How User-Generated Content is Key for Small Businesses Without a Marketing Team

This is a guest post.

Are you a small business that wants to create more content but find yourself short on time?

Indeed, content marketing is key to expanding your customer base and building brand awareness. However,  small business owners don’t often have the resources needed to actually create this content.

The solution?

User-generated content (UGC), which allows your audience to generate content for you.

Not only does it improve audience engagement but it also saves time.

In this article, we’ll look at the reasons user-generated content marketing is essential. But first, let’s define our terms.

What is User-Generated Content?

User-generated content is any content created by someone who is not an official representative of your brand. If it’s content neither you, your employees, your partner influencers, or guest bloggers created, you may consider it UGC.

User-generated content can come in many forms. It can be as simple as an image uploaded on Facebook or Instagram, a tweet, or a review on a feedback site like Google My Business or Yelp. User-generated content can come in the form of videos on platforms like YouTube, too. An unboxing video created by someone who just bought your product, for instance, is considered user-generated content. 

Whatever form UGC takes, you should be able to use it across your brand’s social media accounts, website, and other marketing platforms as long as it is related to your brand. Just remember to get consent first! Most users will happily give it. 

What Makes User-Generated Content So Effective?

User-generated content engages the people you want to reach. Increased engagement, in turn, can result in more conversions. But there are other reasons user-generated content marketing is an effective way of promoting your brand. Here are two further reasons you should encourage users to generate content for you:

1. User-Generated Content Provides Social Proof

Since user-generated content is content created by your customers, most consumers consider it impartial and, therefore, more credible. When a consumer says your brand is excellent, others will tend to take their word for it and won’t hesitate to try your products. User-generated content gives you the social proof you need to bump up your conversion rate.

Just look at the numbers. A Stackla study quoted by Businesswire claims that 79% of customers say user-generated content affects their purchasing decisions. These customers believe there is no reason for their fellow consumers to lie about their purchases. By contrast, only 13% of customers say branded content influences their decisions. Surprisingly, only 8% of consumers claim to be swayed by influencer-generated content, which is why you might want to pivot towards featuring more user-generated content in your content marketing campaigns.

2. User-Generated Content Promotes Authenticity

Consumers are 2.4 times more likely to perceive user-generated content as authentic, according to Hootsuite. Why wouldn’t they? Unlike other types of content that are usually heavily processed and edited before reaching consumers, user-generated content is typically posted as-is. What your customers see in UGC is what they can expect to get from you. User-generated content marketing is as real as it gets.

The authenticity of UGC rubs off on your brand as well. When consumers see your content is genuine, it perceives your brand as authentic. Consumers will appreciate your honesty when you show your products as they are. For them, honesty is an important part of running an authentic business, and when they see your products being used by real customers in real life, they are able to gauge your products’ quality more accurately and make informed purchasing decisions.

Because user-generated content provides social proof and promotes authenticity, it helps increase your conversions. We cannot overestimate the impact of user-generated content marketing on your success as a small business. If you don’t incorporate it into your content marketing strategy now, you’ll be missing out on a lot of significant benefits.

A Few Examples To Learn From

How should you use user-generated content to improve your conversion rates? Let’s look at how some brands do it. The businesses below integrated UGC into their content marketing strategy and reaped its benefits. Your business can take inspiration from what they did successfully.

1. Warby-Parker’s #warbyhometryon 

A few years ago, Warby-Parker, a prescription eyewear company, allowed customers to choose and try on five pairs of eyeglasses at home free of charge. After five days, they could pay for and keep the one they liked the most and mail back the remaining four at no cost at all.

The company encouraged consumers to post pictures of themselves wearing each of their pairs of glasses on social media so other users could give their opinions. Using the hashtag #warbyhometryon, thousands of images and videos of people wearing Warby-Parker glasses flooded Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms.

Source: Warby Parker Twitter

Like Warby Parker, you can encourage users to post content and use an official hashtag to build brand awareness and engage customers. Make sure the hashtags are easy to remember and spell. Otherwise, not only will your campaign fail to gain momentum on social media, but you’ll also end up spending more time finding and curating the content your users have generated.

2. Pampers’ “Love, Sleep & Play” Campaign

Pampers’ “Love, Sleep & Play” campaign in 2013 is a stellar example of a major brand utilizing user-generated content. The well-known diaper brand asked parents to share video clips of their babies’ special moments. The idea was to celebrate babies and the parents who take care of them. It was a reminder that while there are a million ways to raise a child, all that really matters is that babies get all the love, sleep, and play they need. 

The ad, which Pampers billed as the first ever campaign to be launched by babies, collected clips and images of more than 30,000 babies from around the world, and premiered at New York’s iconic Grand Central Terminal:

Source: Pampers YouTube channel

Aside from being seen by the thousands of train passengers and passersby who visit the bustling train station everyday, the video also got close to 40,000 views on Pampers’ YouTube channel. It’s a great example of a successful UGC-driven campaign that still attracts attention years after it was launched.

While your brand probably has a smaller reach than Pampers, you can also create a curated video from user contributions. You can also ask your customers to post their own videos and have your own employees choose the best ones for your UGC campaign. 

Pro tip: since people upload videos and images at all hours, it’s ideal to have someone monitoring user-generated content 24/7 if possible. You can use our favorite employee schedule template to arrange coverage. 

Don’t forget to lay down your standards for what constitutes good user-generated content, too. For example, if you plan to create a video out of UGC, you need to set an ideal length for user-contributed videos (e.g. no more than 15 seconds). If you’re using photos, you might want to specify whether they should be taken in portrait or landscape. The content should also align with your brand’s values. For example, you might state explicitly that you’ll disqualify videos that contain bad language or other inappropriate content. 

3. Forever21’s Customer Reviews

Who says you need to run a separate marketing campaign to feature user-generated content? Reviews are one type of user-generated content that don’t require any special treatment. When you prominently feature reviews on your website, customers tend to look at your brand favorably. According to Consumerist, nearly 70% of consumers rely on online reviews before purchasing. 

If your brand has few or no reviews, customers may believe that it isn’t worth their time or money. On the other hand, an abundance of reviews will help customers consider your products’ pros and cons very carefully before making a decision.

To help its customers choose the right items to buy, fashion label Forever21 encourages customers to leave reviews on each of its product pages. 

Source: Forever21

Even if there are a few negative or mediocre reviews, Forever21 still chooses to keep them on the page. This no-filter approach to customer reviews adds authenticity to the brand and convinces potential customers that it considers all opinions very carefully. Because the overall response to this specific product is positive, the reviews increase the chances of making a sale. 

To encourage your customers to leave reviews, you can offer special incentives such as gift cards, coupons, or loyalty program points. Aside from your own website, you can also feature user comments from review sites such as G2Crow, Yelp, or Google My Business. You can even respond to individual comments, even the negative ones, as long as your responses are polite and address your customers’ concerns. This helps boost engagement and convinces your audience that your brand is constantly trying to make things better.

How a Small Business Should Approach UGC 

There are several things you need to keep in mind when dealing with user-generated content. 

First, you need to define your campaign goal. Knowing your goal will determine the type of campaign you’ll run. For example, if you want to boost conversions, you can run an email marketing campaign that rewards customers who leave reviews on your product pages. On the other hand, if you’re more interested in boosting brand awareness, a hashtag campaign like the one run by Warby-Parker is ideal.

Second, you need to specify the campaign guidelines to consumers. You can create a page on your site where participants can read the guidelines. Make sure that the rules are clear and written in simple terms to reduce the risk of misinterpretation. Consulting with a legal professional while drafting the guidelines will help iron out the wrinkles associated with sharing UGC, including copyright and content ownership issues.

Finally, you must put a system in place to collect user-generated content that conforms to your campaign guidelines. If your campaign runs on multiple platforms, you could get one or two people to monitor each of your brand’s social accounts. If you’re on a budget, you can specify a single platform where users can share their content. Using hashtags is a great way to organize and collect content generated by your followers. But whatever method you choose, make sure everyone behind the campaign knows your business goals, and implements your strategy. 

Wrapping it Up

User-generated content marketing is crucial to small business success. When you let your audience create content for you, you boost audience engagement and improve your conversion rate. With user-generated content, you can also raise brand awareness, generate trust, and promote brand authenticity.

In this article, we’ve seen some brands that have done user-generated content marketing the right way along with some tips for your campaigns. Now it’s over to you. Be creative and use other marketing strategies for small businesses. Work hard on your UGC content marketing strategy, then let your customers take over promoting your brand for you. 


Owen Jones is the Senior Content Marketer at Zoomshift, an online schedule maker app. He is an experienced SaaS marketer, specializing in content marketing, CRO, and FB advertising.

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkedin