An Introductory Guide to User-Generated Content

User-generated content may very well be one of the buzz terms of 2012, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be useful for many years to come. Even if you’re not familiar with the term, chances are you’re already employing UGC for your content and social media outlets. Let’s take a closer look at what user-generated content is, why it’s useful, and how brands around the web are using it.

What is user-generated content?

User-generated content is created by the general public rather than by those who are paid to do it on behalf of a brand or publication. According to PC Magazine, user-generated content or UGC is “one of the hallmark features that distinguishes Web 2.0.”

Why use user-generated content?

Millennials demand it

According to a 2012 study by BazzarVoice, 84% of Millennials report that user-generated content has at least some influence on what they buy, compared to 70% of Boomers. A substantial 25% of Millennials say that UGC plays into their purchase decisions “a lot.”

Takes load off content production demand

Producing enough content to be effective takes time, effort and dedicated staff. If you’re struggling to make ends meet with articles or social media content, UGC is a great opportunity to share the load with your biggest fans.

How should you cite user-generated content?

The latest round of updates to the Associated Press Stylebook note several important guidelines for using and citing user-generated content. “When publishing UGC,” the AP notes, “you should make every effort to give due credit to the person who has created that content. Use the person’s name if he or she is happy for you to do so, or a username (from a social network or platform) if it is applicable or the preference of the individual.”

Brand examples of user-generated content

Dollar Shave Club’s Blog

The vast majority of content on Dollar Shave Club’s blog is user-generated. The process starts with a prompt inviting users to submit photos of themselves demonstrating a given typically humorous theme for a chance to win a physical prize as well as the glory of being included in the gallery. Fan cans easily post images to the brand’s Fan Page, to Twitter or Instagram using a hashtag, or via the blog’s comments section. Winners are then selected and their images are reposted in a gallery, as shown below.

Dollar Shave Club UGC

DesignLoveFest’s Dress Your Tech Contest

A request for one-off Instagram shots is a pretty low-commitment request for users. But don’t be afraid to ask fans for custom, thoughtful content; it’s simply a matter of providing ample motivation. Earlier this year lifestyle blogger DesignLoveFest introduced a regular column called Dress Your Tech, which offers snazzy computer and tablet backgrounds for readers. But there’s one problem: designs presumably take a take a good amount of time to build. Several weeks in founder Bri Emery invited readers (many of whom are aspiring graphic designers) to submit their work as Dress Your Tech backgrounds. The result was a win-win situation: readers have the chance to put their work on display for thousands of readers per day, and a significant task is marked off of the DesignLoveFest to-do list.

DesignLoveFest UGC