How to Leverage User-generated Content in Your Marketing Strategy

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By Sophie Turton,
Digital Content Manager at BozBoz

Your audience has the power to be your greatest content producers - their messages carry further, have more impact and provide a greater return on investment than even the most beautifully written sales spiel.

User-generated content (UGC) is the modern day equivalent of talking over the garden fence. It is a shared experience on a global scale. Nothing brands can create can even compare to the basic human love of gossip, and ourselves.

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Creating a User Generated Content Strategy that Converts

How to get your audience to contribute their own photos and videos. How can you get them involved with producing great stuff for you on a regular basis?

The answer will differ depending on your product or field, but in general, you must find out how to encourage your audience to create content with your goods. It might be images of the item, forum queries, case studies, or reviews. Don't be limited.

This will add more trust and believability than anything else, and it'll also create an additional layer of authenticity between you and your customers.

The psychology of social proof - the concept that people are automatically drawn to a product or service that they know others already engage with and trust - is a huge factor in the success of UGC; and brands that create platforms for audience engagement often see huge returns on investment.

A study by review platform, Reevoo found that 70% of consumers trust peer recommendations and reviews over professionally written copy - even a stranger’s opinion is more valuable than a company sales message. All brands have to do is provide a great product or service, create a space for their audiences to talk about them and the rest will follow.

Right? Not quite.

While 83% of consumers say they are happy to recommend a service or product to a friend, only 29% actually do.

So how do we get our audiences creating?

Focus on customer reviews

Review platforms are some of the simplest yet most effective forms of UGC. Word of mouth is the primary factor of between 20 and 50 percent of all B2C purchasing decisions and savvy brands have used this method with great effect.

AirBnb, Modcloth, Tripadvisor, Amazon - all of these brands rely on user-generated content as an integral part of their business model - and audiences are responding in the millions.

Our friends from Seller Interactive wrote a handy Amazon SEO guide where they touched on Amazon reviews as well.

Airbnb reviews increased by 140% last year, while Modcloth’s community platform - where customers can share pictures of themselves wearing the brand’s clothes - has seen over 75,000 outfit uploads, which have been liked over 2 million times.

We've recently published a real estate case study where we discussed Avery Carl's success story. She runs short-term rentals and Airbnb user-generated content and reviews are an important element of her business.

Review platforms are so effective because they are real - they show everyday, relatable people engaging with brands and products in an authentic way, and this automatically builds trust. This is particularly pertinent with clothes brands that exist exclusively online. If you can’t try it on, you are more likely to be able to see yourself in it if you can see someone who looks similar to you wearing it.

Get your customers involved in your brand/product development

Some brands are taking market research to the next level by getting their customers involved in their product development, creating the ultimate tailored experience.

Nintendo’s Mario Maker does this particularly well, allowing players to create 2D Mario levels, indulging fan fantasy and creating more engagement around the game.

1 million people bought the game within its first week of release. These “fan developers,” as Nintendo calls them, created a combined 2.2 million Super Mario courses within the first two weeks and those levels had been played 75 million times.

Gaming campaigns that use UGC are 20% more influential than those that don’t. Nintendo effectively put their customers centre stage and got a better product, as well as a more effective marketing campaign, as a result.

Get your customers involved in your content creation

More and more, social campaigns are asking audiences to create their own content, often framing it as a competition and rewarding the most ingenious ideas, while repurposing them in subsequent marketing campaigns.

When it’s good, it’s really good.

Take Starbuck’s White Cup Contest. It was a simple concept - customers in the US and Canada were encouraged to decorate a Starbucks cup with customised art, take a picture and upload it to social media using the #WhiteCupContest. The winner had their design printed on a limited edition cup, which was sold online the following Autumn.

Starbucks received over 4,000 entries in just three weeks and this content was shared hundreds of thousands of times. This campaign was so successful because:

● It leveraged Starbuck’s existing customer’s brand loyalty and gave something back by asking them to get involved in the creation of the brand;

● Put their customers centre stage;

● Engaged directly with their audience

Listen and respond

However, just because many brands are taking advantage of UGC, this doesn’t mean they are all doing it well. It’s not enough to simply ask your customers to send in videos or images, or to design the new cup for their coffee. There has to be a hook.

Social listening on a wider scale can tell you what your audience most engage with - what are the majority talking about? How do they react when engaging with content related to this topic?

Once you know what ignites emotion in your audience, you can create a UGC campaign that focuses on this. By putting your audience in the driving seat and asking them to actively show you what matters to them, you are automatically engaging in a conversation that means something. For Starbucks, this was the “creativity seen [from customers] on social media platforms”.

Why is UGC so powerful?

Because it’s centred around you.

We can see it in the rise of Instagram and the self-made stars it creates - people who have made their fortune by posting their opinions about makeup, sportswear, food.

It’s evident in the 75% year on year increase in Pinterest pin creation, and the fact that over 65% of Snapchat’s 100 million daily users are taking photos and creating ‘stories’ of their lives.

Brands who successfully get their audiences to become their content creators do so by engaging in meaningful conversations, sparking imaginations and creating opportunities for inspiring experiences.

It is no longer enough for marketers to broadcast to audiences in the hope they will listen. Far more effective campaigns instead put audiences right at the centre.

Sophie Turton

Sophie Turton
Digital Content Manager

Sophie spends her days experimenting with communication strategies to form engaging digital journeys. At Bozboz, she manages the digital marketing team and oversees content strategies and brand development .


Sophie is a published writer, public speaker and lover of whimsy. Bozboz is an award winning digital agency based in Brighton.

You can find Sophie on Twitter.