The Social Power of User-Generated Content

When you consider that 92% of consumers are more likely to trust content and product recommendations from friends, family and other consumers over brand-produced content, it’s easy to see why user-generated content (UGC) has increased dramatically over the years.

User-generated content can add amazing value to a brand. In marketing terms, UGC is used as a content strategy to encourage consumers to share their experiences and engage with a brand. In short, UGC can take the form of any consumer-created content shared by consumers; this can range from images to videos to participating in competitions.

To demonstrate the social power that UGC can generate for a brand, I’m going to be looking at two types of UGC strategies that, when done right, produce phenomenal results: Competitions and hashtags.



You may remember the infamous Neknominate online drinking game that went viral in 2014. Although this social media frenzy spiralled out of control, one organisation used a similar technique to their advantage. The #nomakeupselfie campaign raised a staggering £8m for Cancer Research UK, as social media platforms were flooded with women posting no-makeup selfies, donating £3 to charity and nominating others to do the same.


The Share a Coke campaign is one of the best examples to demonstrate the unbelievable social power of UGC. By personalising coke bottles with the names of their consumers, they encouraged people to share personal stories, moments and memories not only with other consumers, but with the brand as well. The #ShareaCoke hashtag was used in 235,000 tweets by 111,000 fans in 2014 which attributed to a 2% increase in US sales. With such huge success, it’s no wonder the #ShareaCoke campaign has been re-launched this year, encouraging consumers to share a coke and, this time, a song.

From the words of Racquel Harris Mason, vice president, Coca-Cola/Coke Zero, Coca-Cola North America: “We’ve seen incredible enthusiasm from consumers who love the campaign’s personal touch, and we wanted to push ourselves to innovate and provide our fans with new experiences. Evolving the program to focus on lyrics creates an amazing opportunity for people to share special moments, sentiments and a Coca-Cola with people they care about.”


Red Bull created the #PutACanOnIt campaign after a picture was uploaded to Twitter showing a normal sized Red Bull hovering strategically over a far away mini; making it look like the iconic Red Bull cars. Within a few months thousands of original #PutACanOnIt photos flooded the social media networks, which created not only heaps of free advertising, but encouraged powerful engagement with their consumers. While hashtag campaigns can drive a lot of traffic, many consumers require an incentive to engage with a brand, especially if it’s one they aren’t already familiar with. For me, the incentive for participating in Cancer Research UK’s campaign was donating money to a fantastic cause. However, most brands need to offer their consumers something else, in return for all of this seemingly free publicity. This is where competitions come in…


Starbucks- #WhiteCupContest

You might remember the Starbucks White Cup Contest, which asked customers to doodle on a Starbucks cup and submit their design on social media, using the hashtag #WhiteCupContest. The winning design was printed on a limited edition Starbucks reusable plastic cup. With 4,000 entries in just three weeks, the coffee giant generated high levels of activity whilst increasing their marketing reach. The contest also presented Starbucks as a brand that values its customers engagement and rewards commitment.

Walkers- Do Us A Flavour

In 2014 Walkers decided that they needed to shake up the way they engaged with their audience. Do Us A Flavour was brought into circulation to help people fall back in love with the brand and get people talking about Walkers again. And the results were definitely worth it. 1.2m people entered for the chance to win £1m and to have their new flavour added to Walker’s packets. In return, Walkers were rewarded with unlimited flavour ideas, free publicity and renewed engagement from loyal customers.

Although it might seem daunting to let your customers take the reigns of your content creation and distribution, remember that most people trust other people. If you follow the commonalities of the examples above, you can’t go far wrong, and your customers will reward you for it:

  • Create a hashtag and/or competition that encompasses your brand and resonates with your target audience
  • Encourage consumers to share their personal experiences, opinions and stories
  • Reward your audience for their positive engagement and participation

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