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Social Media
A social media manager’s guide to user-generated content (UGC) with examples
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A social media manager’s guide to user-generated content (UGC) with examples

Social Media
April 8, 2024
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"Brands need to post authentic content on social media!" 

As social media managers, we've all heard that before. But what exactly does authenticity on social media look like? 

One way to be authentic – and build community! – is to tap into the power of user-generated content (UGC).

In this blog post, we'll explore why UGC is so important for social-savvy brands. Then, we'll cover the top strategies social media managers can use to leverage UGC, whether you have a big UGC budget or none at all. Let's dive in!

What is user-generated content (UGC)?

UGC is original content about your brand created by your community members. This content can include photos, videos, reviews, and more. 

There are two main types of UGC: organic and paid.  

The goal of organic UGC is to build brand awareness and grow your community. A member of your community might write a Facebook post about your brand or film a TikTok tutorial on how to use your latest product release. Organic UGC is spontaneous and published by the creator, independent of a brand partnership. 

Paid UGC looks similar – a creator will share their genuine experience with your brand – but the goal is a little different. Paid UGC aims to generate a direct response or conversion. As a social media manager, you'll partner with a UGC creator to publish their content directly on your brand's social channels – and your brand will compensate or incentivize the creator for their work.

So what type of UGC should your brand use? Every brand is different, but many brands make both organic and paid UGC a part of their social media content strategy. This guide will help you decide what's right for your brand and community. 

Why should brands use user-generated content (UGC)?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let's take a look at why UGC is so popular on social media. Here are the top reasons why every brand should add UGC to its social media content strategy – with stats to back it all up!

1. Connect with your community. UGC is more trustworthy than professional content created by brands, according to 56% of social media users

2. Celebrate diversity. 87% of marketers say that organic UGC shows authentic diversity because it doesn’t require brands to handpick models and influencers.

3. Manage your marketing budget. UGC ads are 50% more cost-effective than other forms of advertising. 

4. Drive website traffic. Brands that use UGC on their websites can see a 50% bump in organic search traffic.  

5. Shape buying behaviour. 79% of consumers agree: UGC highly influences purchasing decisions. 

6. Retain community members. 45% of social media users will unfollow a brand for posting too much self-promotion.

7. Future-proof your social media strategy. 78% of ALL online content will be user-generated by 2033. 

How to grow a brand with organic user-generated content (UGC)

Yes, it’s entirely possible to tap into UGC marketing without breaking the bank. Here are our top strategies for collecting organic UGC from your social media community.

Ask for user-generated content in your brand’s social media bio 

Want to know the easiest way to collect UGC from your community? Just ask for it! 

Blissy keeps UGC top-of-mind by including a short call to action (CTA) in its Instagram bio: "📸 Tag Us To Be Featured" 

Blissy's Instagram bio with a pink arrow pointing to the text, "Tag Us To Be Featured"
Blissy's Instagram bio.

Start a hashtag to collect organic user-generated content

Take your ask one step further by creating a branded hashtag to collect UGC. Your hashtag can be campaign-specific or evergreen. Either way, it will give your community members an opportunity to be active in your community. 

Once you’ve settled on the perfect hashtag, promote it! You can spread the word about your hashtag by using it in your in-feed posts, adding it to your social bios, popping it into your stories, and more. 

Like Blissy, Free People promotes its UGC hashtag #WhenYouWearFP in its Instagram bio.  

Free People's Instagram bio with a ink arrow pointing to the text, "#WhenYouWearFP"
Free People's Instagram bio.

The great thing about starting a UGC hashtag for your brand is that it allows you to manage the bulk of your UGC in one place. Just search your hashtag to discover UGC you may want to use in your upcoming posts.

Instagram search bar with text "#WhenYouWearFP" above a series of Instagram photos of users wearing the brand's clothing.
Instagram search for Free People's UGC hashtag.

Be engaged to find user-generated content for your brand

Even if you do have an active UGC hashtag for your brand, it’s always a best practice to actively monitor your comments, mentions, and DMs. This helps promote community engagement. And it can be an effective tool for finding new UGC! 

You can conduct social listening by monitoring social platform notifications natively. But if your community is growing or you manage multiple accounts, a social media community management tool will be your best friend.

Our favourite community management tool is HeyOrca’s Social Inbox. (Admittedly, we’re pretty biased. But thousands of social media managers love to use HeyOrca’s Social Inbox too!) 

Collect testimonials and reviews to use as user-generated content

Testimonials and positive reviews are a powerful form of UGC. In fact, 72% of consumers won't take action until they've read positive reviews.

A good place to start is Facebook reviews and Google reviews. Monitor these platforms for glowing feedback. Then transform the customer success stories into on-brand creatives. (You can use free Canva templates to do that!) 

Repost to show off user-generated content

Another effective (and easy!) way to leverage UGC is to take advantage of the "share" or "repost" buttons on social. 

We like to show our appreciation for our community by sharing UGC to our Instagram stories and reposting UGC on LinkedIn. You can add contextual information to your post or story by overlaying text or adding a comment, but you don't necessarily have to. 

Here's an example of LinkedIn UGC created by Yellow Line Digital, a social media marketing agency and long-time member of the HeyOrca Community

Encourage your team to post user-generated content

If your online community is brand-new or you're just dipping your toes into the UGC waters, you may not have any UGC to work with yet. And that's OK! While you wait for UGC to roll in, you can encourage your team members to create their own content.

Help your community get to know your brand by having your team post day-in-the-life videos, behind-the-scenes content, or story takeovers. The goal is to help your community get to know the humans that make your brand so great. 

Plus, employee-created UGC can help your team members build their personal brands, an initiative with numerous benefits, including employee retention and improved company culture.

Our community managers, Alyssa and Qetsiyah, have been building their personal brands on LinkedIn. And the results speak for themselves!

If your team isn't too keen on creating UGC on their own platforms, you still have options! Humanize your brand by spotlighting team members in your brand’s content. In this example, Chipotle interviews HQ employees about their favourite meals. 

Credit your community to spark more user-generated content

Did someone from your community post organic UGC about your brand? That's great! Here's what you should do next.

First, reach out to the creator via private DM or public comment to ask for permission to use their content. 

Once the creator gives you the go-ahead, repost their content with a caption that gives them full credit. Your caption doesn't have to be long, but it should tag the creator and hype them up. 

Crediting the creator will demonstrate that your content is authentic and encourage other community members to join in by sharing their own UGC.

Here's an example of well-captioned UGC posted by The Sims on TikTok.     

@thesims Honeslty this was so relaxing. 😴 We could watch @Brittany ✨ build all day. 💚 This beautiful build IS in the gallery. Gallery ID: BrittTheBeat #thesims4 #thesims4update #Simstok #thesims4builds #cozygames #thesims4gameplay #thesims #softlife #ASMR ♬ To the Moon - L.Dre & Vybe Village

Host events to collect user-generated content

You can also create buzz for your brand by carrying out your social media campaigns IRL (in real life). 

Experiential marketing, also known as special events marketing or engagement marketing, aims to immerse consumers in a memorable experience. 

It's a proven strategy for boosting brand recall. And it's an effective way to get UGC! 96% of millennials who attend experiential marketing events (whether in-person or virtual) will take pictures or videos to share online. 

If big events or displays aren't in the cards for your brand right now, start small with virtual events that allow you to share your expertise with your audience. That's what we do at HeyOrca. We host weekly live webinars on all things social media. And our community loves to post about them on LinkedIn! 

How to grow a brand with paid user-generated content 

Have a budget to spend on UGC marketing? Here are our top strategies for leveraging paid UGC to strengthen your social media community.

Host a contest or offer an incentive to collect user-generated content

There's something about a contest that brings communities closer together (especially if that contest boasts a hefty prize!). 

Take this example from GoPro. The brand offers cash prizes to users who post POV videos of their ski and snowboard adventures. 

Here's what we love about the #GoProLineOfTheWinter contest: It encourages UGC submissions from the brand's existing community. The contest promotes product adoption by rewarding community members (with $120,000 in total prizes!) simply for using a GoPro as intended. 

Naturally, the contest also creates a tight-knit community, with community members cheering on contest participants in the comment section.

So, if you want to collect UGC for your brand, consider running a contest or giveaway.

And in case you're wondering, the answer is: No, you don't have to offer $120,000 in prizes in order to run a successful UGC contest. You can reward your contest winners with gift cards or free products and services. No matter what you choose as a prize, be sure to follow the giveaway guidelines of the social platform you use. 

Partner with UGC creators

Paid UGC partnerships are taking over social media. And for good reason! UGC ads generate a click-through rate (CTR) that’s 400% higher than traditional ads. 

Plus, UGC partnerships are one of the ways social media managers can beat the TikTok algorithm in 2024!

If you want to make paid UGC partnerships part of your social media content strategy, here are some steps and best practices to keep in mind:

1. Identify your ideal customer profile (ICP). Before you even reach out to a UGC creator, you’ll want to be crystal-clear on who you want to attract to your community and what type of creator will help you succeed.

2. Create a list of creators you want to work with. To find creators, search relevant hashtags on social, check out freelancing websites like Upwork, try TikTok’s Creator Marketplace, or use a UGC content bank like Gridbank. Once you’ve identified creators, start a conversation!

3. Review the creator’s portfolio. Have they worked on a project like yours before? (It’s okay if they haven’t!) Are they familiar with your campaign objectives? Do you like their content style?

4. Provide the creator with a detailed brief – and let them run with it! If you’re intentional about selecting a creator who’s a good fit, you shouldn’t have to micromanage their creative process. But you should review their work before you set your campaign live to ensure it meets your brand guidelines.

5. Measure your campaign’s success. Did you meet your objectives? What did you learn about working with a UGC creator? Would you partner with this creator again in the future?   


You’re all caught up! Now you know the top strategies for collecting and leveraging UGC, whether its organic or paid. Use these tips to connect with your community and grow your brand. And if you’re looking for more social media tips, news, and free resources, subscribe to our daily social media newsletter, the HeyOrca Brief

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