Effective digital marketing in 2023 is a complicated mix of channels, angles, platforms, and technologies. It can be a lot to juggle, but if your brand marketing strategy doesn’t include UGC, you’re leaving money on the table; 87% of brands use UGC to connect with their audiences more deeply and authentically, and 79% of consumers say that UGC has a high impact on their purchasing decisions.
With that said, UGC marketing can be its own minefield of opportunities and challenges. When done well, the onslaught of content can be overwhelming at best and crippling at worst. Brands need to have the right systems and tools in place to create effective UGC campaigns that yield noticeable business results.
In this article, we’ll dive into the details of UGC marketing, explore why it matters for e-commerce brands, and learn from successful campaigns put out by major global companies. Finally, we’ll look at three insider tips for developing a winning UGC marketing campaign of your own.
What You’ll Learn:
UGC marketing is the practice of repurposing user-generated content in campaigns that promote brand awareness, increase conversions, and drive revenue. As long as a piece of content is created by a real customer instead of a brand, it qualifies as UGC. That means there are tons of types of UGC to work with, but when brands talk about UGC they’re usually referencing social media content.
Photos, videos, posts, stories, reels, live broadcasts — each type of content can have different names across different social media platforms, but they all have UGC potential. Social media posts on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and more can all influence consumers’ purchasing decisions.
Then there’s the world of customer reviews and testimonials. The feedback your customers post about your brand is also considered UGC, no matter what form it takes or what social network it’s shared on. Video content, before and after photos, and written product reviews are all incredibly powerful when they come from real users; 95% of consumers say they read reviews and customer testimonials before deciding whether or not to make a purchase.
That’s why UGC is such an important part of any brand’s content marketing strategy. The brands that use UGC effectively are those that repurpose all those stellar Instagram posts, TikTok videos, and more into inspiring campaigns that influence their audience’s buying decisions. Let’s look at a few of the benefits of successful UGC marketing:
Now that we know what UGC marketing is, let’s take a look at five campaigns that nail the concept. These global retailers successfully addressed negative feedback, tapped into their creative communities, and made the most of their business structures with effective campaigns. Here are our five top examples of user-generated content in marketing campaigns that any brand can learn from:
Apple’s #ShotoniPhone campaign has been around for almost 10 years, since before UGC was on the tip of every social media marketer’s tongue. The genius of this UGC marketing campaign is that Apple simultaneously launched a hashtag and ran a national advertising campaign using it, all to counteract users’ disappointment with their past camera tech. Running paid ads that were indeed shot on iPhone showed the world what their updated smartphone cameras could do, and creating a branded hashtag encouraged consumers to feel like that breathtaking quality and creativity was within reach — as long as they had an iPhone of their own. The #ShotoniPhone campaign is still running, and the genius of the hashtag is that it has evolved to include all the new camera features that Apple has released over the years.
Starbucks knows how people feel about its holiday-themed red cups, so the brand gives the people what they want — and encourages them to have opinions too. After pouring resources into the perfect seasonal design, Starbucks has been known to launch a #RedCupContest in December. The campaign encourages customers to post photos of their cozy winter vibes online for a chance to win a big Starbucks gift card, simultaneously driving sales, stretching the brand’s seasonal investment, and drumming up tons of user-generated content that sends more customers out to their local coffee shop. As a variation on the theme, Starbucks has also run a #WhiteCupContest encouraging artists to design their own cup patterns and post their creations online for the chance to see their work reproduced on ceramic cups and sold on Starbucks shelves.
Aerie met the moment on social media by fighting back against the plight of photo retouching. In order to challenge unrealistic beauty standards, the brand made a public commitment to stop retouching photos of models in its advertising campaigns. Then they encouraged customers to post unretouched images of themselves in Aerie swimsuits with the hashtag #AerieReal. For every social media post using the campaign hashtag, the company donated $1 to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). The campaign raised over $10,000 for NEDA, and also achieved an incredible brand awareness boost by starting a global conversation about resisting unhealthy social norms and loving the skin you’re in.
Glasses company Warby Parker drove awareness for both products and services with a single hashtag in their #warbyhometryon UGC marketing campaign. The brand’s home try-on option lets customers test five different frames in the comfort of their own homes, and then lets them return the frames they don’t like and order prescriptions in any they want to keep. But to squeeze even more value out of that test period, Warby Parker encouraged people to take photos of their trial frames and post them on social media. This gave customers a chance to feel good in their glasses and gain real feedback from people in their lives, while simultaneously spreading the word about both Warby Parker’s product line and the home try-on program. As far as UGC marketing goes, the Warby Parker campaign was a win-win-win all around.
You don’t have to sell luxury cars to launch a luxury-level UGC marketing campaign. Just take a page out of BMW’s playbook; the company encourages customers to post photos of their cars in the wild using the #BMWRepost hashtag. With over 2.7 million posts on Instagram alone, the hashtag has generated buzz about BMW as a brand, about its particular product line, and about the luxury lifestyle it represents, all at the same time. While the campaign provides valuable social proof for anyone considering buying a new car or motorcycle, it also encourages existing BMW owners to join in the conversation and show off their own wheels. Then BMW frequently reposts UGC with that hashtag to its own brand pages, creating an aspirational feed that further drives sales by attracting new potential customers and encouraging their purchase decisions.
No matter how large or small your brand is, you can use the lessons from the world’s leading companies to inform your next successful UGC content strategy. Here are a few tips that can help you and your social media marketing team create effective UGC marketing campaigns.
It may be tempting to spread your message on every single social media platform that exists, but diluting your investment may actually diminish your returns. Take a “less is more” approach and focus your marketing efforts on the social channels where your customers are already spending their time. If you know most of your target audience is on TikTok, for example, you can get hyper-specific and engineer your brand’s UGC marketing campaigns specifically for that platform. Focusing on one platform at a time and selecting the channels your customers prefer will help you take your word-of-mouth marketing further without exhausting all your creative ideas at once.
Once you launch a hashtag and the UGC starts rolling in, your first step is probably going to be to create an ad campaign using the best content from the bunch. But the right way to repurpose UGC actually requires an extra step: requesting permission from the person who created it. It’s not hard to send a DM to a few creators now and again, but when you’re running a UGC campaign at scale, all those requests can quickly turn into a headache. It’s a good idea to use a UGC platform that allows you to request Usage Rights in just a few clicks and manage the status of all your pending requests in one place, so you always know what assets are greenlit and ready to go.
Hot tip: check out Archive’s built-in Usage Rights feature to see how it does all that and more.
Once you’ve gotten permission to repurpose your best user-generated content and created a killer UGC marketing campaign, take things one step further by making those assets shoppable on your website. Click-to-buy functionality helps establish authenticity, build trust, and encourage purchase decisions, while also encouraging more UGC as visitors explore a community that’s clearly worth joining. Whether you post a gallery on your homepage or on product pages, making your UGC shoppable leverages the value of social proof by encouraging consumers to buy items their peers are using and enjoying.
Here’s another hot tip: Archive’s Shoppable UGC Feed turns your content into a click-to-buy social proof gallery you can publish anywhere on your e-commerce website.
Paying for promotional content through influencer marketing campaigns or celebrity endorsements can be a legitimate social media strategy, but it serves a specific purpose and has strict limitations. Real UGC isn’t just free, it’s also incredibly valuable considering the extent to which consumers naturally trust each other’s recommendations. That makes UGC marketing an even more important piece of the puzzle, building credibility through authentic content created by real people who actually love your products and believe in your brand.
When you’re ready to launch a cost-effective UGC strategy, you’re going to need the right tools to do it well. From unboxing videos to big-smile selfies, encouraging content creation is just the first step. For everything else, there’s Archive. Our AI-powered social commerce app lets you collect and curate all the UGC that tags your brand, so you can organize your content and repurpose assets for your next brand campaign, all in one place. Create bespoke Collections to organize your UGC, add labels to segment your audience, request Usage Rights directly from content creators, and turn your best content into click-to-buy galleries with our Shoppable UGC Feed widget. Take your UGC marketing to the next level with the app that does it all; get started with Archive for free today.