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How to Stimulate User-Generated Content

Your followers can also be your most valuable promoters. If a customer likes a product or service enough, they may shout it from the rooftops (or more likely post about it on social media). User-generated content is a key aspect to a great social feed, landing page, or blog post.   

 User-generated content is any form of content created by people, rather than brands. Many companies rely on user-generated content to fill their social channels with interesting content – just look at REIPatagoniaBuffer, and Wayfair.   

Of course, these companies have thousands of people posting content and hoping to be featured.  

Where do you start if no one is reaching out to you with content yet?  

Why user-generated content?  

User-generated content can take different forms. It can be specifically referring to a brand to promote rave reviews or positive experiences. It can also just be great content that complements a brand image.  

User-generated content is considered more trustworthy than internal content. When surveyed, 85% of users find visual user-generated content more persuasive than brand photos or videos. This is a beneficial form of social proof and is crucial to establishing your brand as reputable and honest.   

It adds variety and interest to your feed. You can’t be everywhere at once creating content. That’s why it is helpful to incorporate user-generated content into your social feed. Not all of the content sent your way will be up to your standards, but your supporters could be potential thought leaders or trendsetters with new ideas of how to promote your product or your brand.  

They act as positive reviews. If someone likes the product enough to do a social shoutout, it must be a good product. Customers with a high Net Promotor Score (a point system that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company) can create user-generated content that doubles as social proof.  

It stimulates a two-way conversation with current customers. People that share their enthusiasm with your through content may be loyal customers, and that relationship should be nurtured. That relationship can increase brand loyalty, product recommendations, and help you identify potential social influencers to grow your brand reach.   

Download our checklist of 30+ ways to promote content here.

How to stimulate User-generated content  

Create a conversational social strategy  

Nobody likes to talk to a wall. If you expect your followers to communicate with you, it needs to be a two-way street. You can start the conversation in your social strategy by asking questions and adding call-to-action in your messages.   

Going on Instagram Live to connect with your closest followers. You can use this platform to ask questions and give prompts to your audience. Instagram Live is a great way to get at the top of the feed so your followers are all notified about the real-time content.   

You can also add conversational prompts to the captions of your social content. Explain to your audience how you like to leverage your product or service, and then ask them “How do you guys use it?” If you try this, make sure to add a Call to Action of “Show us your responses!” so your audience knows you mean it!  

Try a social campaign or contest  

If you want to be more overt with your request for user-generated content, you can try a social campaign or contest.   

A great example of a successful social campaign that produced copious amounts of user-generated content is the #OptOutside campaign that was created by REI. In reaction to the consumption-centric Black Friday traditions, REI challenged their community to skip the shops, head out into nature instead, and send in photos of the adventure. They doubled down on this by offering all employees Black Friday off to #OptOutside as well. This campaign had wide-spread popularity and year-round engagement to this day.   

With the rise of TikTok comes even more channels for user-generated content campaigns. TikTok paid campaigns to come at a high price, but if you can create an engaging enough challenge, the trend can gain serious traction. Whether you try a paid or organic campaign, the key is to connect a challenge to your brand in some way. Otherwise, the message may get lost in the mix. For example, Guess Jeans Launched the #InMyDenim campaign which prompted TikTokers to show off their Guess style and resulted in 5,500 user-generated videos.  

In reaction to the popularity of TikTok, Instagram recently released Instagram Reels to compete with the video-sharing platform. If you aren’t interested in jumping from the platforms you are comfortable with but still want to create similar video content, experiment with an IG Reel campaign. Because it’s new functionality, Instagram is giving Reel content prime real estate in the “explore” section of Instagram – making it easier to reach new audiences with your content.   

Photo credit: Buffer Instagram feed

Make a hashtag specifically for sourcing user-generated content  

Hashtags are an integral part of stimulating user-generated content. Not only does it help you find and organize user-generated content, but it also helps your followers find more user-generated content. Your hashtag strategy for user-generated content is dependent on what goals you have around the community content. Is it for a specific campaign with a start and end, or is it an ongoing practice?  

Because REI has both specific campaigns and ongoing user-generated content practices, they have multiple hashtags to organize the content. They use #REI1440project, #optoutside, and others to categorize their user-generated content.   

Unless you have tons of disorganized user content coming your way, chances are you will just need one hashtag to kick off your community content efforts. To create a hashtag that sticks in your follower’s minds, keep it simple, short, and memorable. Buffer uses #BufferCommunity as a clear way to communicate what the hashtag is used for.  

Create some content that looks user-generated  

For most of us, our inboxes aren’t full the second we ask for involvement from our community. You may need to fake it till you make it for a little while before the idea catches on. One way to do this is to create and publish content that looks user-generated – drop the perfect branded graphics for some snapshots of your product in the wild.  

You can have your team share how they use your product from their social media, so you can share. This can prompt your community to follow in suit, and set the standard for what quality of consumer-generated content you are interested in sharing.   

If you don’t want to or can’t use your internal team to create the fake it ‘til you make it’ content, consider using social influencers to stimulate more community content. Paying for influencers to jumpstart a social campaign or create regular content ensures that you are getting quality content with the right message – not something you can guarantee with purely organically-created community content.   

Thank every person who gets involved  

The best way to grow your user-generated content? Respond, respond, respond.   

People share content with you for many reasons, but the main ones are wanting to share an appreciation for your product or wanting attention from you and your community. By responding to these messages, you are reinforcing this involvement. That positive reinforcement on every positive comment, shared post, or video will not only inspire the original creator, but also others who witness the attention.   

The more grateful and responsive you are, the more people will want to get involved and share their experiences with your company.   


Social media communication is only successful when your consumers know you’ll put in the effort to connect. If you need help getting your marketing strategy in fighting shape, reach out to our team!  

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