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 an excellent marketing method for small businesses. Companies can increase trust in their brand by displaying and promoting reviews, images, and testimonials created by customers. In fact, a Stackla survey found that 79% of consumers say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions.

For example, Under Armour adds customer reviews, Instagram stories, and feedback from “wear testers” into its marketing strategy to demonstrate its products' value and increase their visibility.

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

But UGC isn't just for big companies like Under Armour. Below are 11 examples of successful user-generated content campaigns and techniques that drove sales for 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.”

Google searches and alerts help you find UGC online

Keeping track of UGC across multiple platforms is challenging. However, you can create an alert on Google to learn when customers or companies mention your brand or products online. Doing so helps you stay on top of the latest testimonials about your business.

On Jessica Thiefels Consulting's blog, Tracy Ring recommends performing "a quick Google search of your company or product name and see if it comes up anywhere else." This is an excellent way to find reviews of your services or goods, including blog posts or other online mentions. Additionally, Ring suggested that business owners "set up a Google Alert for your brand name, so you never miss a great piece of UGC."

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

Creator of TEKKI DIGITAL Elizabeth Lefelstein recommends using UGC to drive sales on product pages. One of Lefelstein’s clients, Fortress of Inca, includes reviews and FAQs on its product pages to help customers decide.

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

[Read more: A Complete Guide to Managing Online Reviews]

UGC galleries on product pages drive emotional connections and conversions

If your goal is to improve website conversions with your campaign, one of the best ways to do that is by putting UGC on multiple areas of your website. Power Reviews analyzed 1.5 million product pages and more than 1,200 retailer and brand websites to explore the value of UGC. It found “an 8.5% increase in conversion among visitors who are served up some form of UGC on product pages.”

While it’s essential to provide details about your products, photos from customers add value to your site. Daniel Madrid Spitz, former Head of Experts Success at Mayple, said, “The specs are still crucial, but the user images help the user create that emotional connection with the product that they are looking for before they start digging into the specs.”

Brightech displays UGC on product pages under a section called “Found in real life.” Customers can add their photos with a website submission or tag the brand on social media. In addition, Power Reviews found an “110.7% conversion lift among shoppers who click on any image within such a gallery.”

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 and , as well as to understand what content drives sales.

[Read more: 10 Tools to Manage User-Generated 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.

Emily Lyman, Founder, Branch & Bramble

Showcase your customers with a selfie contest on Instagram to fuel interactions

Tanishq, a jewelry brand, put a unique twist on a selfie campaign with the hashtag #Jewelfie. According to Social Samosa, the selfie contest encouraged customers to share an image wearing their favorite jewelry and offer the backstory on how they got it. The campaign leveraged user-generated content on social media to increase entries, mentions, and impressions.

Tanishq used Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and involved college students and influencers in extending the campaign’s reach. On Facebook, Tanishq made an album for the contest with fan entries, whereas the brand used Instagram stories to repost the daily entries. Twitter posts focused on increasing entries with content showcasing the grand prize and weekly winners. As a result, the contest generated more than 3,000 entries and 2.66 million impressions.

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.

[Read more: A Guide to User-Generated Content]

Questions, polls, and surveys can boost your UGC collection efforts

A great way to generate UGC is to simply ask your customers, social media followers, or email subscribers. There are several ways to do this, such as hosting a poll on your social channels, developing a survey through Google or Jotform, or sending an email. Vandana Kumar said on LinkedIn that you can “encourage and entice your audience to share UGC when you ask questions about your brand.”

So, what kind of questions should you ask? Consider requesting personal stories about how your product or services helped them solve a problem. For instance, you could say, “What challenge did our product help you overcome?” Alternatively, Kumar suggested, “Has your product or service made their life easier?”

Also, ask customers who they’d recommend certain products for. Does it make a great gift for parents or better for young adults heading off to college? You can even encourage your social media followers to tag a potential gift recipient in the comments as part of a social media contest.

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 UGC exclusively, featuring customer’s dogs enjoying treats and toys.

[Read more: 'Social Proof': How User-Generated Content Resonates with Customers and Drives Sales]

Unboxing videos and personal testimonials improve storytelling efforts on TikTok

TikTok features give your customers a chance to add to your brand’s narrative. You can use the stitch and duet features to co-collaborate with fans on content creation. According to a TikTok case study on BM Collagen, “The brand encouraged followers to take videos of themselves opening and using BM Collagen’s beauty supplements. This gave users a personal stake in the brand and created memorable experiences worthy of being passed from consumer to consumer.”

BM Collagen used these video assets in an ad campaign with tremendous results. Within two months, “sales grew by almost 200%.” The ad received more than 361,000 clicks and 57 million impressions.

Visual reviews yield a 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 of HUSTLR and Vice President of BizOps. “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.

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.

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