Jun 2016

Transform Consumers into Storytellers and Brand Ambassadors with User Generated Content!

Almost once a week, my husband, daughter and I stop at this nice little coffee shop on the east side of Cleveland our way to visit my in-laws. It’s a small place, but it has a lot of quirky charm, friendly staff -and a delicious blueberry peach mocha (who knew such a combination would be so magically delicious?). My daughter loves their bubble tea – if you’re not familiar, bubble tea (or boba) is a Taiwanese drink in which tea, lemonade, or juice is shaken and mixed with fruit or milk and then chewy tapioca balls are added.

One day, I took some pictures of my daughter drinking her bubble tea and shared it to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with some hashtags. Besides the typical “Aww, she’s so cute” comments, I also received a lot of questions about the bubble tea. Friends who were familiar with it immediately wanted to know where they could score a cup. Others wanted to know where they could try it. Without even intending to do so, I promoted this local business with user generated content. If you’re relatively active on social media, you’ve probably done so as well – without even knowing!


User generated content (UGC) is a very powerful marketing tool. You can think of it as the online counterpart to word-of-mouth advertising. It includes things like Facebook posts, Instagram photos, Snapchat stories, Pinterest pins, YouTube product demonstration videos and Yelp reviews – basically any online interaction that consumers use to share their experiences with a company or product. These kinds of shared moments are becoming increasingly more effective than traditional advertising. According to a recent study by Nielsen, consumers are 83% more likely to trust peer recommendations over branded advertisements. This year, Content Marketing Institute’s Benchmark, Budgets and Trends report found that 78% of B2C companies planned to incorporate
UGC into their marketing strategies, which is especially impressive considering that UGC was not mentioned at all in the previous year.

Small businesses, like the coffee shop I visited, can benefit tremendously from UGC, but even the big dogs use it! Starbucks constantly employs UGC tactics in creative ways, like their White Cup Contest in which they ask customers to doodle on their cups and share pictures with the hashtag #WhiteCupContest. The winning entry becomes the template for a new limited edition Starbucks cup. In their first year running this contest, Starbucks received about 4,000 submissions in just three weeks! One of UGC’s greatest perks is that it’s usually free! Sometimes all it takes is a catchy hashtag, but you can take a hint from Starbucks and use incentives such as contests and giveaways.

Don’t forget about content marketing in general – it’s still extremely important. But rather than just create content, digital marketers need to create opportunities for consumers to create their own content. We already know how powerful storytelling is at engaging your target audience. Now it’s time to let consumers tell their part of the story. By recognizing your audience and providing an interactive brand experience, you can strengthen relationships, build trust and increase sales!

Want to know more about UGC? Check out these resources:

How do you plan to use UGC in your marketing strategy? Share in the comments below!