two girls taking picture in cardboard photo frame
User-generated content, or content created by consumers that brands then use or promote, can help drive sales by building trust around the brand. — Getty Images/jacoblund

User-generated content (UGC) is a hot topic in the marketing world, and for good reason: It's incredibly effective. In fact, a Stackla survey found that 79% of consumers say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions.

UGC refers to content created by consumers, such as reviews and product photos, that is then promoted by a brand. For example, Under Armour adds customer reviews, Instagram stories and feedback from “wear testers” into their marketing strategy to demonstrate their products' value and increase their visibility.

[Read: Under Armour Uses User-Generated Content in E-Commerce Strategy]

But UGC isn't just for big companies like Under Armour. Below are six examples of successful user-generated content campaigns that drove sales for small businesses.

Satirical headline writing contest boosts Twitter engagement

“Creating UGC is work,” said Daniel Burstein, senior director of content and marketing at MECLABS Institute. “[An unsuccessful] campaign is overly focused on the product or asks the customer to do too much.”

Burstein recommends making your campaign easy, relevant and a positive experience for the customer. For example, MECLABS Institute promoted an event for marketers by holding a headline writing contest in the style of The Onion, to promote an event that featured The Onion's co-founder as a speaker.

“All the entrants had to do was tweet their headline with a specific hashtag,” Burstein explained. “And we made them look good.”

Reviews and questions on product pages increase visibility — and trust with potential customers

SEO and digital marketing strategist Elizabeth Lefelstein recommends using UGC to drive sales on product pages. One of Lefelstein’s clients, Fortress of Inca, includes reviews and FAQs on their product pages to help customers make their decision.

In addition to building trust with potential customers, Lefelstein said including reviews and questions increases your keyword rankings and improves search engine results, boosting your brand’s overall visibility.

[Read: A Complete Guide to Managing Online Reviews]

People are more drawn to products and brands that they know other people know, like and trust.

Lucy Rendler-Kaplan, founder, Arkay Marketing and PR

Makeup product reviews and photos help customers see how it will look on them

Cruelty-free makeup brand Chella uses reviews and photos from customers who use their products to help build their brand and reach their customers authentically.

According to Chris Kolodziejski, CEO of Chella, “[UGC] helps our community understand how our customers are using our products and what they look like on a diversity of skin tones.”

Chella partners with Curalate to help gather that content, as well as to understand what content drives sales.

Mission-aligned UGC increases sales while promoting company values

Emily Lyman, founder of Branch & Bramble, told CO— that her company's UGC campaigns have directly increased web traffic, sales, click-throughs and social media engagement. One way Branch & Bramble leverages UGC is by sharing mission-aligned content.

"If we see someone doing something awesome and creative on social media that ties in to the brand's mission, we'll give that person a shout out and share on social," she said.

Lyman said this content helps people feel appreciated as well as understand their company’s values.

Product-focused UGC provides 'social proof'

UGC provides “social proof” of a product’s value, as people are more likely to trust a friend’s recommendation over a brand.

“People are more drawn to products and brands that they know other people know, like and trust,” says Lucy Rendler-Kaplan, founder of Arkay Marketing and PR. “People are [also] more apt to share once they’ve been recognized with a brand they love.”

One of Rendler-Kaplan’s clients, Dog for Dog, almost uses exclusively UGC featuring customer’s dogs enjoying its treats and toys.

Visual reviews yield better return on ad spend

“As brands, it doesn't matter what we say anymore, it's what other people are saying about us,” says Jeremy Ong, founder at HUSTLR. “Consumers nowadays want validation from peers.”

To this end, Ong incorporates UGC into his campaigns by using visual reviews or photos of customers using the brand’s products. He noted that this yields a better return on ad spend compared to content coming directly from the company.

UGC can help businesses connect with their audience in an authentic way, while also increasing sales. We hope these examples will inspire you to incorporate UGC into your business's marketing efforts.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published October 22, 2019