The Best User-Generated Content Examples & Ideas

A megaphone and notification symbols pop out of a laptop screen in this image for a blog about user-generated content examples.
A megaphone and notification symbols pop out of a laptop screen in this image for a blog about user-generated content examples.

Authenticity is a word that gets thrown around a lot in the marketing world. According to a report by Stackla, 90% of consumers say that authenticity matters when choosing brands to support, from retail to healthcare to higher education and more. However, that same report reveals that less than half of consumers believe brands are showing their most authentic side. In a push to become more transparent and authentic, more brands are turning to user-generated content as part of their content marketing efforts.

User-generated content (UGC) is the blanket term for customer-generated or employee-generated images, blog posts, social media posts, or other social proof. The content doesn't come from a professional marketer, but rather from ordinary people.

About 60% of consumers agree that UGC is the most authentic way brands can market themselves. Social media campaigns that include UGC see 50% higher engagement, and email campaigns that include it see 73% higher clickthrough rates. Consumers also find UGC to be much more influential than other kinds of marketing content, with 80% saying it impacts their buying decisions. Looking for more general information about UGC? Check out our User-Generated Content Guide!

16 User-Generated Content Examples

Now that you know the value of UGC for social media, how do you go about getting it? Let’s look at 16 UGC examples from brands that get it right.

1. ASOS: #AsSeenOnMe

Fashion blogging is huge on social media, where thousands of users post their #OOTD, or "outfit of the day." ASOS cashed in on this trend to create a feed of free advertising for their clothes! Back in 2014, ASOS launched a section on their website called As Seen on Me. It links to images of ASOS customers wearing clothes purchased from its website. Customers can upload photos directly to ASOS.com or connect with the page by using the hashtag #AsSeenOnMe on Instagram.

Asos user-generated content

This strategy works well for several reasons. First, shoppers get a sense of what the clothes look like on regular people in regular situations, not just on models in carefully crafted, brand-generated content. They can see a wider range of body types wearing the same outfit and know how it might look on themselves.

Every customer can also be an influencer of sorts. Their photos inspire shoppers to create outfits they might not have come up with on their own. Knowing how to perfectly pair different clothing pieces can help them get more use out of their purchases.

2. Coca-Cola: Share a Coke Campaign

Launched in 2011, the Share a Coke campaign featured hundreds of the most popular first names on Coca-Cola cans and bottles. Traditional ads and in-store displays encouraged customers to find a bottle or can with their name on it and post a picture of it on social media with the #ShareaCoke hashtag.

From creative-directed Instagram posts to casual selfies, the campaign inspired great examples of UGC. Not only did Coca-Cola get more authentic content for its social networks, but it also let consumers engage with the brand while expressing their creativity.

3. Doritos: Legion of the Bold

Famous chip brand Doritos has something of a cult following, which makes it a perfect match for UGC campaigns. In 2015, the company launched a separate website, dubbed Legion of the Bold (now Legion of Creators), which contained branded images of Doritos products. Users could leverage the images to create their own content for Doritos, and the results were pretty wild.

Fans crafted everything from fake weather announcements to photos of themselves sitting on thrones of chips. The brand continues to launch specific challenges that focus on everything from its best-selling products to the holidays and more.

This strategy works well because it caters to some of the brand’s most loyal fans (teens, college students, gamers, content creators, and others). But it also gives Doritos a chance to direct the content creation process. If you want a specific type of content or feature a certain product, give your fans everything they need to deliver.

4. Starbucks: White Cup Contest

Whether you're a branding expert or just a coffee lover, you'll probably be familiar with the old but gold Starbucks white cup contest. It's one of the most-cited UGC examples to date.

Starbucks invited its customers to decorate its coffee cups using the hashtag #WhiteCupContest. In return, the customers could win a $300 gift card and have their designs printed on a reusable cup.

The result of the campaign? Loads of visually appealing social media posts (and re-sharing of those posts) increased Starbucks' organic reach and user-generated product design!

white cup contest

And it doesn’t stop there. As a bonus, the campaign drummed up interest in the company's more eco-friendly, reusable cups. The contest itself is also a nod to an already-popular trend of users decorating their Starbucks cups. It’s a subtle way for a brand to show they really do see their customers.

5. Away: UGC Social Media

While many brands run occasional customer-created content campaigns, Away relies on UGC content all the time. Scroll through their IG account, for instance, and you’ll see that the majority of their photos have been contributed by fans of the luggage brand.

Away built its fame on the idea that a relatively boring thing, a suitcase, could become a fun statement piece. To support the brand, Away focuses not just on the suitcase itself, but rather on the purpose it serves while its customers live their best lives. Their social media content inspires wanderlust by showing what real travel looks like. And who better to tell those types of stories than actual people who are going to actual places?

The reactions of fans when they get featured make the brand appear even more genuine.

6. Parachute: #MyParachuteHome

Home goods brand Parachute steers away from the staged look of its products in favor of more realistic snapshots. Using the #MyParachuteHome hashtag, the brand encourages its customers to upload photos of how they’re decorating their living spaces with Parachute products. They have a very different look and feel from stock images of its bedding and bath products.

The biggest takeaway for you, the marketer? Not only does the brand use these posts in its social media strategy, but it also publishes them in traditional ad campaigns. Customer photos have been featured on insert cards included in customer orders, paid digital ad campaigns, and more. The campaign has resulted in a 35% higher click-through rate as well as 60% lower ad costs.

7. Loews Hotels: #WelcomingYouLikeFamily

Loews Hotels wanted to bring more authenticity to its marketing content, so it launched its #TravelForReal hashtag in 2015. Five years later, it updated the campaign with the #WelcomingYouLikeFamily hashtag to learn more about what it’s really like to stay at a Loews property.

Loews collects these photos for its official marketing materials, giving customers the thrill of seeing their photos in a professional ad. With their UGC campaigns and slogan — "Because nobody tells our story better than you," — Loews sourced original content and emphasized its connection to its hotel guests at the same time.

8. Apple: #ShotoniPhone

When cell phone cameras first emerged on the market, they weren’t very good. But back then, the technology was so new and innovative that quality wasn’t the biggest perk for customers. Times have changed, and so has the quality of cellphone cameras. In 2014, Apple was eager to show just what its new iPhone camera was capable of, so it launched the #ShotoniPhone campaign.

By then, despite advancements in smartphone camera technology, iPhones had earned a reputation for having subpar picture quality. To win back the trust of its fanbase, Apple's marketing strategy features real-life photos and videos taken by iPhone owners to highlight just how powerful its camera can be.

Photographers and average iPhone users alike contribute their own high-quality photos to the campaign by posting them to various social channels. It was a great way to change perceptions, given that the hashtag generated more than 24 million Instagram posts!

9. T-Mobile: Breakup Letters

Cellphone plans have become something of a commodity, but T-Mobile found a fun way to use UGC breakup letters to differentiate its brand from other carriers. This campaign dove into the reasons why individuals ditch their current cellphone carrier for another. Users answered a series of questions that were pulled from the brand’s social media channels. The result was a Mad Libs-style "breakup letter" that users generated themselves and posted to T-Mobile’s social media channels.

In total, the campaign earned more than 113,000 breakup letters, 2.7 million app page views, and 67 million social media impressions.

10. Aerie: #AerieREAL

Intimate apparel and loungewear brand Aerie launched its #AerieREAL campaign in 2014 with a huge announcement: They would stop retouching the models in their advertisements. How's that for authenticity?

The company's first run of un-retouched ads was a call to action for its UGC campaign. Customers started flooding social media with pictures of themselves in Aerie products using the #AerieREAL hashtag. Meanwhile, the brand engaged with these posts on Twitter and Instagram. With this UGC campaign, Aerie highlighted the body-positive aspect of its brand identity and reflected the diversity of its customer base. 

11. Cancer Research: No Makeup Selfie

Cancer Research's No Makeup Selfie campaign raised more than £8 million in six days. During the campaign, the organization encouraged to post selfies without makeup on, donate £5 to Cancer Research, and nominate others to do the ‘challenge’.

What you encourage your users to post doesn’t necessarily have to relate to your product. In this case, posting selfies without makeup on doesn’t relate to Cancer Research, yet was still hugely effective.

12. Loughborough University: #Lborofamily Golden Ticket campaign

Collaboration is at the heart of Loughborough University’s strategy. In 2016, the university sent out personalized golden tickets to all of the year’s new freshers. Many then took to social media to post pictures of them with their golden ticket using the hashtag #LboroFamily.

Loughborough University

Like Coca-Cola showed with its Share a Coke campaign, creating something personalized for your audience encourages UGC and engagement. The #Lborofamily Golden Ticket campaign drummed up excitement and helped the university expand its reach.

13. American Express: OPEN Forum

With its OPEN Forum website and app, American Express professionalizes UGC. The site features user-generated blogs and articles covering everything from company culture to money management to e-commerce. And, interestingly enough, the content is produced by American Express customers, not employees.

By giving small business owners a space to post and answer questions, create content, and connect with other entrepreneurs, American Express used UGC to create a community of its customers. Plus, the company now has a one-stop shop for understanding what matters most to its audience.

14. Calvin Klein: #MyCalvins

Calvin Klein’s “I ________ in #MyCalvins” advertising and UGC campaigns let customers identify with the brand's celebrity endorsers. In the ads, stars like Kendall Jenner, Justin Bieber, and Kendrick Lamar "fill in the blank" of the slogan with a few words about the role the jeans play in their lives.

The company also invited customers to post photos on social media of themselves in Calvin Klein products using the #MyCalvins hashtag. Then, select images are featured on the website with links to product pages where customers can buy the looks for themselves.

Taking the intimidation factor out of their high-fashion ad campaigns, Calvin Klein's #MyCalvins campaign helped make the brand's identity more approachable and relatable. Plus, featuring select UGC let the brand show appreciation for its customers while creating new sales opportunities.

15. LEGO: LEGO Ideas

LEGO Ideas launched in 2015. The concept? First, LEGO fans are invited to create an original build. Next, the fan has to gain public support (similar to crowdfunding) on the LEGO Ideas website. If the creator gets 10,000 supporters then the LEGO board reviews the creation and decides whether to make it into a LEGO product to be sold around the world.

There are so many great things about this campaign. Firstly, it shows users being creative with LEGO's products. Secondly, to gain support for an idea, the user has to promote it (and LEGO) online, which expands the reach and brand awareness. Finally, having people vote on an idea shows LEGO what its users want to see in the shops. This campaign took UGC to the next level by turning customer ideas into an actual line of retail products.

16. Amazon: Customer Reviews

Social media campaigns aren't the only kinds of UGC. Customer reviews and testimonials also fit the bill. In fact, Amazon makes customer feedback a central part of its shopping experience.

First, Amazon makes the reviewing process easy by emailing customers after every purchase with a reminder and link to leave feedback in the form of a star rating and optional written review. It features the average star rating at the top of any product page. Plus, it lets customers sort and filter products by rating, making customer feedback an essential part of the purchase process. Amazon knows that many consumers rely on reviews to decide what to buy, so they put feedback front and center. UGC is not only important for the marketing of each product on Amazon's website, it's a main feature!

In short, UGC works. It’s cost-effective, engaging, and more importantly, helps brands connect with their customers authentically. Sourcing UGC and managing UGC campaigns is a whole other story. Meltwater solutions let you aggregate content automatically and publish it across your media channels. Learn more about how Meltwater can help you capitalize on user-generated content — get a demo today!

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