User Generated Content (UGC) Rocks The World Of Social Media Marketing!

  • By Andy Fox

Do you know what’s common between Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, TripAdvisor, Quora, Reddit, Yelp, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Wikipedia

If you’re guessing that they’re all content platforms where anyone can create and consume content for free, then you’re absolutely right. 

Yes, all of the content on these platforms is generated by the users themselves. In other words, everything is User Generated Content (UGC) or Consumer Generated Content (CGC). Or to put it in another way, none of these companies or internet portals have ‘content writers’ on their payrolls. 

Though businesses and brands are also considered as ‘users’ on these social media platforms, they’re in it for the money.
Call it marketing, promotion, brand presence or lead capturing - the end goal is always about customer acquisition and to earn profits. 

User Generated Content (UGC) in its pure sense refers to ‘original’, ‘unpaid’ content created by the followers or real users of a particular brand. It generally shows up in the form of testimonials, pictures, comments, Facebook statuses and tweets, and this is where the buck stops because… 

Today’s consumers evaluate products and services online, on the basis of star ratings, consumer reviews, online user forums, blogs, testimonials and user-stories they follow on social media channels -  i.e. UGC of all sorts. It’s this ‘consumer-generated content’ that has redefined the boundaries of marketing by handing the power to the hands of the consumer. 

Take a look below at the statistics on UGCs, they clearly speak for themselves:

 Let’s face it, no matter how awe-inspiring, highly creative and convincing your brand adverts or celebrity campaigns are (as with Jean Claude Van Damme’s Volvo stunt), very few will believe or will be swayed by the sight of a celebrity being motivated, (only) for the love of the product they’re endorsing..

In fact 57% of social users are said to ‘unfollow’ brands due to too many promotions on social media. As per Reevoo, the top four reasons why people are drawn to UGC are; Relevance, Authenticity, Quality and Selflessness.


For many a brand that has come to realise User Generated Content can be more effective in driving sales than the content they create, the rush to leverage UGC to fuel their marketing strategies, seem to be on the rise.

In fact, when it comes to making buying decisions, 71% of consumers are likely to purchase a product based on Social Media referrals. 

Let’s look at a few examples below of how brands have successfully utilised this power of ‘word of mouth’ via cleverly nurturing and weaving UGCs into creative social campaigns for their brand: 

Lululemon’s #thesweatlife Campaign

Lululemon, a yoga clothing brand, with the objective to build a vibrant community around their business and inspire people to use their products, launched their #thesweatlife Campaign on Instagram.


The campaign encouraged people to share photos of themselves while working out sporting their brand’s product. The brand with its tag line of “sweat once per day” inspired people to work out and share their offline experience amidst an online community of like-minded people. 

Within couple of months, the brand received over 7,000 photos from its customers on Instagram and Twitter with their #sweatlife gallery receiving more than 40,000 new visitors. 

The #AerieReal Campaign

Women’s apparel brand, Aerie’s #AerieReal Campaign was focused on tackling the rising issue of excessive use of photo editing in advertising and social media, and how that has negatively impacted women’s self-esteem and their idea of healthy body image. 

With the campaign, Aerie made a pledge to stop photoshopping or retouching the pictures of their swim suit models, and post them as is. 


The campaign also made a powerful commitment to encourage UGC from its fans by announcing that, for every Instagram user who posted an unedited photo of themselves in a bathing suit (using the hashtag #AerieReal) Aerie would donate $1 to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). 


The idea here that Aerie really cashed in on, was they drove home a message that people really believed in and created an easy opportunity for followers/customers to contribute their effort for the noble cause. Though the branding was hardly noticeable, Aerie was deeply imbedded in the minds of its followers. 

The Carter-Wendys Tweet 

This is a brilliant example of how brands can use UGC to their advantage, when they ‘listen’ to and ‘engage’ with their follower’s messages. 

What seemed like a ridiculous request from a teenager for free chicken nuggets, Wendys converted the seemingly innocent, yet off-handed comment, to an opportunity to garner millions of retweets and national media attention


It was this quick thinking on Wendy’s part that landed over 3.2 million retweets for Carter Wilkerson under their twitter handle – which is now officially the most retweeted tweet (receiving over 3.7 million retweets) of all time surpassing Ellen DeGeneres’s 2014 Oscars Selfie Tweet

However not all UGC can be positive for you. If you’re running a campaign where you’re asking users to post their content directly on your social accounts (via #hashtags or pics) rather than mailing it to you , then UGCs can sometimes take a very ugly turn. 

Consider the one below where McDonalds asked its fans to submit their stories of ‘fantastic experiences’ at their restaurants using the hashtag #McDStories. The submissions were not only ‘unfavourable’ but downright damaging for the brand’s image: 


A similar fate was suffered by The New York Police Department, when it asked the people to share snaps of themselves with the NYPD on Twitter, using the hashtag #myNYPD. 

Their expectations were like the picture resembling the one below: 


But what they actually received were more like this: 


The lesson here is you cannot completely stop negative people who are looking for opportunity to lash at your brand and tarnish your image, however, you can always minimize the risks and have a creative and smart ‘damage control’ strategies in place, just in case anything goes south. 

Over To You… 

For all businesses, brands and marketers alike, it should be ‘painfully’ clear that the heydays of brands pumping out their own content randomly to garner the desired engagement has long gone. 

Today, the brands who rock the world of Social Media, are the ones who make a conscious effort to genuinely ‘listen’ and creatively ‘engage’ with their fans and customers. Such brands are the ones who can turn their customers into brand evangelists and leverage User Generated Content (UGC) to amplify their brand potential! 

If you'd like further assistance or would like to discuss anything covered today, we'd love to hear from you.

Call Andy Fox (me) on (03) 5249 5570 or email

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Andy Fox - Author

I have a firm belief there is only one great challenge in life… And that is… To be the best version of you possible. I have lived my whole life to this tune. I love that I am not perfect and I love that every day I get up and make at least one change in my life that makes it better, one change that takes me closer to my life’s goals.

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