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

It’s hard to keep the content on your social channels fresh. Even with a topic calendar, it can be difficult to figure out a new angle, an original take, or something that doesn’t read and look like every other brand-created post.

Luckily, you don’t have to create everything you publish on social media platforms.

Your customers and friends likely are generating content, tagging your brand, or mentioning your products in their tweets, Instagram Stories, and TikTok videos every day. Why not incorporate that user-generated content into your brand’s social media calendar?

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

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

4 types of user-generated content

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

1. Reviews

People write posts, upload photos, and shoot videos as they evaluate products they use in real life. If you’re in the cosmetics, apparel, household items, gadgets, books business – or other tangible product industry – reviews are a great source of UGC. Audiences see those reviews as social proof (or disproof) about the products.

In some cases, brands ask their customers to post reviews and even offer a small gift in exchange. If you opt to reward creators for reviews, make sure they note that in their post. It’s important to their credibility and yours.

Ask customers to post reviews of your product, then use them as social proof, says @ab80 (via @CMIcontent). #UGCCLICK TO TWEETThis Instagram post discusses a positive experience the poster had with You Move Me Vancouver. They include the postcard note requesting the review in the image.

User-generated content example showing Instagram post containing review for 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 a lip balm from Biossance on Instagram. The caption reads, in part: “Honestly this product did nothing! It didn’t hydrate my lips AT ALL.”

Instagram post containing a not-favorable review of Biossance lip balm.

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That kind of UGC review wouldn’t work well if published by Biossance on its social media channels.

How to encourage reviews

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

  • Publish review requests on multiple places (a banner on your site, a mention in a post-purchase email, 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 a review challenge contest. (All reviews in the competition should note their involvement in the reward game.)
  • Ask for a review via emails or texts to your customers.
  • Post the request periodically on your social pages.

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

2. Tagged photos and videos

Many people tag brand handles and use branded hashtags when posting their content. Some do it organically, and some do it because they’re being paid through sponsor deals.

In this Instagram post, Italian influencer Teagmini wears clothes from and tags United Colors of Benetton while visiting a plant shop in Turtle Island. (She discloses that it’s a paid partnership by using #adv in the caption.)

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Then, United Colors of Benetton used that image on an Instagram Inspiration page on its website.

Benetton website Instagram Inspiration page showing user-generated content of people wearing outfits that include the brand's clothing.

This approach created a double benefit for Benetton. First, the page works as an additional storefront for new buyers (each image includes a clickable link to buy the clothes in the image) where real people – not supermodels – wear the brand’s clothes. Second, it nudges customers to create content — by asking them to upload photos of their new outfits on Instagram and tag @benetton.

How to encourage tagged content

Since social media users crave beautiful and distinctive content for their pages, your task is to create a powerful magnet to attract them. Here is a handful of ideas:

  • Add some originality to your product packaging (think Starbucks’ name cups or Apple’s stylish iPhone boxes.)
  • Create a backdrop or setting at your store or office that people will want to take a picture in front of.
  • Repost photos and videos with your brand mentions in your feed.
  • Host contests, such as the best photo of the month, and require people to tag your brand or use a brand hashtag to enter.

3. Creation challenges

Curating user content doesn’t have to be limited to hashtags and tagging. GoPro frequently hosts video-shooting challenges to recruit new committed fans (and promote its new products.)

This fall, its GoPro Million Dollar Challenge asks people to shoot with its new HERO10 Black camera and submit the unedited footage through the GoPro website. Entrants who have clips selected from their videos for the HERO10 Black Highlight Video split $1 million.



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

#GoProMillionDollarChallenge asks customers to submit unedited #UGC videos. If @GoPro uses theirs, creators get a share of $1 million (via @CMIcontent)CLICK TO TWEETHow to do a creation challenge

To run a creation challenge, determine the aspect of your brand it will promote:

  • Product
  • Customer service
  • Customer experience or attitude to your brand

Then, decide what you will ask the audience to do to enter. Don’t make it overly complicated, or people won’t enter but do make sure it’s legally compliant. Determine the prize.

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

4. Unboxing

One of the most-watched video types on YouTube, unboxing content is exactly that – people opening boxes. A few years ago, YouTube said the amount of time people spent watching unboxing videos on their phones is the equivalent of watching the movie Love Actually more than 20 million times – over 2.5 billion minutes.

YouTuber iJustine often features unboxing videos for products from brands such as Sony, Apple, HALO, and more.


YouTube page for iJustine listing her unboxing videos

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Unboxing videos fuel curiosity and create a sense of desire in the viewers, converting them into your buyers. Just remember those holiday gifts you want to unpack, eager to see what is underneath the wrapping and cardboard.

In this example, Reconstruct By Brooke, which sells vintage band and motorcycle brand clothing, sent boxes to Dorothea Taylor, a drummer with over 330,000 followers on Instagram. Dorothea filmed the unboxing with her grandson, spending more than two minutes pulling back the tissue paper, expressing excitement at the gifts, and reading a notecard sent by the shop’s owner.

Instagram post in which Dorothea Taylor opens a box of clothing sent by Reconstruct by Brooke, a retailer of vintage band and motorcycle brand clothing.

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How to encourage unboxing videos

Most unboxing content comes from opening electronics, toys, cosmetics, and accessories. If you work in one of these industries, inspire your customers to unbox something with your brand logo.

To do it well, pay attention to your packaging, including the mailing container. Add decorations to your boxes, use colors, and include a visual extra, such as a branded postcard or a little souvenir, inside the box.

Invite your customers when they make the purchase – and before they open the box – to shoot an unboxing video and share it with your brand. You also can provide products to content creators who already have established audiences watching their unboxing videos.

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

See what happens with your user-generated content

It is impossible to find and collect pieces of all your user-generated content manually. Instead, you can use social media monitoring tools to detect keywords related to your brand, product, campaign, etc. (You also can use them to identify potential opportunities for UGC through 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 am Awario’s founder.) You can use Awario to scrape social networks such as Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube, news sites, forums, blogs, and review platforms and brings all your brand mentions to the custom feed.

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

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


Mention scans Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, forums, websites of media outlets, and blogs, including small and newly started ones. As a result, you give an ordered data set of your brand mentions and keywords you have set to track.

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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, reply to users’ comments and questions. Its most-used words feature shows what is being talked about most that reveal trendy topics in your niche.


Mediatoolkit is another web scanner that finds your brand mentions anywhere on the Internet. It examines websites, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, and forums to bring you real-time mentions. With the tool, you can track multilingual content created by users from different countries.

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

Mediatoolkit analyzes the engagement and sentiment rates of each post, helping you know which user-generated content is most attractive for your followers. Also, you can track current industry topics and find your brand advocates on social media networks.

Benefit from user-generated content

UGC can be a valuable asset for your brand for several reasons. It helps you publish fresh content on your social channels without having to start from scratch. It expands your audience reach as the users who create also share and promote that content on their channels. Use it wisely as a secret weapon that helps you persuade prospects, improve your product, and tackle current marketing tasks.


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 Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Aleh Barysevich

Aleh Barysevich is chief marketing officer and co-founder at Link-Assistant.Com, the company that makes SEO PowerSuite (website promotion toolkit) and BuzzBundle (social media software) for bloggers, webmasters, and online marketers. Follow Aleh on Twitter at @ab80.

Other posts by Aleh Barysevich


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