4 ways brands need to utilize user-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) is key in today’s content-dominated world. Not only is it highly influential (84% of millennials say UGC specifically influences their purchases) and incredibly trusted (47% of millennials and 36% of baby boomers trust UGC whereas only 25% of both demographics say they trust branded content), but UGC is incredibly versatile for brands who are able to repurpose the content strategically and effectively. And the more a brand shares UGC, the more customers want to see their content being shared.

Not sure how to best utilize the UGC your brand receives? Here are four easy ways to start repurposing UGC in your content strategy.

1. On your website

Putting UGC directly on your business website is not only a great way to create a highly-visual webpage without spending a lot of money behind creating visuals, but it showcases that you listen to your audience and are open to engaging with them. So repurposing UGC online not only saves you money, but it strengthens the bonds you develop with your customers. It’s also a great way to put the customer front and center, allowing them to be a part of telling your brand story. This helps to add to the authenticity of your brand.

Not sure how you can include UGC on your website? Here are just a few ideas:

  • Add a gallery of photos tagged with your brand’s hashtag on the homepage

  • Use UGC rather than stock photos in your product galleries

  • Include the photos (with credit) in your blog posts

  • Utilize the best photos in your banner content (with permission)

2. In email marketing

Email marketing isn’t going away, but audiences are tiring of overly promotional emails. Today’s email marketers need to find creative ways of promoting their products while providing value to the customer (beyond a discount). Showcasing UGC in your email marketing is one such way for brands to strengthen their email campaigns.

Barkbox is a great example of how a brand is using UGC for their email marketing. After each shipment of pet-loved goods goes out, they share an email featuring images of everyone’s furriends enjoying their latest box. This is a fun and engaging way of interacting with their audience, without pushing the sale too hard. How can your brand start to bring in more UGC in your emails?

3. Through social media

The most obvious, but often most impactful, way of sharing UGC is through your social media feeds. Only a few years ago, those in constant pursuit of the perfect Instagram grid would be concerned with finding the perfect UGC that fit their specifications, but now there are so many ways of sharing UGC without breaking your brand’s feed. For most of our clients, we focus on sharing UGC through their Instagram stories – and even have special story highlights dedicated to the sharing of UGC.

Others do end-of-week round-ups, or focus on sharing only through Facebook, or curate feeds made of entirely UGC (this works especially well in tourism!). As with any strategy, it’s determined based off of your business goals, values, and messaging.

4. In advertising campaigns

Planning on launching a large-scale advertising campaign? Looking to buy ad space on your transit systems or on a local news site? Consider utilizing UGC in the ad creative. This can work both in print and digitally, and it brings all the benefits of using UGC to your paid promotions. It’s useful for both video and still images. All the benefits that are associated with UGC are then amplified with the support of your advertising dollars, and it’s exciting for your customers to see their content in your ad campaigns.

In the end, not only does sharing UGC help to strengthen your customer relations, build brand authenticity, and help to tell your brand story in meaningful ways, it actually helps your business save costs. When brands incorporate UGC in their strategies, they spend less on professional photographers, graphic designers, or other creative in producing day-to-day content. These are dollars that can then go towards larger marketing campaigns to help grow and scale your business (but that’s a conversation for another day). All of this cost-saving happens while your brand is connecting with its audience in a meaningful way. Ultimately, UGC is good for you, and good for your customers.

Megan te Boekhorst

I brought my West Coast soul to the city of Toronto in order to build the creative empire of my dreams. In 2018, I started Sequoia Content Studio, a boutique PR and content agency that supports lifestyle businesses not only tell their story, but ensure it actually gets heard. Just two weeks before the launch, I was honoured to be named PR in Canada's PR Person of the Year. Life has been non-stop ever since.

I live boldly, believe in raw honesty, and value unapologetic vulnerability. Living with depression, I've always had a voice in my head yelling at me, telling me I'm not enough and my work isn't enough. This voice is all too common for creatives. So I'm dedicated to creating authentic content and experiences that empower young creatives to build meaningful businesses, and meaningful lives.

Isn't it time you start living #thesequoialife?