Content Ops & Marketing

What Is User-Generated Content? Examples & Advantages

  • June 7, 2017
  • Shannon Durio
  • 5 minutes

Consumer sentiment has always played a significant role in driving content marketing strategy for brands, but the rise of user-generated content has made one thing clear: authenticity is the key to conversion. Data reveals that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from others, even people they don’t know, over information found on a company website.

In a highly competitive marketplace, consumers are now more active in the decisions they make, who they listen to, and who they choose to buy from. They want to know that companies are paying attention when they share an experience, and user-generated content provides them that opportunity.

What is user-generated content?

By definition, user-generated content is a marketing strategy that “encourages consumers to share their experiences with a brand, which in turn shares the experiences with other consumers through digital channels.” The content can take many forms, including photos and videos, question-and-answer forums, reviews and testimonials, social media posts, and blogs.

Brands who embrace user-generated content provide their customers with platforms to ask and answer questions and collaborate in a way that fosters creativity and strengthens community – all while enhancing the brand’s website and social channels with increased activity.

Companies that are most successful in leveraging user-generated content are those that view their customers as true partners in their communication strategies. They are confident in allowing their communities to share their stories, and they believe the rewards of doing so outweigh the risks.

Examples of user-generated content

In the summer of 2014, Coca-Cola took user-generated content to a new level when it launched the “Share a Coke” marketing campaign in the United States, temporarily replacing its iconic logos on 20-oz. bottles with 250 of the most popular first names. The campaign encouraged consumers to purchase bottles and cans personalized with their own names and the names of friends and family members.

Coca-Cola then invited its customers to share photos of their personalized Coke bottles online using the #ShareaCoke hashtag for a chance to be featured on interactive billboards across the country. Consumers could also visit ShareaCoke.com to personalize virtual bottles and share them with friends through social media.

The #ShareaCoke user-generated content campaign yielded impressive results for Coca-Cola, helping expand social reach and increase customer engagement:

  • More than 500,000 photos were shared using the #ShareaCoke hashtag.
  • Consumers created and shared more than 6 million virtual Coke bottles.
  • Coca-Cola gained 25 million Facebook followers as a result of the campaign.

Other leading brands have leveraged user-generated content to build successful marketing campaigns.

  • Starbucks: – In 2014, StarbucksWhite Cup Contest encouraged customers to turn their Starbucks cups into personalized works of art and share photos of their designs through social media using the #WhiteCupContest hashtag. The winning design was used on a Starbucks limited-edition reusable plastic cup.
    • Results: The company received nearly 4,000 entries in less than 3 weeks and engaged customers in a creative process that connected personal passions to the Starbucks product.

  • Loews Hotels: In 2015, Loews Hotels traded traditional stock photography for user-generated Instagram photos of real guests staying at Loews properties, using the #TravelForReal hashtag to drive the campaign. After tagging the images, Loews curated them into a microsite with the tagline “Because Nobody Tells Our Story Better Than You.”
    • Results: Loews was able to provide digital assets for a social, digital and print campaign without expensive photo shoots.The campaign garnered more than 6,500 posts with the #TravelForReal hashtag, and the brand positioned itself as authentic and highly customer-centric.
  • Lay’s: In 2015, Lay’s launched a user-generated content campaign to help market its annual “Do Us a Flavor” contest. This campaign used social listening to select the most intriguing customer tweets about the brand. Lay’s then crafted engaging responses to these tweets in the form of entertaining video clips.
    • Results: Lay’s effectively transformed its customer communication strategy from a one-way monologue into a two-way conversation, helping it connect with customers and drive sales.

Advantages of user-generated content

Providing a platform for user-generated content on your website has measurable and long-lasting benefits. More content helps improve search engine indexing and search visibility around key phrases and concepts that are relevant to your brand. It also increases the time visitors spend on your website and the ways they interact, which helps your SEO efforts.

On a wider scale, as seen with the examples above, user-generated content helps maximize your social reach and drive customer engagement. Interactive campaigns that encourage participation from the general public will help attract and retain new audiences, and also convert current customers into loyal brand advocates.

Discover how OneSpace can help you execute a wide variety of user-generated content campaigns at scale without using precious internal resources.

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