User-Generated Content (UGC) could be described as online word-of mouth, one of the most trustworthy sources of information. So how are brands using it and who's doing it well? And should UGC be a part of your content strategy?
DO YOU REALLY
by David Yankelewitz, Group Creative Director
and Hannah Law, VP Regional Strategy Director
Content created by member(s) of the
public, instead of a publisher, journalist,
or brand. In most circumstances, UGC
is created for personal use, intended for
an audience of friends and family…
Basically, what you publish on social
media platforms like Instagram,
Facebook, Vine, Twitter, forums, and
wikis. It may take the form of a
restaurant review, photo, blog post,
status update, or Snapchat lens.
WHY DO BRANDS USE UGC?
Some companies, like Target, Chobani and
Nissan, have successfully capitalized on
UGC behavior by asking their audience to
create branded content in the form of photo
competitions, reviews, TV ads, or Snapchat
stories. The most famous example is
arguably Tourism Queensland’s “Best Job
in the world” promotion in 2009 that
received over 30,000 entries from 201
Others, however, faced reputation damage
from UGC initiatives that backﬁred. Many
companies have invested in UGC
campaigns that did not drive participation
nor achieve business-related KPIs.
WHY DO BRANDS USE UGC?
• To Build Trust: UGC could be
described as online word-of-
mouth, one of the most
trustworthy sources of
information. Research by
Crowdtap and Ipsos1 ﬁnds that
Millennials trust UGC over
professional content, resulting in
signiﬁcant inﬂuence over
Source: 1 Ipsos MediaCT 2014, 2CustomerThink 2016
86% look to UGC as an indicator of
product or service quality2
65% consider UGC more honest &
valuable than traditional media2
WHY DO BRANDS USE UGC?
• More Engaging: Millennials spend
ﬁve hours per day with UGC
created and curated by their peers
or the trusted sources they follow
on social networks.1
• Creates Loyalty: when consumers
create UGC on behalf of a brand it
is a public reinforcement of love
for that brand; when brands
respond to UGC the reinforcement
may turn brand love into brand
advocacy or even tattoos… the
ultimate form of advocacy!
Source: 1 Ipsos MediaCT 2014,; Photo: http://www.kurtzgraphics.com/branding/
SUCCESSFUL UGC CASE STUDY: WARBY PARKER
Customers are encouraged to
share pics of their glasses using
#WarbyHomeTryOn to receive
feedback on which pair they should
purchase from friends and the
Warby Parker community.
The initiative ties into the selﬁe
trend and consumer desire for
feedback. Hundreds of consumers
have submitted pics because of
the low barrier to entry. In doing so,
they show public endorsement of
• No One Really Cares: Harsh but true. Many UGC campaigns
lack participation because consumers are busy and the request
is too much of a time/effort commitment. Many brands don’t
understand the value exchange required for effective UGC.
• Reputation Damage: UGC means a brand surrenders control to
consumers. If the campaign is not well-received it can result in
public criticism, negative press, or even a hijacked campaign.
• No Longer A Novelty: early UGC competitions and campaigns
garnered a lot of attention because of the novelty factor, but now
they have become another standard marketing tool.
Google Trends shows UGC was most popular between 2007-2009.
Other tactics, like inﬂuencer marketing, are now more popular.
UGC CASE STUDY: COSTA COFFEE
UK coffee brand, Costa Coffee,
launched a 2015 social media
campaign #ComeOutAndPlay to
encourage fans to enjoy the sunshine.
Followers could enter their photo
featuring a Costa Ice beverage via the
website, Twitter, or Instagram.
The social hub for the campaign
consists of a combination of
professional brand photos and UGC
because entries were minimal and the
quality of some UGC was likely not
satisfactory for the branded social
UGC CASE STUDY: NYPD
In 2014 New York residents were
asked to tweet pics and
experiences of themselves
interacting with the NYPD.
Users responded en-masse with
negative posts, accusing NYPD of
police brutality and violence. The
initiative did not acknowledge the
cultural context and public
attitudes towards NYPD at the time.
The hashtag is still used today to
share UGC about police brutality.
TO UGC OR NOT TO UGC?
The investment in UGC campaigns is often not worth the return. Weigh up the pros and cons, and be
realistic by asking “would I personally want to participate?” If proceeding:
• Create a worthy value exchange or incentive. Be realistic about volume of participation because the
90:9:1 rule of participation inequality (see triangle) often applies.
• Functionality must be quick and easy. The lower the barrier to entry, the more participants.
• Incorporate or leverage existing social media user behaviors, like Snapchat lenses.
• Understand the wider context the brand is operating in, and plan for potential issues.
• Try collaborating with a selection of inﬂuencers or customers, instead of everyone.
• Moderate entries, if possible, to avoid association with inappropriate content.
• Seek explicit consent if you plan to repurpose content.
• Be transparent and authentic to brand values.