Top Tips: Utilizing User Generated Content (UGC)

Blogger playing violin during online broadcast creating user generated content through a cell phone

Back-to-school time is right around the corner for many students. Backpack and school supply ads follow us everywhere. And colleges and universities smartly utilize the experiences of students for branding purposes.

This got us thinking about user generated content (UGC), which allows audiences to see people, very much like themselves, showcasing relatable stories and social media posts. Some may be for products, but many also explore understandable experiences and processes.

In another recent UGC example, an ad for Casamigos tequila and BlendJet blenders, featuring Cindy Crawford, caused quite a stir. The music for the ad, "One Margarita" (NSFW) became this summer's viral TikTok hit when Casamigos and BlendJet took notice.

So for this edition of Top Tips, we asked communicators for best practices when it comes to running a UGC campaign. Here are our top answers (in no particular order).

1. Yesenia Reinoso​, Founder & Principal, Y Communicate:

"For any user generated content—image or video—communicators should have a clear strategic goal as to what, why, and how they want to maximize the content to obtain the desired result. UGC is an excellent opportunity for brands to establish lasting relationships with fans and content creators. Through their lenses, you'll be able to formulate and share content that's inclusive, valuable, and multicultural. Be original, fun, authentic, and generate a call to action to get followers to share and be engaged. Know what to share and the channels to showcase it."

2. Adam Ritchie, Principal at Adam Ritchie Brand Direction, author of "Invention in PR":

Don't put out a call for user generated content and expect the content to come rolling in. Jumpstart the effort by approaching a core group of carefully-selected influencers and negotiating with them to create the first round of content. This sets the tone and gives their followers an idea of what to riff on.”

3. Ryland Devero, Associate Director, communications and strategy, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation:

“Lessons learned from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation's World AIDS Day campaign last year:

  • Share an example video/post—that will make sharing less scary!
  • Encourage different voices and make purposeful outreach attempts to diversify users who are participating
  • Start EARLY—give people lots of time to be able to participate and send multiple encouraging reminders throughout your lead time.”

4. Robert Barletta, Marino’s EVP of food & beverage, Marino:

Offer an incentive: “Thanks to the ‘Influencer Casting Call’ developed by Marino, Rose’ All Day was not only the most talked about wine in the summer of 2019, gaining about 20K organic social followers, but it also generated an almost limitless amount of UGC. Everyone wanted the opportunity to represent a growing wine/lifestyle brand, and of course win a large cash prize and a dream trip to France. The way to become the brand’s influencer, however, was by submitting for future use on our social channels only high-quality UGC, which would then be used in lieu of creating our own content. In fact, this UGC is still being used today by the brand.” 

5. Jenny Wang, SVP, CLYDE:

“Provide folks with tools and assets to make it easier and more fun—could be hashtags (creating a dedicated unique hashtag is best), a specific app, visual templates/assets, etc.”

6. Lena Katz, Founder and Creator—Integrated Programming Lead at Variable Content: 

“If you're sourcing real UGC (versus “UGC-style” or creator-produced content), relax your aesthetic standards a bit. Try not to look at images and video with a professional creative director's eye, but through the lens of a TikTok consumer who just wants to be entertained. If you still can't believe that this is what audiences want, go spend some time on social platforms looking at the huge rise in popularity of ugly filters. Or that AI pizza commercial. The pizza is hideous! Everyone loves it!  If you happen upon a piece of UGC that everyone seems to love, even if you don't get it because it seems flawed to you for a dozen little reasons—let the consumer reaction decide for you.”

Nicole Schuman is senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal