Koozai > Blog > How To Make The Most Of User-Generated Content

How To Make The Most Of User-Generated Content

| 6 minutes to read

User-generated conversationsHanding any of your content creation over to your customers might seem like a logistical nightmare. Loosening the leash on what gets published online about your business is a risky move for sure, but with plenty of people taking to social networking and blogging sites every day, your brand may already be the topic at their fingertips.

Why not bring the chat closer to you by encouraging customers to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences directly. User-generated content (UGC) allows you to do this. Whether through comments on your social media channels or blog, or having a part of your site dedicated to user input, there are a few things to take in to consideration before you get started.

The Pros and Cons of User-Generated Content

As with any strategy, UGC has its benefits and pitfalls, and each implementation of UGC will have its different reasons why it will or won’t work for your business. It is up to you to decide which outweighs the other, but here are just a few of the general pros and cons.

The Pros

  • Your audience will appreciate the ability to have a voice about your brand – their opinions will feel valued and important (because they are).
  • Your brand will appear more authentic – with users sharing true experiences, potential customers will appreciate the honesty.
  • There is a strong personal connection through UGC, particularly if you engage regularly with your audiences’ content.
  • Content is generated for you – it becomes much easier to have a healthy flow of content on your site and social media channels by utilising UGC. More great content on your site means more chance of your site rankings improving.
  • UGC can be re-purposed into new content and can even inspire new decisions within a business.

The Cons

Moderation is really the primary issue with users contributing content, but it can be a beast to slay. Depending on your method, you may be able to moderate content before it goes ‘live’ online (for example, if users submit their comments on a post, or submit a story through a contact form, it will be moderated first). This can be time consuming, but ultimately rewarding overall.

In some cases, you cannot moderate before the content is public. For example, if someone posts negative content on your Facebook page, mentions you on Twitter, or uses a campaign hashtag negatively. There is a right way, and a wrong way to go about this.

First of all let’s discuss the wrong way – or rather, the wrong ways. You could just ignore the negative comment – let it sit there for anyone to see and expand upon. Or, you could delete it and run the risk of further negative comments from a disgruntled customer who is rather cheesed off at having their thoughts and feelings removed from sight.

Now for the right way – engage. That doesn’t mean having a go at your customer, it means putting their mind at ease. If they disliked your product, show you care by apologising that it did not work for them, and offering what you can to rectify the problem (whether this is a refund, exchange or other suitable solution). You can then take the conversation into a private capacity and solve the issue.

Before damning the idea of UGC for lack of time to moderate, take a step back and have a look at the options you have.

Defining Your Reason For Implementing User-Generated Content

You should never opt for a particular marketing strategy option because it’s trendy – you need to have a cause and an objective for implementing any type of content. Whether you wish to drive sales by introducing review options on your site a la The Body Shop (see below), or increase brand awareness through introducing a hashtag campaign on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Google+, your goal needs to be clear from the beginning.

Body Shop Reviews

It’s always better to consider the objectives first, and the methods second with user-generated content, as the temptation may be to pick something that has worked well for another brand, but may not work as well for you.

Choosing The Method And Channel

The very core of successful UGC is the ability for an audience to share their story and have it acknowledged. Whether you are a charity looking for stories from the community that have pooled together to raise money for your cause, or a shop looking for photos of people using your products, as a brand you should be positively encouraging feedback and the sharing of user experiences. For these two examples, it’s clear that the channel for content will be different.

The charity would be more suited to submitting a story via a contact form or on a dedicated microsite that encourages more text-based content.

Scope UK, a disability charity let you create an icon and share a story on why you feel disabled people should have the same opportunities as others. The background icons are clickable, and with each one a pop-up window lets you read or see a different user’s story.

Scope UK - Share

The gallery is able to grow and grow, and the content on it can be reused by sharing excerpts on social media, blog posts or Infographics.

More visual content such as photo sharing can also be successfully utilised on social media channels. Take for example Starbucks who jumped on the Instagram bandwagon from the get go. At time of writing, there are over 3 million photos and videos on Instagram with #starbucks. They also have over 1 million followers. So how do they do it? They let their fans generate the majority of their content, and they also introduce incentives to keep fans happy.

Don’t let these big brand examples put you off – user-generated content is not just for the big boys. Toy brand Squishable utilised UGC from the get go by letting their customers design and vote on their toys designs. This helps them to provide products their customers want and show them they are valued.


Planning Your User-Generated Content

If you plan your UGC well, there is no reason why you won’t see results. Like any other marketing strategy, you need to consider your audience first and foremost, and the channels in which they are most likely to engage. Are they Facebook users? Or do they prefer to tweet? Maybe they are not particularly active on social media and are more plugged in to your website.

Then, you need to plan exactly what your campaign will be, considering the pointers we have discussed, and what the incentives are for engaging. Maybe your UGC campaign can be a competition to encourage engagement, or maybe it’s the promise of uploading the content to your site and giving the engagers a sense of celebrity.

When done well UGC can take on a life of its own – in fact, user generated content around your brand can come from no pre-planning at all, and see your product ranking number one on Google like this Hutzler banana slicer which gained fame from some particularly humorous Amazon reviews.

Promoting Your User-Generated Content

Of course, you can’t sit around waiting for this level of engagement to happen, you need to be creative, devote time to setting up your campaign properly and promote it effectively through online and offline channels.

Tie your UGC campaign to your main marketing campaigns to build a more effective brand. Send out a press release promoting the campaign, and encourage people to get involved across all your marketing efforts – whether in your e-newsletters or in a brochure.

There is never a guarantee that there will be droves of people engaging with your brand and creating content for you, but by not offering the opportunity, your brand could be coming across as cold and unreceptive.

Hopefully you will now have a better understanding of how you can make the most of user-generated content. Do feel free to leave a comment with any questions you may have, or examples of user-generated content that you feel is (or isn’t) effective.

Image Source

Conversation between people via BigStock


  1. […] How To Make The Most Of User-Generated Content by Cat Fyson at @Koozai_Cat: A compelling post exploring the pros and cons of user-generated content and how to make the most of it on your site. […]

  2. James Perrin avatar

    Great post Cat. UGC is certainly something more brands need to embrace, but as you’ve perfectly highlighted there are cons, which is why some brands most probably shy away from it. I always use Burberry as a good example of UGC with their Art of Trench micro site – well worth checking out. It’s simple, effective and has generated so much online exposure its crazy. Like you say, done well, UGC is a fantastic tool in anyone’s Content Marketing arsenal.

    1. Cat Fyson avatar

      Thanks James. I love UGC, as a consumer of brand content, it really works for me and also impresses me.

      The Burberry example is great. I think many brands might think that they can’t use UGC because their product or service would not compliment it, but I think, going back to my previous post on branding of content, that your UGC can simply reflect your values rather than a literal reflection of the product.

      Mashable reported a story yesterday about a writer from Sports Illustrated who simply tweeted “How many of you have a photograph of the single best moment of your life? If so, what a gift.” – he had a flood of responses, and the story was picked up by a host of sites too. It isn’t shoehorning the brand in, but it certainly has brought it exposure.

      Here’s the link if anyone hasn’t seen it: https://mashable.com/2013/07/09/best-moments-tweets/

  3. Doug Roberts avatar

    Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the value of comments. If you can target the right audience and engage them in a conversation then even comments can provide a great opportunity to get your credibility/authority across and they can be a great source of long-tail keywords too (just like testimonials or reviews).

    I’ve had a certain amount of success with surveys. Including at least one open ended question can provide lots of great raw material that you can turn into relevant and engaging content.

    If you want people to engage with your brand, then you’ve got to be prepared to engage with the people…

    How many times have you seen examples where you’re asked for your opinion, but the (lack of) response doesn’t convince you that anyone actually cares.

    1. Cat Fyson avatar

      Hi Doug! Thanks for commenting.

      Comments are great, because not only do they encourage direct discussion and debate about a topic, but they also give you the chance to interact directly with customers/industry folk. They can also help generate further content. You also make a very good point about long-tail keywords.

      Surveys can be a great way for customer insight, and the results can be published in some really exciting ways (infographics, videos, etc). I agree that open-ended questions are great for producing raw material to work with. The problem with surveys sometimes though is that no matter how many open ended questions you ask (and it’s important not to ask too many), sometimes you just don’t get the depth of response you would like. There are ways around this thankfully, but surveys to require a vast amount of preparation to make sure they serve their purpose and deliver the results you want or need.

      Many websites are now utilising pop up prompts for your opinion, and I am only really ever going to respond to them if I have an invested interest in the brand and its development – this may mean less responses for a brand, but it does mean more useful ones. There are definitely right ways and wrong ways to go about surveys.

  4. Mike Essex avatar

    Squishable is a great idea! They get buy in on products before they make them which helps them sell more later.

    I wonder if they would ever collect pre-payments on designs. They could use it like Kickstarter and produce any of the ones that reach a certain payment threshold, that way they’d be even more sure they would sell.

    1. Cat Fyson avatar

      I love Squishable as an idea – it appeals on so many levels and busts the myth that only established brands can use UGC. Squishable *became* an established brand by using it!

      Utilising Kickstarter would be a good idea definitely, I can already imagine the adorable promo they could use.

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