What is User-Generated Content (And 9 Tips to Get More of It)

Paying for ads and influencer posts can get pretty expensive. So, how can you get more customers to share their selfies with your products and to rave about your brand online? Today, we’re going to teach you how to get your customers talking and creating more user-generated content for your brand – for free.

What is User-Generated Content?

User-generated content is free content created by your brand’s followers and fans. For example, a shopper might post a picture trying on clothes from a clothing brand and post it on social media. However, the brand didn’t pay for the shopper to create the post.

Take a look at this user-generated example. The YouTuber Heart by Tosin shares where she got each part of her outfit. Some of the clothing comes from competing brands so it’s unlikely that a brand paid for this post. Noticeably, she also doesn’t mention that this is a paid partnership and doesn’t use the #ad hashtag. She simply shares her looks as she’s a fashion vlogger.

user generated content instagram

In contrast, and using a similar example, influencer marketing is when a brand pays an influencer to model their clothing and post it on social media. The key difference between the two examples is whether or not payment was exchanged between the brand to the user or influencer.

For example, take a look at this influencer’s post for the brand Nasty Gal. You’ll notice that her caption uses Nasty Gal’s hashtag. However, right beside it, you’ll also see the hashtag #ad used. Influencers are required to inform their audience if they were paid for a post. So, they use the #ad hashtag if they were compensated for a post.

user generated content

9 User-Generated Content Tips

1. Have an affiliate program

An affiliate program on its own doesn’t necessarily lead to user-generated content. However, it can. Some brands, like MVMT Watches, have an ambassador program for people who’ve bought their products. A customer who just bought a brand new watch can then share a picture of it on social media and include their ambassador/affiliate link to receive a commission for sales. By potentially getting a financial reward they’re incentivized to share their photo or experience with the product. The compensation isn’t guaranteed so it’s a bit different than being paid as an influencer. Also, in this specific example, the person sharing the photo isn’t actually an affiliate but a customer whose been incentivized to share user-generated content through a potential commission.

user generated content hashtag

2. Feature customer photos on your website

You can collect customer photos and promote them on your website or social media for social proof. User-generated content is easier to collect this way, especially if you add Shopify apps for social proof. After a person sees a photo of a customer using the product, not only are they more likely to buy the product, but they may also be more likely to share their own. People love showing off their pictures on social media. By sharing their photos on your website you strengthen your relationship with your customers. Because they feel valued and recognized as your customer.

3. Host a contest

One of the easiest ways to increase user-generated content is by hosting a contest. The most popular user-generated content contest would likely be a photo contest. You can email your customer list and ask them to upload their photos to your website or post them on social media using your hashtag for a chance to win a gift card or some other prize. You’ll need to create contest rules so that everyone knows what type of content you’re looking for and when they can expect to be notified if they win a prize. This tends to work well on stores that have been generating sales for at least a few months.

4. Allow customer photos in reviews

Top retailers like Sephora allow customer photos in their reviews. In the picture below, you can see a 4-star review for the Naked eyeshadow palette on Sephora’s website. Some think user-generated content helps with social proof. But it can also help with sales. Notice how in the review other details are shared such as the customers’ eye color, skin tone, skin type, and more. The woman then posts a picture not only of the eyeshadow kit, but also of herself wearing the product so customers who may have the same physical characteristics would know whether or not this product is right for them. The visual element of the customer photo helps clarify what exactly the customer is getting. You’ll also notice that 21 people found the review helpful and it’s likely due to the addition of the photo as the written description is quite brief.

sephora customer photo review user generated content

5. Repost images on social media with permission

These days there are a few more rules about reposting content. So if you want to share that customer photo someone tagged you in, make sure to send over a Direct Message asking for permission first. Once someone gives you the go ahead, you can then repost the photo or video on your social media. Of course, you’ll want to tag the person in the photo to give them credit. Reposting user-generated content can help you build relationships with your fans and customers. It can also help you increase the amount of content you can share on social media, especially if you’re dropshipping and don’t want to post those white background product photos.Repost user generated content

6. With permission, use images for ads

One of the most powerful uses for user-generated content is for ads. You’ve probably noticed that when you post a product photo it usually doesn’t perform well for your ads. However, when you post a customer photo using your product your engagement skyrockets. That’s actually what happened to me. However, these days, you really need to make sure you lock down that permission.

Wish ad user generated content

7. Create marketing elements for user-generated content

To get and find more user-generated content, create marketing elements that’ll allow you to track it better. For example, if you have a hashtag your customers can use they might choose to use the hashtag in case they forget to tag you. By using the hashtag, other customers and fans can see the photos more easily. But it also helps you find customer photos you can share on social media easily as well. You can also create or add tools to make collecting user-generated content a more seamless process. For example, you can add Shopify apps for photo reviews on product pages. Or you can choose from an Instagram Feed app to showcase your customers’ photos.

lulus hashtag user generated content8. Create guidelines that are easy to execute

As your brand grows, you may be more concerned with how people present your brand. You can share guidelines that help people create user-generated content about your brand. Keep in mind that the more “rules” you add, the fewer posts you’ll get. You can create a fan content page where you list all the ways customers can show you love. List a few ideas from customer photos to YouTube videos. And maybe include a couple of points they can talk about such as answering questions like “What do you love about our brand?” You can mention incentives you offer for creating this content – maybe loyalty points, a small gift card, or a free gift.

9. Thank customers for their content

If a customer takes the time out to post a picture of a product and share it on social media, take a few minutes to thank them for sharing it. It can be pretty discouraging when a customer happily shares a new product they love only to get ignored by their favorite brand. So, take a moment to thank them, offer to repost, or compliment them on their content. If the sentiment is positive show gratitude even if the post isn’t exactly on brand.

User-Generated Content Examples

  1. How to Get Started with Trello by Tineke Franssen

In an ebook, Tineke Franssen shares everything you need to know about Trello. Trello is an organization tool you can use to create to-do lists, calendars, take notes and more. And while she’s worked at mega brands like Google, Franssen has no affiliation to Trello at all. It even was the only book she ever published on Amazon. People interested in learning more about Trello might check out her book to learn some new tricks that the brand doesn’t already teach. Readers may gain new insights from an outsider opinion. And while Trello didn’t compensate Franssen for the ebook, they received brand exposure from Amazon. Pretty sweet deal!user generated content examples

  1. Suzy Shier Instagram Post by Courtney Mona

In her Instagram post, Courtney Mona shares user-generated content for Suzy Shier and Naturalizer. She shares a funny Instagram caption about the future and her pants being bright. And her pants were from fashion retailer Suzy Shier’s clothing line. Mona shared a picture of her at the mall wearing clothing from other brands and tagged those brands in her post. Her Instagram post noticeably doesn’t have any any mention of paid partnership or #ad hashtags. And since the clothing comes from competing brands, it’s likely that this wasn’t a sponsored post.

user-generated content


User-generated content can help your brand gain social proof, sales, and provide better product insight to your customers. It can be hard to brainstorm and create every piece of content your customer wants and needs. However, with the help of your loyal fans, you can better attract more content around your brand and products. So, if you’re looking to grow your reach and have a more viral effect, try out some of the user-generated content tips such as allowing photo reviews, hosting a contest or sharing photos on your website.

Are you going to try increasing your user-generated content? Or are you going to stick with paid methods instead? Comment below!

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