five proven ways to increase your client's user-generated content
Social Media Management

What is User-Generated Content?: A Beginner’s Guide

10 January, 2020
9 min read
Elise Dopson

Looking to save time when curating content for your clients, without sacrificing engagement, reach or trust?

I don’t blame you. Marketing can take a while to pay off, and you’ll need to make sure the time you’re spending on client work is delivering a return on investment… Especially when they’re paying (and expecting) you to get results from the social media activity you’re doing.

But, you don’t have to search high and low for time-saving hacks to create content.

There’s one type of content you should be taking advantage of: User-generated content.

Fancy getting in on the user generated content action? Here’s exactly what user generated content is and how to generate it for your clients:

What is user-generated content on social media channels?

what is user generated content

First up, let’s explain the definition of user-generated content.

User-generated content (abbreviated to UGC) is a type of content that’s created by your client’s audience - most often their customers.

It can include:

  • Reviews on X/Twitter

  • Video testimonials

  • Photos of your client’s product on Instagram

So, in a nutshell, it’s content for their social media feeds that you (or your client) don’t have to create. It’s done for you.

Why is user generated content important for your clients?

If that’s a question whizzing around in your head, you’re not the only one.

You need to know that the content you’re pushing through your client’s feed actually gets the results you’ve promised, right?

Here’s why user created content should form part of your client’s social media strategy:

    • It proves they're authentic
    • It shows real people use their products
    • It gives audiences FOMO
    • It saves your agency resources
    • It's a very cost effective social media marketing strategy

It proves they’re authentic on social media platforms

Did you know that 56% of people are more influenced by user-generated images and videos from a brand?

Authentic user-generated content is a fantastic way to jump on that preference and increase your marketing efforts, mainly because it shows your client is authentic - and not a brand who’ll take their cash and run, in return for a dodgy product.

(Trust me, that’s something I often question in the world of “fake influencers”.)

In summary, consumers trust content created by customers.  Tapping into your brand advocates and having a way to share user generated content on various social media platforms is an excellent strategy for your brand.

It shows real social media users use their products

If 100% of your social media marketing content is created by your agency or your client, it can feel biased.

Think about it: Are you more likely to trust a brand who only raves about themselves, or one that lets their customer reviews do the talking?

I’ll bet it’s the latter.

Sharing content generated by your client’s raving fans proves they’re selling a good product, and that real people use it. That’s why 60% of consumers feel that the number of reviews a business has influenced their decision to engage with its services. 

Having brand ambassadors and brand advocates on social platforms who openly review and speak about your product and services, is a great way to grow your brand. By using video content, online reviews, and customer photos, you can curate some of the best user generated content out there. 

It gives audiences FOMO

Fear of missing out (FOMO) is experienced when all of your peers have something, and you don’t. It’s such a psychological phenomenon that 86% of people admit to looking at their social media profiles because of FOMO.

User-generated content is a superb way to make your client's audience do the same, purely because you’re proving other people use their product.

If you manage to get hundreds of pieces of UGC, it’ll make them feel like they’re missing out - resulting in a purchase, and improving the ROI of your marketing efforts and agency activity.

It saves your agency resources

Think about how much time you spend curating content for your client’s social media feed.

UGC can reduce that significantly since you don’t need to invest money or time into creating content in-house.

Even the reviews you make into images or videos will take half the time it would take to create social media posts completely from scratch. You can get their audience to do it instead - which boosts the overall ROI you’re getting, per client.

Granted, you’ll still have to find the content and ask for permission to use it, but it’ll take much less time than starting from scratch!

Pro tip: Use a social media scheduling tool like Sendible to save even more time by batching social media tasks.

Manage and amplify multiple brands on social media with Sendible

5 proven ways to get more user-generated content for your clients


You understand the value of user generated content, but how exactly do you get it?

(Spoiler alert: The answer isn’t “sit back and wait for it to come.”)

Big name brands have been using UGC almost exclusively in their marketing strategy, but you’ll need to put in some initial legwork before the glowing reviews arrive in your inbox.

Here are five proven ways to get started with collecting user-generated content:

  1. Regularly survey your audience
  2. Commission powerful case studies
  3. Run a social media contest
  4. Create a unique Instagram hashtag
  5. Get personal with your audience

1. Regularly survey your audience

If you really want the low-down on what your client’s audience think, don’t go round the houses - head straight to the horse’s mouth.

Ask your client’s social media followers or current customers for feedback, such as:

  • Why do you like this product?

  • What made you chose us, over a competitor?

  • What do you think about our story?

  • What did you enjoy most about your purchasing decision?

  • Would you recommend our product/service? If so, why?

Answers to those questions make for fantastically powerful UGC.

Just take this response, for example: “I chose CLIENT because I was looking for a simple way to organize my receipts, and their software does exactly that. I couldn’t imagine using anyone else - I recommend them to everyone I know!”

Wouldn’t you love to post that to your client’s Facebook Page?

Blenders Eyewear did exactly that, and used their UGC to drive Facebook ads. Their review-based UGC ended up lowering overall CPAs by 38%, increased their return on ad spend by 62%, and decreased their CPC by 40%.

blenders eyewear facebook ad with ugc

That’s a result you’d love to report back to your client, right?

2. Commission powerful case studies

Another proven way to generate UGC for your clients is to commission case studies.

Take some of the cash they’re paying you to put together an in-depth document that shows their product or service works. You could do this in-house by asking your client for a list of their best customers. That might be people who:

  • Engage with them regularly

  • Purchase repeatedly

  • Have already left a positive review

Hop on a call with them, and ask them personalized questions to expand on their feedback.

A 15-minute interview can generate tons of UGC you can repurpose on a social media platform!

But if you don’t have the time to spare, you could always pay for a service like Case Study Buddy who will handle the interviews, and put together a neat-looking document for you.

Loop has a fantastic example of how case studies can give you tons of UGC. They have five case studies on their website, each with a brief overview of the client they worked with and the results they generated.

Here’s a snippet from their case study on ASOS:

loop case study ugc

If Loop were your client, that’d be a great source of user-generated content to sprinkle their social media feeds with - especially when 72% of customers don't take action until they have read reviews.

3. Run a social media contest

Everyone has a competitive streak - even those who didn’t put maximum effort into sports day in school.

(I’m speaking from experience.)

Running social media contests is a superb way to bring out that competitive nature, while also generating tons of high-quality UGC for your clients.

Just take GoPro, for example. They have one of the biggest Instagram accounts, but the majority of content posted to their profile is generated by users of their product, which they collect through their photo and video contests:

go pro ugc contest

The result of these contests? High-quality UGC, like this:

Taco Bell also takes the contest approach on social media. They created their own Snapchat filter in celebration of Cinco de Mayo - a filter that received almost 224 million views, and resulted in being Snapchat’s best-performing campaign.

Their campaign prompted people to take a photo or video with the filter (UGC), and share it with their friends:

Want to get in on the action, but don’t have the budget for expensive Snapchat campaigns?

Think of a social media contest you could run for your clients to get their audience engaged, and prompt them to create content you could use.

That could include awards for:

  • The best tutorial of your product

  • The best photo of your product

  • The best application of your product

Then, think about incentives you could offer to get your client’s audience involved. Whether it’s a cash prize or discounts off future purchases, give their audience a nudge with a solid reason to create their own user generated content that you can use for your client.

4. Create a unique Instagram hashtag

Hashtags have the power to significantly boost your client’s organic reach on social media. That’s important - especially when the majority of big platforms are forcing brands to put some cash behind their content to make it visible to their followers.

Hashtags make your client’s content visible to people browsing a hashtag feed (who might not already follow their account).

But should you jump onto an already-popular Instagram hashtag, or start from scratch with your own unique phrase?

My answer is: The latter.

By running a campaign and creating a unique hashtag, you’re able to sieve out user-generated content that your client’s audience are using to get involved with.

Just take Wayfair’s #WayfairAtHome campaign. The hashtag has been used over 56,000 times on Instagram alone - all of which are photos and videos their audience have created, uploaded and hashtagged:

wayfair at home user generated content

Wouldn’t you want that huge pool of UGC to dip into when planning your client’s social media calendar?

Starbucks also took this approach with their #WhiteCupContest - a campaign they ran in 2014 to boost the user-generated content in their arsenal. They encouraged customers to doodle on one of their signature white cups, and upload their designs to social media using the hashtag:

white cup contest user generated content

The #SugarBearHair hashtag, created by Sugar Bear Hair brand, encourages their customers to use their own hashtag too:

sugar bear hair

...As does Australian beauty brand Sand and Sky with the #sandandsky hashtag:

sand and sky

You can begin to create a winning hashtag that generates tons of user generated content for your clients by:

  • Thinking of a unique hashtag that includes your client’s brand name.

  • Promoting the hashtag on your client’s social media profiles.

  • Encouraging your client’s customers to use the hashtag within purchase confirmation emails.

Remember to keep an eye on the hashtag feeds for your custom phrase.

Find the highest quality photos and videos, and bookmark them for future use on social media!

5. Get personal with their audience

Read any “marketing trends for next year” blog posts and I’ll bet my bottom dollar that personalization makes an appearance. 

Questioning how personalization ties into user-generated content?

(That’s what this article is about, after all.)

Here’s your answer: People are more likely to share something when it’s personalized. And in social media terms, those “shares” could be anything from a photo of your product to a review of your service - acting as user generated content.

The most notable example of this put into practice comes from Coca-Cola. Their iconic #ShareACoke campaign saw them produce personalized bottles with names on, and it took the country by storm.

coke user generated content

It also generated thousands of photos and videos for the Coca-Cola team to use:

But running a personalization campaign doesn’t mean convincing your client to start manufacturing millions of personalized products.

You could:

  • Run an event that gives your client’s audience personal momentos (such as branded swag).

  • Create a hashtag and encourage people visiting their location to use it - like this example by SEMrush:

While this tactic to generate user-generated content is definitely higher maintenance, it can pay-off in the long-run when you’ve got a huge portfolio of user-generated content to share on your client’s feed!

Do I need to ask for permission to use my client’s UGC

user generated content permission

You’ve made the ask for user-generated content, and after keeping a close eye on your client’s branded hashtags, you find a ton of high-quality user generated content you could post to their social media platforms.

But before you dive straight in, you need to ask the original creator for permission to repost it on multiple platforms. 

(It is their own content on their social media posts, after all.)

Drop a quick message to the original creator that goes something like this: “Hey! I just saw your post using our hashtag, and I’d love to share with CLIENT’s audience. Would you mind if we re-posted?”

Chances are, they’ll say yes - and you’re free to use their photos, videos and reviews to your heart’s content.

...Without making their customer feel annoyed you’re using their content for the company's marketing campaigns, with zero credit.

This is a great way to encourage customers to share their user generated posts, increase brand awareness, and tap into awesome content created with your client's services or products. 

Final thoughts on collecting user generated content for your clients

Are you ready to kickstart a user generated content marathon and collect tons of photos, videos and reviews of your client’s product or service?

It’s definitely worth it - especially when it can save your time and boost your agency’s ROI.

Now that you've learned what is user generated content, it's time to get this going on your social media platforms.

Remember to constantly make the ask for contributed content, give people an incentive to build brand loyalty and submit their own user generated content, and constantly monitor their social media performance to double-check the content you’re posting is sitting well with their audience.

It’s bound to result in a happy client!

Subscribe to Sendible Insights blog