Content Marketing

User-Generated Content: How to Use It for Good and Avoid a PR Crisis

It’s high time businesses tap into the power of user-generated content (UGC), a form of content marketing where your customers take center stage.

UGC leverages the voices and experiences of real people to promote your brand. Think customer reviews, social media posts, and photos or videos shared by loyal customers. It’s authentic, it’s relatable, and it works!

But what makes it so successful?


When it comes to making a purchase, trust is everything—and nothing builds trust quite like seeing a post from a friend or another customer praising a brand or product. It’s authentic and unbiased, which makes it more likely for a potential customer to trust the brand and consider making a purchase.

Hand in hand with trust comes social proof—a term first coined in 1984 by psychologist Robert Cialdini. Consumers credit reviews from the people they view to be “like them,” thus making social proof a type of decision-making shortcut.

One example of a tried and true UGC campaign that effectively built trust is the #LikeAGirl campaign by Always, a brand of feminine hygiene products. The campaign aimed to change the negative connotations associated with the phrase “like a girl” and empower young girls to embrace their own strength and confidence.

To achieve this, Always launched a social media campaign that encouraged girls and women to share their stories and experiences using the hashtag #LikeAGirl. They also created a series of videos featuring real women and girls discussing issues like gender stereotypes and self-confidence.

The campaign was a huge success; over 6 million social posts included the hashtag. It also helped to change how people think about the phrase “like a girl” and raised awareness about young female empowerment.

Additionally, the campaign helped to build trust with Always’ target audience by showing the brand understands and cares about their concerns and commits to making a positive impact in their lives. The campaign was informative, inspiring, and relatable to the audience.


Beyond trust, UGC can also increase brand awareness and reach. When customers share a post or photo featuring a brand or product, their entire network sees it. If that customer has a significant following, their posts bring a whole lot of eyes to your brand. That can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Here’s an example of when it’s bad: United Breaks Guitars is a song and music video that musician Dave Carroll created in 2009 after United Airlines damaged his guitar during a flight. After failing to receive satisfaction from the airline, Dave wrote and recorded a song about his experience and posted it on YouTube. The song quickly went viral and received over 17 million views in the first year. It significantly impacted United’s reputation and customer trust during that time.

The song became a classic example of how UGC can have a major impact on a brand’s reputation and awareness. It also encouraged companies to be proactive in handling customer complaints. Carroll wrote the song with a funny, ironic tone, but the message was clear: the airline didn’t care about his customer experience. The song was not only a form of UGC but also a form of protest and a call for action. It was a way for the customer to use his creativity to express frustration and dissatisfaction.

As a result of the song, United Airlines issued a public apology and established a customer relations department to handle customer complaints. It also served as a reminder for other companies to take customer complaints seriously and to respond promptly and effectively.


People want to feel like they are part of a cause that is greater than themselves. “Word of mouth” marketing is key for creating community and virality.

Take the ice bucket challenge as an example. A charity organization raising money to fund research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, started this viral marketing campaign in 2014. It raised awareness and funds using video-based UGC from people participating in the challenge, which involved pouring ice water on themselves and challenging others to do the same.

The campaign was a great example of how word-of-mouth marketing can create a viral sensation and raise awareness for a cause.


Another major benefit of UGC relates to the costs of creating content. Brands don’t need to spend a fortune hiring professional photographers and video production crews. Instead, they can leverage the talents of their customers. Brands still need to cultivate their digital presence to encourage customer contributions, but overall, UGC can help brands manage their marketing expenses by leveraging the time and talent of their fans.

One of the many brands that have mastered cost-effective UGC is GoPro. The action camera brand built its reputation by encouraging customers to share their experiences and adventures on social media using footage from their GoPro cameras.

GoPro has a dedicated website where customers can share their videos, photos, and stories. They also have dedicated social media channels where they feature customer content as a way to build a strong brand community. GoPro offers incentives and rewards to customers who share their content—for many, seeing their content on the brand’s website or social media channels is a big motivator.

GoPro on Instagram

UGC helped GoPro build a strong community of loyal customers and increase brand awareness and reach without expensive marketing campaigns. GoPro has seen UGC related to its brand spread widely on social media and other digital platforms as a form of advertising. The brand’s UGC campaign has also helped establish GoPro as a leader in its industry and a brand synonymous with adventure and excitement.

In short, UGC can help you build trust, increase brand awareness, foster community, and save you some money—a pretty sweet deal if you ask me. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers to share their experiences with your brand and products. You might be surprised at how much it can benefit your business.

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Image by Rudzhan Nagiev

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