4 User-Generated Content Ideas (and Tools To Check If They Work)

It is difficult to constantly update the content of your social channels. Even with a topic calendar, it can be hard to discover a new angle, an original shot, or something that doesn’t read and resemble every other post a brand has created.

Fortunately, you don’t have to create everything you post on social media platforms.

Your customers and friends are likely to create content, tag your brand, or mention your products in their tweets, Instagram stories, and TikTok videos every day. Why not incorporate this user generated content into your brand’s social media calendar?

You don’t have to take a wait and hope approach to user-generated content. You can actively encourage your audience to develop user-generated content.

You don’t have to take a wait and hope approach to user-generated content. Encourage your audience to create it, says @ab80 (via @CMIcontent) #UGC Click to tweet

4 types of user-generated content

Several formats and focus fall into the category of user-generated content. Let’s look at four cases.


People write posts, upload photos, and shoot videos while evaluating the products they use in real life. If you’re in the cosmetics, apparel, homeware, gadget, book business – or other tangible product industry – reviews are a great resource for UGC. The public sees these reviews as social proof (or refutation) about the products.

In some cases, brands ask their customers to post reviews and even offer a small gift in return. If you choose to reward creators for comments, be sure to note this in their posts. It is important to their credibility and yours.

Ask customers to post reviews of your product, then use them as social proof, says @ab80 (via @CMIcontent). #UGC Click to tweet

This Instagram post discusses the poster’s positive experience with You Move Me Vancouver. They include a postcard note asking for a review in the photo.

An example of user-generated content showing an Instagram post that contains a review of the You Move Me moving company.

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It’s one of dozens of reviews on the moving company’s Instagram account.

Of course, not all reviews are positive. That’s why you don’t want to automatically share or retweet any social post that tags or mentions your brand. In this example, the reviewer posted her analysis of Biossance’s lip balm on Instagram. The caption reads in part: “Honestly, this product didn’t do anything! It didn’t moisturize my lips at all.”

An Instagram post containing an unfavorable review of Biossance lip balm.

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This type of UGC review will not work well if it is posted by Biossance on their social media channels.

How to encourage reviews

To promote people who write about your brand on social media, you can:

  • Post review requests in multiple places (a banner on your site, a sign in an email after purchase, a QR code or sticker on your product package, etc.).
  • Create an incentive such as prizes or discounts on the next purchase for people who participate in the review challenge contest. (All reviews in the competition must indicate their participation in the bonus game.)
  • Request a review via emails or text messages to your customers.
  • Post the request periodically on your social pages.

Hint: Always obtain written permission from the author to republish their review on your site or channels and tag them whenever possible.

Hand-picked related content: User-Generated Content: Let your fans do the content creation work for you

2. Tagged photos and videos

Many people tag brand handles and use branded hashtags when posting their content. Some do it naturally, others do it because they are paid through sponsorship deals.

In this Instagram post, Italian influencer Teagmini wears and tags United Colors of Benetton while visiting a botanical store on Turtle Island. (She revealed it’s a paid partnership using #adv in the caption.)

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Next, United Colors of Benetton used that photo on the Instagram Inspiration page on their website.

The Benetton website's Instagram Inspiration page features user-generated content for people wearing clothing that includes the brand's apparel.

This approach created a double benefit for Benetton. First, the page acts as an additional storefront for new buyers (each image includes a clickable link to purchase the clothes in the image) where real people – not casual models – are wearing the brand’s clothes. Second, it prompts customers to create content – by asking them to upload photos of their new outfits to Instagram and tag @benetton.

How to Promote Tagged Content

As social media users crave beautiful and unique content for their pages, your job is to create a powerful magnet to attract them. Here are a bunch of ideas:

  • Add some originality to your product packaging (think Starbucks name mugs or elegant Apple iPhone cases).
  • Create a background or setting in your store or office that people will want to take a picture in front of.
  • Repost photos and videos mentioning your brand in your feed.
  • Host contests, like Best Picture of the Month, and ask people to tag your brand or use a brand hashtag to enter.
Hand-picked related content: What Influencers Who Want Brands Know About Sponsored Content Partnerships

3. Challenges of Creation

The organization of user content does not have to be limited to hashtags and tags. GoPro frequently hosts video challenges to recruit committed new fans (and promote its new products).

This fall, the GoPro Million Dollar Challenge is asking people to shoot with the new HERO10 Black and submit unedited shots via the GoPro website. Participants who selected clips from their videos for the HERO10 Black Highlight Video split $1 million.

goproShoot for your $1,000,000 stake. The #GoProMillionDollarChallenge 💰 Break Your Head #GoProHERO10 Black+ is back at GoPro.com/MDC to find out more ♬ Original Audio – GoPro

The winners will then share the video using the hashtag #GoProMillionDollarChallenge with their audience on social media, expanding GoPro’s social reach and being viewed, liked, and commented on by people, some of whom may become excited or inspired to purchase the HERO10 Black or other GoPro camera.

The #GoProMillionDollarChallenge is asking customers to submit unedited #UGC videos. If GoPro uses their product, the content creators will get a $1 million stake (via CMIcontent) Click to tweet

How to do the creation challenge

To run a creation challenge, decide which aspect of your brand you will be promoting:

  • a product
  • Customer service
  • Customer experience or attitude towards your brand

Next, decide what you will ask the audience to do to get in. Don’t make it overly complicated, or people won’t get in but make sure it’s compliant with the law. Determine the award.

Develop a promotional content campaign to advertise the challenge, from social media posts to owned channels.

4. unboxing

One of the most watched types of YouTube videos, unlocking content is exactly that – people who open chests. A few years ago, YouTube said that the amount of time people spent watching videos on their phones equated to actually watching the Love Act more than 20 million times — over 2.5 billion minutes.

YouTuber iJustine often features unboxing videos of products from brands like Sony, Apple, HALO, and more.

iJustine's YouTube page lists her videos

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Opening videos sparks curiosity, creates a sense of desire in viewers, and converts them into buyers. Just remember what holiday gifts you want to unpack, being keen to see what’s under the wrapping and cardboard.

In this example, Reconstruct By Brooke, which sells branded apparel for bands and motorcycles, sent boxes to Dorothea Taylor, a drummer with more than 330,000 followers on Instagram. Dorothea filmed the process of opening the box with her grandson, and spent more than two minutes pulling out tissue paper, expressing excitement about the gifts, and reading a postcard sent by the store owner.

An Instagram post in which Dorothea Taylor opens a box of clothes sent by Reconstruct by Brooke, a retailer of vintage clothing and motorcycles.

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How to encourage opening a video box

Most of the unboxing content comes from unlocking electronics, games, cosmetics, and accessories. If you work in one of these industries, inspire your clients to come up with something with your brand logo.

To do this well, pay attention to your packaging, including the mail container. Add embellishments to your boxes, use colors, and include an additional image, such as a branded postcard or little souvenir, inside the box.

Invite your customers when they make a purchase – and before opening the box – to shoot a video of opening the box and share it with your brand. You can also provide products to creators who have already created audiences watching their videos.

Encourage #UGC unboxing video #content by decorating boxes, using colors and including a branded postcard or souvenir, says @ab80 (via @CMIcontent). Click to tweet

See what happens with your user generated content

It is impossible to find and collect portions of all user generated content manually. Alternatively, you can use social media monitoring tools to discover keywords related to your brand, product, campaign, etc. (You can also use them to identify potential opportunities for UGC by viral trends, popular interests, etc.)

Here are three tools to help:


With Awario, you can track your brand name, branded hashtag, and industry related keywords. (Disclosure: I’m the founder of Awario.) You can use Awario to scrap social networks like Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, news sites, forums, blogs, and review platforms and bring all your brand mentions to your custom feed.

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You can sort your discoveries by source, sentiment rate (positive, negative, neutral), reach, and date. When setting up alerts, you can also choose the language and location.

Awario enables you to reach the author of the post through its app. You can discuss with fans of your brand as well as haters by commenting on their tweets, posts and reviews.

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Mention surveys on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, forums, media websites, and blogs, including micro- and newbies blogs. As a result, you provide a curated dataset of your brand mentions and the keywords you’ve set for tracking.

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Additionally, you can use the tool to manage your social accounts. Mention enables you to schedule and post new pieces of content, and respond to user comments and questions. The Most Used Words feature shows what’s being talked about a lot which reveals trendy topics in your niche.

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Mediatoolkit is another web scanner that finds your brand mentioned anywhere on the internet. It scans websites, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and forums to give you real-time signals. With the tool, you can track multilingual content generated by users from different countries.

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Using its keyword combination speeds up your search and brings you only relevant brand mentions. Then, you can break down the search results by source, authors, queries, and tags.

Mediatoolkit analyzes engagement rates and sentiment for each post, helping you see which user-generated content is most attractive to your followers. You can also track current industry topics and find advocates for your brand on social networks.

Take advantage of user-generated content

User-generated content can be a valuable asset to your brand for a number of reasons. It helps you publish new content on your social channels without having to start from scratch. It expands the reach of your audience as users who also create share and promote this content on their channels. Use it wisely as a secret weapon that helps you convince potential customers, improve your product, and tackle existing marketing tasks.

Want more tips, ideas, and examples related to content marketing? Participate To daily or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover photo by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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