Startups and small businesses have limited marketing budgets, and so it’s not always possible to splash out on social media marketing campaigns to reach new customers.

If you are looking for a simple way to speak to your audience and encourage people to check out your business, then you may want to consider the benefits of user-generated content.


What is user-generated content?

User-generated content is the content that your followers, customers or fans create, that you can utilise to promote your business.

It’s so effective because consumers would rather see a message from another user or customer, which builds trust and credibility and increases click-through-rates on social media.

Indeed, user-generated content is twice as likely to be shared than content created by a business, and it can increase brand engagement by 28%.

One of the biggest reasons why businesses use user-generated content as part of their social media and content marketing strategy is to humanise and personalise their brand.

A staggering 51% of consumers trust user-generated content more than the content you post on your website – all of which explains why the marketing technique has exploded in popularity in recent years.


Give proper copyright and attribution

Before we delve into the article and promote some of the ways you can utilise user-generated content, a quick word of warning.

Never use content without express permission, even if the content has been sent to you directly.

We recommend that you mention your user-generated content policy in your terms and conditions to cover your back; but above all else, send your customers a quick tweet or email to ask them if it’s okay to use their material to market your business.


Run a competition or giveaway

It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book.

Ask your followers to share your page for a chance to win a voucher or a free product. It works, and social competitions today are more popular than ever.

You can jump on the bandwagon and use a competition to get followers to interact with your brand and create content that you can share on your channels for months to come.

Wanderlust runs an annual photography competition, asking their followers to send in their best photos from their travels.

Customers can enter the competition and win a trip to Costa Rica or £3,000 in cash – and, in exchange, the magazine gets to use your photos on their website.

As well as getting access to their readers’ photos, the magazine used the competition to create more content that would be shared by entrants.

“5 reasons to visit San Jose, Costa Rica” and “Top tips for photographing wildlife” were two of the most popular articles during the span of the competition, proving user-generated and business-generated content can work hand in hand.

The annual competition encouraged users to send in their best photography work

The annual competition encouraged users to send in their best photography work


Create case studies on your sales pages

Sales and landing pages are notoriously difficult to write, and persuading click-throughs to buy from you is a whole different story.

Utilising user-generated content through case studies is one way that you can encourage visitors to sign up for a free trial or buy your products, so consider partnering up with your clients and asking them to submit their own testimonials and data.

Of course, case studies require your input, but focusing the attention on your clients and users is the best way to represent your brand and demonstrate the value of your products.

If you run a service-based business in the B2B world, you could arrange to interview a client face to face and record it, or use their Google Analytics data or sales figures as part of a wider write-up.

For ecommerce brands, you could create case studies around social media tweets from your users; share their stories and explain how your business as there to help. 70% of consumers trust online reviews from peers over business content, so go all out with UGC in case studies.


Spotlight your reviews

In the online world, reviews provide the social proof required to convert visitors into customers – especially when it comes to ecommerce. In fact, on-site consumer reviews can increase your conversion rate by an incredible 74%.

Putting the spotlight on favourable reviews can be a great way to build credibility and generate sales, so put them front and centre of your website.

Smart Web Hosting showcases reviews on its homepage

Smart Web Hosting showcases reviews on its homepage

You could even take it one step further and feature video reviews and testimonials on your homepage.

According to Slideshare, user-generated videos get ten times more views than content created by the actual brand, and video content is on the up generally.

But how can you get more customers to review positive reviews and create their own videos that you can use?

Well, you can encourage user-generated reviews by offering discounts on future purchases, responding to existing reviews prompt, and making the review process as simple as possible.

Of course, you cannot force customers to leave positive reviews if they didn’t enjoy your service, but you can pick and choose the very best reviews to feature most prominently on your website.


Retweet customer comments

Received a positive comment from a customer?

Share it on social media, and let your followers know that your products and services are worth talking about.

On Twitter, you could create a Twitter Moment featuring your most flattering customer comments – and on Facebook, you could create graphics using Canva featuring reviews and testimonials.


Accept guest contributions on your blog

Don’t limit your user-generated content to social media posts and customer reviews. If you really want to embrace the technique and speak to your customers in a whole new way, hand over the keys to your blog and let people share their stories with your followers.

See also: Why you should accept guest bloggers on your website

Customers could share their thoughts on your new service, or explain how your products helped them achieve something or overcome a problem.

If you run a fashion ecommerce business, for example, then you could ask customers to write a ‘style guide’ or share their favourite looks in a new blog post; a web designer could ask their client to write an article on what they learned when working together on a project; a florist could ask their customers to write about how their flowers made their birthday or wedding even more special.

The possibilities are truly endless.


Create a gallery

If you work in a photogenic industry, like fashion, food or travel, then another way that you could utilise user-generated content as part of your marketing is through galleries.

Creating blog posts or galleries featuring images from your customers is a great way to push out new material – and those featured in the article or gallery will be likely to share it with their friends and family.

If you don’t have enough images to create your own galleries, there’s no need to worry.

UK fashion brand Boohoo regularly takes their favourite images from Instagram and turns them into blog posts.

And a lot of the time, the images aren’t promoting their own products – they’re just relevant to their niche.

The best part is because the images have been shared on social media publicly, they don’t need to ask for permission to embed the content into their articles.

You could follow the same technique and share your favourite images or tweets in an article; it’s still user-generated content, and you can still benefit from sharing it.

Users who are featured will no doubt want to share the content with their followers, and your readers will enjoy seeing content from third parties, rather than reading and consuming content that was created by you.

Fashion brand Boohoo takes user-generated content and turns it into blog posts

Fashion brand Boohoo takes user-generated content and turns it into blog posts

Wrapping up

There are so many ways in which user-generated content can be used to promote your business and help you reach out to more potential customers. Experiment with some of the techniques raised in today’s blog, and you’ll be on your way to success. Good luck!


Infographic: How small businesses can utilise user-generated content to help drive traffic and sales

Infographic: How small businesses can utilise user-generated content to help drive traffic and sales