User-Generated Content (UGC) Contests: Everything You Need to Know

10/23/2019

What’s the key ingredient in the secret sauce for boosting your brand?

Your customers.

The content they produce related to your products and services, called user-generated content (UGC), is incredibly valuable to your brand. The blog posts, pictures, tweets, likes, videos and other content provide a serious assist when it comes to brand promotion as well as forming a community around your organization or company.

Your users are often fans who are publicly interacting and engaging with what your brand has to offer in ways that help to build its reputation. As digital natives (millennials and Gen Z) take up more market share as consumers, they’re more in control of the content they consume and produce.

This has a major impact on how brands must evolve to reach customers.

When you look at the fact that 86% of millennials believe that user-generated content is a strong indicator of a brand’s quality, you can begin to see the reach of this type of content. Furthermore, as 68% of users between the ages of 18-24 rely on information shared on social media when making buying decisions, it’s clear why UGC has an impact on a brand’s bottom line.

Below we’ll dig into the various types of user-generated content, explore how it has been leveraged effectively by brands, and discuss tactics for running a UGC contest that gets results for your brand.

What are some examples of user-generated content?

UGC comes in all shapes and sizes.

That’s the beauty of it.

examples of user-generated content

One powerful form of UGC is the customer review. Think about the rise of Amazon and how reviews have been leveraged by successful online retailers. Consider all the times you’ve scoured Yelp or Google to check out what people had to say about a particular restaurant before you tried it for yourself. Reviews are the most classic form of UGC and this digital word-of-mouth has a huge impact on how brands are perceived.

In the Instagram era, another hugely important form of UGC is photos and videos. Consumer timelines are full of experiences with products and services that serve as free advertising for brands. Not to mention the rise of influencers and the significant impact they have had on broadcasting information about their favorite brands (or at least the ones paying them).

The social media comments and likes that appear alongside the photos and videos are another form of user-generated content that can help brands gain and sustain traction with consumers. Comments and likes are essentially customer testimonials that help to inspire trust and confidence in a brand’s products and services. People observe how others receive particular brands through these little indicators and allow it to inform their buying decisions.

Right up there in the UGC Hall of Fame with reviews are blog posts. These essentially long-form customer reviews of products, services, and brand experiences serve an important educational purpose for potential customers. Some brands choose to sponsor blog posts that review their products while others rely on genuine, unsolicited reviews that offer honest critiques. Regardless of how brands put them to use, blog posts can spin a compelling narrative about a brand, if used correctly.

User forums are another great way to generate engagement with your brand’s goods. Though it originated from the early days of the internet, many product-focused forums continue to be popular today. These forums give consumers recommendations for related products, how-to guides, user manuals, and problem-solving tools. Brands can easily pull material from these forums (with user permission of course) to be leveraged in their marketing.

Why UGC is so successful (and why you shouldn’t ignore it)

Why UGC is so successful

So why do brands go gaga over UGC?

Because it works. In many cases, It reaches customers on an emotional level. That’s where buying decisions are made.

UGC accomplishes three key objectives for brands:

  1. Inexpensive to create, easy to share: Creating content can be expensive and time-consuming for brands. UGC allows brands to develop a strategy and then reach out to customers to do the hard part of creating the actual content. Once created, modern platforms make the sharing of that content—across multiple channels—very simple.
  2. Creates trust: Social proof is created when people see others interacting with your brand and your products. This builds trust for potential customers and moves them along in their buying journey.
  3. Generates growth: UGC allows brands to deepen their relationships with current customers while broadening their reach at the same time.

In other words, UGC puts your customers squarely at the center of your business. Most people don’t trust marketers because they know they’re being sold something rather than engaged. UGC feels authentic and creates a community for the brand.

With a high return on investment, enhanced user engagement, and the ability to reach even wider audiences, investing in UGC is a no-brainer for modern brands.

How to run a successful UGC contest

How to run a successful UGC contest

At the highest level, there are six key aspects of putting together a dynamite UGC contest for your brand. From goal setting and channel selection to securing permission and testing how content performs, here are the major considerations for setting up a successful UGC campaign here:

Set goals for your UGC campaign

Stay focused on the big goals.

Creating brand desire among customers.

Inspiring and demonstrating brand loyalty.

Building a content library to support marketing efforts across the brand.

Within those broader goals, you’ll want to set targets for micro-goals within each to help you hone your campaign as you go. For example: how much content do you want in your library during each phase of the contest? That’s one metric that’s easy to track and feeds into the larger goal.

Choose your channels

You’ll need to decide the channels that will best suit your brand. Don’t try to be jane of all trades and end up as the master of none. Pick the channels where your customers and potential customers already live and play. Learn from the content they’re already producing in those channels. Focus on going deeper rather than wider when it comes to channel selection, at least at first.

Collect your content

At this step, be sure to communicate your intent clearly. Remember, authenticity is the name of the UGC game and users want to know how and why the precious content they’ve generated is being used by the brand. Be sure to recognize people for their UGC and always, always ask for permission to use the content. Once you’ve built a solid library, it’s time to think about how to deploy the content.

Recycle the content

Once you’ve found a good time and place for using the UGC you’ve collected, don’t stop there. Take an omnichannel approach and find ways to repurpose content across channels while playing with time and other ways to keep it always fresh. Good, quality content should always get some extra mileage beyond just one use. Think about segmenting your audience and how various pieces of UGC can be deployed across those groups as well.

Build community and connection

User engagement isn’t a one-way street from the brand to the customer. Make sure that you’re constantly creating buzz among users by getting them to interact with each other. Encourage leaders to build the community for and with you. Elicit contest ideas from the community rather than always dictating them. Dig deep for unique and fresh ways that users are engaging with the brand’s products and services and find ways to highlight and build upon them.

Test the content

Post and pray is not an effective UGC method. Make sure you’re digging into the analytics that many of these platforms offer to explore how various forms of content are performing. Armed with that data, you’ll want to constantly refine your strategies for deploying UGC across all channels. Over time as you build your library and have corresponding data, you’ll be able to better inform your overall UGC strategy for your brand.

Building a UGC strategy that works for your brand

If your users are taking the time to lavish you with content, put it to good use.

That’s the least you can do, and it can help build your brand and community at the same time.

In order to make that happen, you’ll need the right systems in place. Submittable is a safe, reliable platform that offers the benefits of running a UGC campaign without the disadvantages that go along with running it on a native platform like Instagram.

Use custom, branded forms put you in control of the user experience from end-to-end within your contest. Reduce administrative time and costs by managing the entire contest from one spot. Enable your employees to conduct private reviews of user-generated content while also administering public voting at the same time.

Give your team more control with a modern tool for managing all of that juicy UGC content that drives your brand’s inevitable growth.

Paul Perry
Paul Perry

Paul Perry is a writer and former educator with significant experience in nonprofit management. He has a soft spot for grant-seekers striving to make the world a better, more just place.