8 ways to use user-generated content in your campaigns

Amy Burchill
minute read
Written By
Amy Burchill
November 16, 2022

People care about the brands they buy from. In fact, 40% of shoppers will buy from a brand they trust.

So securing trust and promoting products customers are proud to be associated with is crucial for ecommerce brands. Instead of solely pumping out polished, branded content, many brands are making use of real-life, user-generated content (UGC)that consumers can relate to.

In this article, we’ll explore how you can implement user-generated content into your ecommerce marketing strategy. We’ll cover how much UGC costs, how you can gather content (for free), and how ecommerce brands are successfully using UGC in their campaigns.

By the end, we hope you’ll have a solid blueprint for creating your own UGC strategy. ✨

What is user-generated content?

User-generated content, often abbreviated as UGC, is content your customers create to share their experience with your products. It could be organic or incentivised by you—but the main thing is that your customers are posting about you because they genuinely love your product. This could be a customer review, a social media post recommending your products to friends and family, a how-to demonstration on YouTube,—basically, if it was made by your customers, it’s UGC.

What makes UGC so special is the impact it can have on your brand metrics. For brands experiencing lots of market competition and a decrease in marketing budget, it’s good to know consumers actually want to see UGC (more on that later). Authentic content will only improve your brand awareness metrics which, in turn, boost your conversions rates. 📈

How can UGC boost product sales?

This is why you’re really here, right? 😏 User-generated content can genuinely help you sell more products. In fact, you could be missing out on sales if you don’t implement it into your strategy. Let’s break down some of the ways UGC helps you sell more products:

  1. It can improve your cost per acquisition (CPA): 79% of people say UGC impacts their buying decisions. If you can use UGC in your targeted ad campaigns you’re more likely to encourage potential buyers over the line. This, in turn, means less cost per acquisition (CPA).
  2. UGC helps you build a community:  People want to feel like they’re part of something special. Getting your customers involved in your marketing content is a good way to relate to potential customers. It fosters a sense of belonging and trust - essential for a positive brand perception which will encourage sales.
  3. Improves brand awareness and visibility: Related to the above point, UGC will help push your brand further. The more your customers share and talk about your brand, the more people will learn about your products.

UGC and influencer marketing: what’s the difference?

Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of UGC, let’s look at the differences between user-generated content and influencer generated content (IGC). As we’ve mentioned, it is possible to pay for UGC - so how does that differ from influencer marketing? Let’s take a look.

  1. Cost and authenticity: User-generated content is usually free (but not always) and entirely genuine. But influencer marketing involves a payment arrangement. Influencers are compensated, whether through money, freebies, or other perks, to endorse products. They're essentially professional marketers.
  2. Content creation process: Customer-created content is spontaneous and real. It's not polished or meticulously planned, which adds to its authenticity. Influencers, on the other hand, put a lot of thought into their content. Some even hire professional photographers or videographers for high-quality content.
  3. Credibility and relatability: User-generated content is naturally credible because it's shared by unsponsored, real customers. While influencer marketing can be effective, it may not always feel as authentic. Influencers are being paid to promote products, which can make their endorsements appear less genuine to some consumers. However, influencers often have a dedicated following who trust their recommendations.

In a nutshell, UGC is about unscripted moments from loyal customers who adore your products. On the flip side, influencer marketing relies on professionals creating curated content as part of a paid partnership. Both have strengths; your choice depends on your marketing goals and budget. Speaking of… 👀👇

How much does UGC cost?

Generally speaking, UGC is unique, authentic content produced by your customers. And often you can get that for free.

However, brands have seen such great success with UGC campaigns that, understandably, many creators want a piece of the pie. Tools like Yotpo and Mini Social provide a platform for creators and brands to collaborate on paid-for projects.

In terms of actual costs: The UGC Club ran a survey to find out how much creators typically charge per piece of content. The results came in at around $150 a piece. Whilst this is way cheaper than hiring influencers, you can still gather UGC for free and ethically.

8 ways to use UGC in your campaigns (with real examples)

Ready to start working with user-generated content? It’s time to consider where you’ll be implementing it because you don’t just have to stick to social media. Lots of ecommerce brands inject user-generated content into their product pages, email campaigns and more.

1. Promote UGC in your ad campaigns

If you’ve got a piece of user-generated content that’s been doing well organically, why not promote it in your ads? This is something that PPC expert, Simon Freeman has seen work really well with his clients. In his article about creating killer ads that convert, he highlights a campaign he worked on with Thread the Word.

In this particular image, it's easy for new parents to see how Thread the Word’s baby blankets can be customised. It also showcases how other customers put their trust in the brand’s products.

Baby asleep in a personalised blanket

💡 Combining well-performing organic UGC with your ad campaigns is a good way to push social proof to wider audience.

2. Add UGC to your product pages

Social proof is a massive purchase driver. TINT found that a whopping 76% of consumers have bought something after seeing someone else’s recommendation. So adding it into your product pages will give them another reason to buy.

Skincare brand, Starface, include social proof on their product pages from creators on Instagram and TikTok. It’s really easy for potential buyers to find the original post and view the full review—which builds transparency and brand trust.

Skincare brand, Starface, use UGC on their product pages

💡 Once you’ve built up a good library of UGC across your product library, start including it in your relevant product pages. Fomo lets you showcase your latest reviews on your website.

3. Dedicate a UGC page on your website

Provide a space for your best UGC on your website. Being as open and transparent as possible is important for brand trust. And if you can signpost people to reviews and testimonials, it’s clear you’re not hiding anything.

One of our customers is a health brand, Ka’Chava. They have a page on their website dedicated to user-generated content and video reviews. You can filter UGC by different use cases. For example, you can find customers talking about how Ka’Chava assists with weight management.

Ka'Chava UGC page on website

💡 Collect all your UGC together and give them a place on your website. Once you’ve built up a solid library of content, you can filter them into different categories and use cases. 

4. Create shoppable UGC galleries on Pinterest

When your customers create product-specific content, you can incorporate them into image galleries that link to your product pages. And the first platform that springs to mind for this is Pinterest.

One of our customers, COAT, makes use of Pinterest for this exact reason. They’re a visually-led brand, so lend themselves easily to Pinterest’s image-first search engine. Plus, they rely heavily on UGC which makes the perfect recipe for shoppable UGC.

COAT paints create shoppable UGC galleries on Pinterest

💡 Use Pinterest to create eye-catching galleries of your products. You can link them directly to your product pages so it's easy for potential buyers to add their favourite pins to their basket.

5. Add customer reviews to your email campaigns

Most ecommerce brands have some kind of email strategy. Whether you’ve got a newsletter for existing customers, or a prospect email flow that gets sent to sales leads—it’s worth adding reviews and customer quotes into your email content.

Take Surreal, for example. To promote their new cereal flavour, they’ve sent out an email that contains reviews solely about that particular product. It’s one of the closest ways you can get to world-of-mouth marketing. And, if people are truly raving about your products, you might as well make the most of it.

Surreal email marketing campaigns

💡 Include reviews in your emails. You could add some customer testimonials to the end of a promotional email to provide that added social proof your audience needs to push them over the line.

6. Tell customer stories on your blog

Your blog is a massive opportunity to build authority for your brand and forms the foundation of your content strategy. And what better way to build authority by telling real customer stories? This approach may lend itself differently depending on what sector your brand’s in—but you can guarantee you’ll always find customers who have a good story to tell with your product.

One of our favourite examples is from Needle and Thread. They design and sell custom wedding dresses and accessories. Their blog posts are dedicated to the brides who wear their products.

Thread the Word UGC blog post

💡 Pick happy customers who’ve given you positive reviews, and ask if they’ll do a full customer interview with you. This is also an opportunity to get to know them a little better, and might go some way to improving your customer retention rates (i.e. they'll buy from you again). What's more, you can repurpose blog posts to create new social media content.

7. Build a creator playlist on YouTube

Whether you’re working with creators directly, or they’re organically talking about you in their videos—make sure you showcase these on your social profile. We particularly love how Kosas does this on their YouTube channel.

Kosas curate UGC on their YouTube

💡 With permission from you creators, make sure you keep all your UGC in one place. This acts like your own pool of social proof that potential buyers can dip in and out of when they’re researching your product.

8. Get a good balance of UGC and brand-generated content

Of course, you don’t want to fill your channels with only UGC. You’ll want to make sure you’ve got a good mix of brand-generated content (BGC) too. Take a look at Yield. They have a good mix of UGC and BGC on their Instagram page.

Yield's Instagram account

💡 Plus, on your product pages, you should have clear, high-quality images that show your product off in the best light. Here's some food photography tips from photographer Emma Dunham. Even if you don’t have the budget for a professional photographer, you can easily create your own DIY photography.

How to gather user-generated content?

Now you’re ready to implement UGC in your marketing strategy, how do you find the perfect content? Luckily there are loads of ways to gather UGC from your consumers - and most of them are free. 😍

Find your brand advocates on social media

The first port of call is to find out who’s already posting about you. You could use tools like Mention for social listening. Or keep an eye out for people commenting on your brand’s social posts. This is something DR.VEGAN did when they kicked off their UGC strategy. Whenever they see someone posting a positive comment on one of their posts, they’ll actually DM the person and ask them if they’d be up for sharing their review to a wider audience. That’s because they only want people who are fans of their product to be posting about them. This adds to their authenticity.

🎙️ Btw, you can listen to our podcast with Dr.VEGAN over on our podcast. Sophie Watson, Head of Growth, explains how they encouraged authentic UGC and weaved it into their marketing campaigns.

Set-up and monitor your review platforms

Give your satisfied customers a platform to submit their reviews. Yotpo and FOMO integrate with Shopify so you can easily capture and share social proof with your audience. You could use these reviews in your paid ads, or get in touch with customers and ask them to share a video review to their social following.

Ask for feedback after each purchase

For most brands, it’s standard practice to ask customers to leave a review after they purchase something from you. You can set up an automated email that goes out to your customers after they buy your product. Email marketing tools like Klaviyo even have features that let you bake review requests into your SMS and email campaigns.

Run a competition

If you’ve built up a good following on social or in your email lists, it might be worth running a competition to encourage authentic UGC.

One of our customers, Forthglade, does this on a monthly basis. As a dog food brand, they’ve got a big customer base with people who’re happy to share pics of their canine friends. Forthglade runs a Dog of the Month competition that encourages customers to submit images of their dogs for a chance to win £100 worth of goodies and a spot on the ‘Hall of Fame.’

Forthglade run a Dog of the Month competition

When customers send in their pics, they automatically get added to Dash (that’s our visual content management software) where the Forthgade team can sort through and pick their favourite photos.

Use tools to incentivise customers at checkout

If you’re confident in your product offering and you’re getting good feedback from your customers, you could try incentivising content creators at checkout.

For this, take a leaf out of DTC snack-brand Chomps' book. They use the UGC app, Bounty, which asks people to post about their new purchase or Instagram on TikTok. Once the content has been posted, they’ll earn a cash reward. Note that the more views your creator gets, the more you’ll have to pay them—so make sure you’ve set aside a good budget if you go down this route.

Use Dash to help gather visual content

Finally, if you need a way to store and manage this content—use Dash (that’s us).

Dash is a visual content management tool that helps you better manage your product and marketing assets. As well as organising and sharing content, you can use it to get UGC from your customers. You can create a guest upload link and ask customers to send in their images without the need for a login. Anything they send in can be approved by you before it goes live in your Dash. Once it’s all in Dash, it’s easy for other teams to grab approved UGC for their campaigns.✨

Get your brand ready for UGC

Once you’ve gathered your content and you’re ready to hit publish on your repurposed UGC—make sure you consider the following things.

  • Get consent before using UGC: This is a biggie: Get consent before you repost any UGC content. At the very least, you should credit the creator by tagging them or providing a link to their original post. Not doing this can create a negative brand image and annoy your customers.

    You can use Dash to add expiry dates and usage rights to your customer photos and videos, so everyone on your team knows if a piece of UGC is good to go.  
  • Choose the right social media channel for your UGC: It’s all about being in the right place at the right time. Here’s a breakdown of what works on the top social media platforms.
    - Facebook is great for sharing longer videos and stories about your brand. You can post compelling and authentic content to get more views.
    - Instagram is the epitome of visual sharing and the go-to platform for UGC. It has various features to play around with, such as stories, IGTV, feed posts, and reels.
    - TikTok is your big chance to go viral. Encourage customers to hop on trends or create your own brand challenge.
    - YouTube is good for longer-form content and connecting with other YouTubers who might be reviewing your products.
    - Twitter (X) is the go-to social platform for sharing product reviews and experiences. You can also host Twitter spaces by inviting current customers to share their experiences and stories with the audience–or host a Q&A.
  • Set up brand hashtags: Notice your customers tagging your brand a lot? Create a branded hashtag to bring all that juicy content together. For example—Forever 21 uses #F21xMe. It also means potential customers can quickly find all UGC related to your brand.
  • Pick a tool to organise your content:  Investing in UGC can help you build a safe community for your customers. However, managing every piece of UGC content can lead to unbridled chaos if it’s not done right.  Use an affordable and flexible digital asset management tool, like Dash, to store your UGC. You can tag your video content by how well it performed, add usage rights to your images, and set up guest upload links for easily gathering content.  

Want to try it for yourself? You can try Dash free for 14 days.  ✨

Amy Burchill

Amy Burchill is the SEO and Content Manager for Dash. She works with ecommerce experts to create articles for DTC brands wanting to improve their campaigns.

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