely to comment, like, and share the content they consume.

And when you combine that with the forces of UGC and purchasing persuasion, you have a strong recipe for success!

Check out how fitness brand MyProtein works with their sponsored athletes all over the world to promote messages of good health:

Finding influencers or brand ambassadors to work with is a great way to have a continual stream of high-quality UGC.

When you can find and recruit an influencer to be a regular ambassador for your brand, you’re guaranteed to have UGC content that both fits your aesthetic, and serves your audience of like-minded followers.

Jewelry brand, Mejuri has a strong ambassador network — and their Instagram feed proves it with plenty of stunning UGC that’s on brand and matches the #finecrew aesthetic perfectly!

Mejuri even has a dedicated Pinterest board to their community — another perfect way to gather and share UGC to your social audience:

Want more inspiration on how you can use UGC in your marketing? Check out 5 Ways to Use UGC in Your Marketing Campaign blog post!

Tips for Using User-Generated Content on Instagram

We could write a whole blog post on UGC on Instagram (in fact, we did — check out this blog for tons of tips, ideas and inspiration on how to use UGC in your Instagram marketing!).

But there are a few key tips you should keep in mind when you first branch out into UGC for your Instagram feed:

#1: Maintain Your Instagram Aesthetic

ICYMI: Your Instagram aesthetic is a big deal and you shouldn’t compromise it when it comes to sharing, and reposting UGC.

Look at how skincare brand Frank Bod seamlessly integrated UGC into their Instagram Stories and feed posts by maintaining their brand colors and fonts throughout.

For your Instagram feed, you can make sure your grid always looks on point by previewing before you post.

Later’s Visual Instagram Planner shows you exactly what your Instagram feed will look like with your future posts (both images and videos) in it — it’s a game-changer when it comes to nailing your aesthetic.

It lets you easily rearrange or swap out your posts, so you can find the perfect balance for your Instagram feed.

Plus, you can now use Later’s Visual Planner straight from your mobile!

Ready to create a perfect Instagram aesthetic? Design, curate, and plan your feed with Later!

#2: Create Themes for Your UGC When Reposting

You don’t want to just randomly be reposting Instagram Stories as they come in, as this will mess with your planned stories content and isn’t always the most engaging story to watch.

Instead, think about how you can cluster your UGC together into different themes.

For example, Fella Swim groups UGC together in an “As Seen On” series, using their own branded Instagram Stories template.

This type of content really honors the brand’s aesthetic, seamlessly fits in with their feed, and it’s a lot more interesting to watch. Plus, they can add swipe-up links to shop the products!

#3: Use Instagram Stories Highlights to Organize Your UGC

We highly recommend creating an Instagram Stories Highlight just for your product reviews, which makes it easy for anyone visiting your profile to instantly know how great your products are.

Wellness brand, Ritual has an awesome Instagram Stories Highlight dedicated to just snaps and videos created by their biggest fans, praising their favorite products.

Looking for some more Instagram inspo? We’re showcasing 10 brands that are killing it with their UGC strategy on Instagram — check it out here!

Tips for Using UGC on Facebook

You might think Facebook isn’t as UGC-friendly as Instagram, but don’t be fooled! There’s plenty of opportunities to get involved and bring UGC to the center of your Facebook strategy.

Here’s some of our top tips for using UGC on Facebook:

#1: Regularly Host Facebook Live Events

We’ve already mentioned how Benefit regularly hosts Facebook Live events with influencers and brand ambassadors for their followers — but they deserve another mention for their creativity and commitment on Facebook.

Benefit has even created a dedicated playlist for their Live videos, making their live events evergreen and easily accessible for their audience to tune in at a later date!

#2: Integrate UGC into Your Facebook Profile’s Homepage

UGC builds brand loyalty and affinity, so it’s a good idea to give UGC some prime-real estate on your Facebook page.

Check out how Aerie has integrated snippets of UGC captured by their models in the behind-the-scenes footage of a shoot as their cover image:

#3: Don’t Forget to Tag Users in Your Reposts!

It’s easy to forget to tag the original content creator on Facebook, but it’s an important step if you want to legally repost UGC to your feed!

If you’re unsure, or if the creator isn’t active on Facebook, make sure to reach out to them to confirm their handle, or ask if they’re happy to be reposted on Facebook without a tag.

#4: Optimize Your Facebook Ads with UGC

Facebook ads with UGC elements have proven to be more effective at driving sales and conversions than standard product shots.

So it’s worth thinking about including some form of UGC in your ads — whether that’s a customer review or a how-to tutorial from an influencer, it’s a sure-fire way to boost the efficacy of your ads!

Glossier has really optimized on this by creating an ad campaign centered around UGC-styled videos of their best-selling and new-in products.

Thanks to these real user examples, Glossier instantly becomes much more aspirational and relatable — making their products way more appealing to potential buyers!

Tips for Using UGC on Pinterest

Pinterest was made for community-building and re-sharing top-quality content from creators, so it’s easy to jump on board with curating UGC on your Pinterest profile!

#1: Curate a Community Pinterest Board

Pinterest Boards are effectively just folders for your Pins.

By saving UGC Pins to boards, you’re creating a valuable catalog of content for your followers to discover.

Plus, curating Pins to your own boards is what the Pinterest community is all about — it helps spread Pins to a wider audience and gives much-deserved kudos to other Pinterest creators!

Check out how Everlane has created a “Styled By You” board, showcasing some of the best images from Instagram and Pinterest created by their customers:

It’s a simple way to showcase your products being styled IRL — while giving back to the community you’ve built online!

Looking for more info on how to use Pinterest to market your brand? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Pinterest Marketing!

How to Measure the Success of Your User-Generated Content

Just like all of your social marketing efforts, it’s important to identify what type of UGC is helping you reach your goals.

Pay close attention to the trends and patterns you’re seeing within your social analytics alongside your UGC posts — have you found that some UGC posts on Instagram get tons of engagement, but the same post flops on Facebook?

Or are you seeing lots of shares and tags for a certain branded hashtag?

Metrics like shares, saves, comments, likes, and engagement rates are important to monitor so you can continue to reassess your UGC strategy for the future.

That way, you’ll be able to better serve your audience, manage your time, and continue to deliver killer UGC for your marketing strategy!

And if you use Later to plan and schedule your social media posts, you need to check out your Later Analytics!

The huge benefit for Later users is that it tracks and measures your engagement rates and other important metrics on Instagram, and other social platforms like Pinterest and Twitter all in one place — so it’s super-simple to compare and contrast performance and stay on top of your campaign reporting!

Later Analytics is available on all Later paid plans. Upgrade today to get access!

Congratulations! You’re now armed with everything you need to create a killer user-generated content campaign!

Whether you plan to host a Facebook Live, post UGC to your Instagram feed, or integrate product reviews into your shopping pages and ads — strategically using UGC in your marketing can really boost your sales and grow your online community.

Ready to start curating and sharing UGC to Instagram? Check out Later’s UGC tools and features to easily find, schedule and post user-generated content to your social feeds!

Plan, schedule, and automatically publish your social media posts with Later.


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