When it comes time to make a purchasing decision, who are you more likely to trust — a brand, or a fellow consumer who uses the product?
We’re more likely to take recommendations from friends and family members than brands when it comes time to make buying decisions — and that’s the logic behind user-generated content on social media.
User-generated content, or UGC, consists of any form of content that’s created by users and consumers about a brand or product. UGC isn’t paid for, and its authenticity makes the user the brand advertiser as well.
UGC is particularly prevalent on Instagram, where brands can easily repost and regram UGC from users’ accounts. And it’s worthwhile for brands to do this — 76% of individuals surveyed said they trusted content shared by “average” people more than by brands, and nearly 100% of consumers trust recommendations from others.
In this post, we’ll discuss just how successful UGC on Instagram can be — as well as review 10 brands using it successfully.
Why User-Generated Content?
In this year’s Internet Trends Report, Mary Meeker presented some compelling data about the success of UGC for brands on Instagram. Check it out:
UGC can generate more engagement on Instagram — meaning more comments and likes on posts. And engagement is critically important to brands’ success on the platform — because the more users engage with your stuff, the higher your posts are prioritized in the Instagram feed, and the more likely it is that new users will find your content on the Explore tab.
A lot of global brands are sharing Instagram content reposted, or “regrammed,” from fans and users. Take a look:
Now that we understand the importance of UGC, let’s dive into how some of these brands are killing the UGC game on Instagram.
10 Examples of the Best User-Generated Content on Instagram
No, we don’t mean UPS, where you might go to send care packages or holiday gifts to your loved ones. We mean The UPS Store, which uses its Instagram to showcase the customers you might not think about as readily — small business owners. Small business owners on Instagram post content using the hashtag #TheUPSStoreCustomer, which The UPS Store then shares to its own account, like so:
This is a clever UGC campaign other B2B brands should take note of — especially if the products and services themselves aren’t especially sexy. Instagram posts featuring packing tape, shipping peanuts, and cardboard boxes might not be visually interesting, but behind-the-scenes stories of real people and brands The UPS Store is helping are.
Takeaway for Marketers: Use UGC to showcase an unexpected or unique aspect of your brand. Whether it’s content from your customers, your users, or members of your community, ask other Instagrammers to submit content that shows “the other side” of what your brand is all about.
Women’s clothing company Aerie’s #AerieReal campaign is #UGCgoals. The campaign is simple, but powerful.
There’s been broad debate and outcry over the excessive use of photo editing in marketing advertising — centered around its impact on the young women consuming magazines and images on social media. There’s been particular concern around the impact edited photos can have on women’s self-esteem and sense of a healthy body image.
So Aerie made a pledge to stop retouching photos of models in its bathing suits. And for every Instagram user that posted an unedited photo of themselves in a bathing suit (using the hashtag #AerieReal, of course), Aerie now donates $1 to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).
Takeaway for Marketers: Give people a reason to get involved in your campaign that’s bigger than Instagram itself. Whether it’s an awareness campaign or a donation drive like Aerie, customers want to buy from companies that support important causes. If you can, partner with a cause or charitable organization your message resonates with to get Instagrammers excited about your UGC campaign. You’ll do good for the world, you’ll drive engagement on the platform, and more people will learn about your brand via word-of-mouth if it catches on.
Social media scheduling tool Buffer uses the #BufferCommunity to showcase the photographs and personalities of its many different users around the world. These images aren’t promotional — or even remotely brand-centric — and that’s what makes them so effective (okay, the cute puppy probably helps too).
Buffer’s tools are about making it easier to share and strategize on social media, and these photos implicitly share the message that Buffer’s community members can work from anywhere, on a variety of different projects, thanks (in part) to its ease of use.
Takeaway for Marketers: Cultivate a brand personality so strong that your users want to share their life with you on social media. Create a great product, excel at helping customers succeed, and curate a presence on social media your users want to keep engaging with. Then, ask them to share with you so you can continue adding personality and diversity to your content to show what your community is all about — helping people be better at social media, in Buffer’s case.
Online furniture store Wayfair has a fun UGC campaign that lets customers showcase the results of their online shopping sprees. Using the hashtag #WayfairAtHome, users can post their home setups featuring Wayfair products:
Then, Wayfair reposts UGC and provides a link so users can shop for the items featured in a real customer’s home — an ingenious strategy for combining customer testimonials and design inspiration all-in-one.
Wayfair has another UGC campaign that’s not as popular, but it’s an adorable effective way to show its products in action with the help of the #WayfairPetSquad.
Takeaway for Marketers: Leverage UGC to help Instagram users find and shop for your products. Remember, people trust customer testimonials, and if you show them being successfully used by real people, it’s easier to get them to your website to start shopping.
Software giant IBM uses UGC on Instagram primarily from its customers and community members using the hashtag #IBM. Its UGC strategy is simpler than some described previously, but it does a great job at providing an inside look at one of the biggest technology companies in the world.
It’s cool to see real humans working at IBM and using its products and services to do things you and I do every day — like taking artfully posed photographs and conducting group brainstorms.
Takeaway for Marketers: Showcase the human side of your brand — especially if your product or service can’t be easily visualized, as in the case of IBM. Source content from customers, employees, and community members to show what your product looks like in action so other Instagrammers can picture themselves using it, too.
Popular video streaming service Netflix uses UGC to promote fans’ posts about specific shows and movies — and hashtags the title to help spread the word about new premieres.
Netflix is leaning into creating more original programming, so getting the word out about new releases is a key part of its social media strategy. UGC shows other people are getting excited about new shows too — and makes Instagrammers coming across Netflix’s Instagram intrigued to see what the fuss is all about.
Takeaway for Marketers: If you’re making an announcement or releasing a new product, use UGC to get the word out about your fans and customers trying it out for the first time. You’ll help create a feedback loop to help more and more people on Instagram learn about you — and what new product they can get involved with.
Social media management software company Hootsuite uses the hashtag #HootsuiteLife to promote UGC about what it’s like to work at Hootsuite around the world.
Hootsuite’s culture is something the company is proud of — and it uses this fun way of living and working to attract talented people to come with them. #HootsuiteLife is all about employees and community members showcasing how much fun it is to work at Hootsuite all over social media. It uses the hashtag to empower employees to share their days with the rest of the world on social media.
A secondary UGC campaign — #LifeofOwly — lets employees show off the company’s lovable mascot in action, too.
Takeaway for Marketers: Collaborate with your recruiting and HR teams to see if you can combine forces to drive social media engagement and help hire new people simultaneously. If your organization has a lot to offer and you want to showcase your culture, events, and perks, team up to create an employee UGC campaign that empowers employees to share and helps attract great new talent.
Every December, Starbucks launches the latest #RedCupContest to promote its holiday-themed seasonal beverages and — you guessed it — red cups. It encourages coffee drinkers to submit shots of their coffees for the chance to win a pricey Starbucks gift card — and drinkers always deliver (there are more than 40,000 posts of red cups and counting).
The #RedCupContest is a smart UGC campaign. It incentivizes fans to participate and engage online by offering a prize, it promotes a seasonal campaign, and it helps generate sales — because you have to buy a red cup to take a picture first.
Takeaway for Marketers: Use a contest to promote and generate buzz around a UGC campaign. Offer a prize for participation (using a branded hashtag, of course) to get people excited about commenting, posting, and sharing on Instagram.
Creative software company Adobe uses the hashtag #Adobe_Perspective to source and share content from artists and content creators using its software to do their jobs every day.
It can sometimes be hard to imagine what you can do with a software without seeing it in action, and this UGC campaign lets Adobe show off its capabilities while engaging with its community of users.
#Adobe_InColor is Adobe’s Pride Month-themed UGC campaign that’s already generated nearly 300 posts in just the first few weeks of June. This UGC campaign lets Adobe showcase the talent of its customers and the values and culture of its community clearly and easily on social media.
Takeaway for Marketers: Encourage customers and users to share their results from successfully using your product. These images will help give prospective customers an idea of what they can expect, and great results will speak for themselves to promote your product. And if you’re doing a cultural campaign, open it up to your entire community, and not just employees, to generate awareness and buzz around a culture initiative you’re proud of.
Car company BMW uses #BMWRepost to share Instagram posts of proud BMW owners and their wheels:
BMW sells luxury cars to owners who are undoubtedly proud of their achievement, and this campaign gives owners the opportunity to show off — and lets BMW show off its proud and loyal base of customers. If I were on the hunt for a car and saw this many happy BMW users, I might consider one of its cars for my purchase. (I don’t know how to drive, but you catch my drift.)
Takeaway for Marketers: Give customers and users a platform from which they can brag about their purchase. You don’t need to sell luxury items — there are plenty of everyday brands with cult followings who love to get engaged on social media about why they love shopping and buying from certain brands. Create a hashtag that lets customers share why they love you, and they’ll love you back.
What’s your favorite UGC campaign on Instagram? Share with us in the comments below.